I have a friend who, as part of his New Year’s resolutions tradition, prints out his contact list on January 1st and starts crossing off relationships that he feels are not worthwhile to work on anymore. TRUE STORY!
I couldn’t believe it when he told me.
Why would you do that?
I asked. He said;
Because I’m too old for toxic friends.
Definition of a toxic friend: someone who, after spending time with them, makes you feel bad about yourself instead of good; someone who tends to be critical of you – sometimes in a subtle way and sometimes not so subtle; a friend who drains you emotionally, financially, or mentally.
Toxic friends are unsupportive, unreliable and demanding. They create chaos and bring bucket loads of stress to every encounter. They will use you and give nothing in return.
I thought about it and realized that he’s right. We need to ditch them.
We aren’t in high school anymore, why would we choose to spend time with people who are negative, critical, needy and/or a bully? Life is way to short (and getting shorter) to waste time with a relationship that has a negative effect on your happiness and mental well-being.
But lots of people do! Why? Because toxic people are very skilled at making you feel guilty and this guilt is often what makes you stay in the relationship long after it has stopped being of any benefit to you.
But we’ve been friends since kindergarten!
You owe me! (one of my personal favourites)
I promise, this is the last time I’ll ask you.
You promised that you would help me.
But it’s your fault that this has happened to me.
You need to have ready responses in your back pocket when they play these cards.
We’ve outgrown each other now; we’ve moved in different directions.
I believe any debt I had has been well paid and with interest.
You said that last time so let’s make last time the last time.
I said that I would try. I tried and, unfortunately, I can’t help you.
Your choices caused this, not me.
Of course, I’m over-simplifying. I know it’s not that easy to keep from getting sucked in. I just wanted to give you some thoughts; you can decide what kind of responses work for you and how to express them.
If you absolutely can’t get away from your toxic friend – perhaps it’s a co-worker, your best friends husband or, worse, a family member! (sometimes family is the most toxic). Then you need to find ways to distance yourself physically and/or emotionally when you do have to spend time with them. Some tips:
Just leave: If the conversation is getting toxic, excuse yourself to (a) use the restroom (b) freshen your drink (c) I have to speak to … before they leave (d) oh crap, I forgot to turn the oven off. Anything that you can think of that will remove you immediately.
The buddy system: If you know that there is the potential for a toxic encounter, enlist a friend to accompany you. Often times, a toxic friend will be most toxic when you’re alone with them. Try not to get stuck in the kitchen alone with them.
Stand up for yourself: When they say something like: “yeah, well you only got the job because . . .” you can respond with: “actually, that’s not true at all. This is what happened . . .” This may shock the toxic person into silence, especially if this is a new type of reaction from you and they weren’t prepared for it.
The most important thing to remember is that they are the one with the problem. It’s them, not you. You need to know this and not take their toxic behaviour personally. If you can remember that, it will be easier to stop yourself from getting sucked in.
Don’t waste your time hating them for being toxic either because that will only bring more toxicity into your life. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t start competing with them.
oh you think your boss is bad? Well that’s nothing. Let me tell you . . .
If your tendancy is to compete with them, then maybe you need to take a good long look at yourself in the mirror. Maybe you’re the toxic one. (didn’t see that one coming, did you?)
Sometimes we’re in a toxic relationship and we don’t even know it (but I’ll bet everyone else knows you are!).
To be sure, following are classic signs that the person that you’re spending time with is toxic. They may not exhibit all of these behaviours but it’s rarely just one.
A toxic friend:
- is always putting you down – sometimes in the nicest way. So nice that it may take you a minute to realize it.
- is always talking about themselves. If the conversation strays away from them, don’t worry, they will bring it back.
- is always negative. And I mean always! Everything out of their mouth is negative. No matter how hard you try to make it a positive, they will find a way to turn it around.
- doesn’t share in the happiness of your successes and will find ways to belittle it.
- snorts at others’ good fortune (often because they are jealous).
- drains you emotionally, sometimes financially.
- pushes you into situations that you’re not comfortable with.
- will take, take, take and never reciprocate. It’s always a one way street.
Learn to recognize a toxic relationship and either learn to deal with it in a positive way or let it go. My friend is right, we’re too old for toxic friends.
I’m not going to wait until next New Year’s Eve though. I’m going to break out the contact list and do some spring cleaning today so I can look forward to a toxic-free summer!
Image courtesy of Paul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net