As I’ve got older, I’ve realised that there are a number of people in my life I have only been friends with out of pure circumstance.
I’ve also realised that I don’t have to be friends with someone if they display toxic behaviours or don’t treat me well. I know, crazy talk.
But it’s true. At the risk of sounding a little cliché, life is just too goddamn short to mess around with people that make you feel small and unimportant. Your friends should listen, be kind, understand (or try to understand) you, make you laugh, lift you up…yknow, all those good things.
I’ve always been the type of person to forgive and have always been a people pleaser. Unfortunately, these traits have clouded my vision in knowing that not everyone is wired like that. Some people willfully choose to put down others in a move to build themselves up.
How do you remove toxic people from your life?
Recognising toxic people
Has someone let you down? I mean, really let you down. Could they be toxic?
Knowing how to distinguish who is toxic from who is human can be done by considering the below points:
- Do they point out the bad in everyone?
Do you find your friend bitching about everyone, no matter how good/bad said people may be? For every good thing you say about someone, they will instantly point out a bad thing, right?
- Are they not understanding?
If you can’t make it to a catch-up, do they make you feel really bad? If something doesn’t go to plan, will they shrug it off or bring it up?
- Is everything about them?
How often does the conversation turn back to them? Do they ever ask how you’re doing? Are they interested in what you have to say or are your words only used as a pivot point back to them talking about them?
- Do they make you feel small or not yourself?
A good friend should make you feel confident, funny, kind and comfortable in your own skin. If you feel less of any of these things when you hang out with someone, why do you spend time with them?
- Are you walking on eggshells?
When toxic people are concerned, no criticism (even constructive), is tolerated. Therefore, calling out a toxic person on their behaviour towards you or others can feel virtually impossible. They will become instantly defensive and say overdramatic things like ‘well, I’m sorry I’m such a horrible person’ to shift the blame or make you feel bad for saying what you’ve sad – even if it’s completely legitimate.
- Do they apologise?
It’s never their fault, right? So why would they? That’s right, toxic people will never apologise. If they do, it legitimises what someone else is calling them out on. If they do, it means that they are in the wrong.
2. The Conversation
In my opinion, approaching any situation in an empathetic fashion is always the most constructive way to do so. It also will help you to determine whether someone is toxic or not.
Here are my tips for addressing toxic behaviour with a friend.
- Address it
Even though it might be scary, addressing your friends behaviour in person* is important. Rather than cutting your friend out without warning, it is a far better reflection of your good character to give the respect of talking it through and providing a response. This will also give you justification to move on from the friendship if the conversation does not have a positive outcome.
*if you feel that meeting up may be a physical risk to you or may put you in any danger, please avoid.
- Give a disclaimer
Make your friend feel safe by providing an outlay of what your intentions are before you launch into it.
‘I wanted to bring you here today as I’ve been a little worried about you lately. I want you to know that I am not intending to attack or insult you. I want you to know that the comments I’m going to make come from a place of concern. I want to make sure you’re ok’
- Avoid making assumptions
Although you may assume that you know why your friend is acting how they’re acting, you may not be aware of what they’re going through. Remember, although the toxic behaviour is not an excusable bi-product of a shitty life situation, it can sometimes explain it.
If you go in neutral with no pre-conceived ideas, the conversation is far more likely to go well.
- Avoid direct statements
To minimise a defensive reaction, try to avoid using statements or phrases that may come across as accusatory.
Example: instead of ‘you’ve been really angry lately’ say ‘I’ve noticed you’ve not quite been yourself lately – is everything ok?’
- Ask why
The answer to the ‘why’ question is often more telling than the ‘what’ as it gives your friend the opportunity to respond without becoming too defensive. This will allow you to gather more information on the background of the situation.
- Explain your position
If your friend/family member makes you feel like you’re in the wrong, gets defensive and most of all does not apologise for their actions or if there is not a satisfactory explanation for their actions, it is highly likely that they’re a toxic person*
If you feel that you are no longer wishing to continue the relationship, you will need to lay it out very clearly.
After hearing them out, explain how you feel and how their behaviour has impacted your life and how you feel. Explain your expectations of acceptable behaviour. Then, give them an opportunity to respond. This will be telling and will likely give you all the information you need to know as to whether this person genuinely cares about you.
Do they shift the blame back to you?
Do they make you feel like the bad guy?
Do they disregard or belittle the impact their poor behaviour has had on you?
Even one ‘yes’?
4. Make it clear
Communicating that you do not wish for the relationship to continue, at least with the way the person is treating you, needs to be done firmly yet fairly.
Example: ‘I came here today as I was really worried about you. From your reaction, I can see that you don’t seem apologetic for how you have made me feel. Due to this, I think that we may be best to part ways’
5. Cut down communication channels
This one is pretty self-explanatory but highly necessary. Remember, toxic people are master manipulators so loosening their grip is essential. Although you may not wish to completely cut them off, it is essential that you decrease any channels the friend/family member has previously used to make you feel crappy.
The extent to which you cut communications is completely up to you though. If you feel cutting all ties is best for the situation, please do so.
-the aspiring calm-
*Please note that this is solely a guide. Taking into consideration the number of variables and the complexity of the human psyche and interpersonal relationships, you will need to make your own call based on your own experiences with the person in question and how they make you feel/treat others.