A while back I found myself in a conversation with someone about the topic of being around toxic people — or, as I prefer to call it, people who exhibit toxic behaviors. This conversation led me into a place of reflection where I thought back to what my life had been like a few years ago when I had absolutely no concept of boundaries nor any idea what toxic relationships were.
Up until a few years ago, I was so much most susceptible to people’s toxic behaviors. I would often deal with people who were envious or jealous of me in some way, who were influencing me to feel guilty for doing something for myself, who were making judgmental or critical remarks towards me, and who were, overall, just downright negative.
Despite this being such a struggle growing up, I realized that at this point in my life I don’t experience many toxic behaviors from others. It is as if I simply announced to the universe “I am done with toxic people! I am no longer going to have any toxic behavior in my life!” — and so it happened.
Though simply making that announcement would be oh-so-awesome and oh-so-easy, it definitely wasn’t that simple. There were solid action steps that I had to make along the way. So here are the methods I used that will hopefully help you to stop attracting toxic people in your life as well:
Consistently set boundaries with anyone and everyone who exhibits a toxic behavior.
Every time the someone says something critical or negative towards you, tries to manipulate you in some way, or seems to be envious or jealous of you rather than supportive, then set a verbal boundary to let them know that you will not tolerate their behavior.
So for instance, if you’re out singing karaoke one night and your friend comes up to you and makes comment like “You were totally off key” then immediately respond by saying something like “I don’t appreciate your comment” or “Please don’t talk to me that way”. If they continue to make negative remarks towards you despite your comment then reinstate the boundary again and tell them the consequences, such as: “Please don’t talk to me in that way. If you continue to talk to me like this when I will leave.”
This can be incredibly challenging at first (trust me, I know!), but it has to be done in order for any change to happen.
Try to avoid feeding them any of your energy.
If a person is exhibiting toxic behavior, the person may very well not want to respect your boundary initially. They may try to push you to a point of starting an argument or manipulate in a way so that you feel guilty enough to give in and do what they want you to do.
It is incredibly important to not give the person any of your energy when and if this happens. Meaning, try to avoid giving their actions or words any time or attention. This is important because, if they are continuing to try to push your buttons, it’s because they want you to crack. They want you to lose your composure and argue with them because then they can get their way.
So when setting boundaries or making any confrontations, try to appear as calm as possible. If you have any emotions that you need to deal with later on after the confrontation (which is very likely), then deal with it later through a relaxation method on your own or with someone who can safely support you, like a trusted friend or a therapist.
Create distance from people who tend to be toxic.
One very effective way to get toxic people out of your life is to, simply stop spending so much time around them. Perhaps this means to minimize conversation with the person or to stop spending as much time with one another.
By creating distance from the other person, we are sending the unspoken message that their behaviors are not something that we not to be around. Depending on your relationship with the person, this can be extremely difficult. Keep in mind that just because you are no longer talking with the person as much as you were, it doesn’t mean that the relationship is “over”. It simply means that the relationship is moving on to a new phase. The two of you may become close again someday and it will be even better because of this phase — and, on the flip side, it may remain a bit distant. We can never really fully know.
Recognize your own toxic behaviors.
This is incredibly important. If we wish to be respected by others, then we have to be willing to be completely honest with ourselves by recognizing our own toxic behaviors and to actively change those behaviors.
For some of us, these toxic behaviors may be obvious while, for others, it may be more challenging. If it is relatively challenging, then ask yourself: “How do I try to control other people in my life? Do I struggle to except the decisions that others make? Do I try to fix other people’s problems for them? Do I, in some way, try to force them to do something that they don’t really want to do?”
Struggling with a need to control others is what many (myself included) define as codependency. All of us struggle with this need to control others in some way to some extent throughout our lives. It isn’t really a “I’m codependent” or “I’m not codependent”. Rather, it is a matter of looking at it on a continuum or scale. So for instance, if we were to look at ourselves on a scale of 1 to 50, with 50 being very codependent and 1 being very little where would you rate yourself?
Trust that things will get better.
When we’re in the midst of stress in trying to set boundaries with the people with toxic behaviors in our lives, it can be very difficult to see the “light at the end of the tunnel”. We may find ourselves wondering why we decided to even bothered to start setting boundaries in the first place because it is causing so much extra stress in our lives.
I can assure you — it does get better! So keep on doing it and, eventually, you will eventually find yourself in this comfortable place that is virtually free of toxic behaviors.
Take action now!
Reflect upon you current relationships and ask yourself: Is there anyone in my life right now who tends to exhibit toxic behavior? What can I say to them next time they make a remark to me that I don’t appreciate? What other actions can I take in my life to cleanse my relationships of toxicity?