After some thought and research, you have realized that one or several of your friends, family members, boyfriend, or spouse has a toxic personality. Now what? What can you do you eliminate the hold that the person has on your life? I invite you to consider several strategies to address the challenge.
1. Admit the current state of relationships
It always starts in the same place. Before we make any changes, we need to be honest about what is going on right now. Try to take a piece of paper and pencil and write down 3-5 key things that bother you the most about how you feel during and after interactions with the toxic individual. Be as specific as possible about what happens and how you think about it.
For example, you may write something like this.
- My sisters contact me only when they need my help, advice, or money; it makes me feel used.
- It hurts my feelings when my brother brings up my vulnerabilities during our conflicts.
- I dislike when my mom compares us to our dad or each other.
- It drains me to listen when my dad complains about my mom and her wrongdoings for hours at the time.
2. Accept your contribution to the situation
I must admit, this is my least favorite step is to change perspective and think about how I contributed to the current relationships.
For example, if you say the toxic person always keeps me hanging about their plans and has difficulty planning and committing to the dates and times. If the person continues letting you hanging, how do you contribute or encourage them? Maybe you, by continue inviting them to do things without setting expectations, allow the situation to develop?
Another example: if your mother-in-law likes to make nasty comments about your kid`s behavior. How might you contribute to that? After her words, do you confront your mother-in-law, or do you silently continue hating her?
3. Set limits on interactions
I must warn you, and toxic people are pros at breaking boundaries and holding space. They will do everything possible to draw you in, make you feel guilty, somehow lure you into the game again.
So what precisely can you do to limit the engagement? If it is someone at work, avoid meeting one on one when possible, record all the Zoom and other conference call with the person who tends to go off the rails. If it is a household member, keep conversations brief, pick your battles, and again do not get drawn in no matter what. Remember, your goal here is to withdraw from close relationships slowly.
4. Watch your reactions
When you do interact with a toxic person, keep your composure. Breath. Watch your words and your reactions. Be in your body to notice if your heartbeat is speeding up, your palms sweat, and you start feeling knots in your stomach. All those are signs of stress and the fact that you are getting hooked by a toxic person`s magic powers. When you notice those reactions, as soon as it is convenient, excuse yourself and move on.
5. Focus on self-care
Remember, you are in charge of your most important relationships- it is your relationships with yourself. Take the time you need to reduce tension in your body. What works for me: go for a long brisk walk, listen to audiobooks, listen to calm music, breath, meditate, practice yoga.
One of my most favorite self-care activities is audio journaling. I used the Voice Recording app on my phone, and yes, I use it a lot! When I feel mad or just got another nasty message from someone, I turn on my phone, open the app, and talk. I say whatever I need to say. No filter. The phone does not speak back, things are kept confidential, I let the steam out, and It works like magic.
Another aspect, try to move at the time of stress or right after interaction as much as possible. Physical exercise regulates your heart rate, reduces stress, and eliminates most harmful effects of negative interactions to your mind and body.
6. Stay positive and grateful
Accept what is; there is a toxic person in your environment. Dwelling on the reality or blaming him/her is not going to make you feel better. So what may help?
Try to practice gratitude daily. Recently I started a gratitude journal when every day I write down 3-5 things I was grateful for that day. It could be as simple as a hug by my son or as easy as a nice time in the mountain during the weekend hike. No matter what, your day must end on a positive note. Do not allow toxic people to fill you up full of negativity, complaints, blame, guilt, and other creepy, negative emotions.
At least once a week, in my gratitude journal, I thank all the negative people in my life because they allow me to develop resilience, they test my resolve to do good in this world. It does not mean I encourage their presence, but it does mean that even amid yet another relationship crisis, I know that all good and bad in my life has its purpose. I am thankful for all toxic folks that crossed my path over the years because they taught me many lessons and illuminated many opportunities to improve my life.