BY KATHERINE HURST
It’s hard to avoid toxic people—they sometimes appear like something else, and they’re sometimes inextricably bound up with our work or family lives. However, there are smart practical steps you can take to preserve yourself from this sort of damage.
Let’s take a closer look at how to effectively and definitively remove the influence of toxic people from your life.
1. Don’t Expect Them To Change
Firstly, and most importantly, moving past toxic relationships requires true acceptance of the fact that you can’t force toxic people to change. They may imply that they can change, or you may yearn to be the one who can help them become better, but this is almost always a hopeless project.
Toxic people are not motivated by what’s good for them or for their relationship with you—they’re motivated by their own complex problems and needs. When you give up the desire to change them, it’s much easier to let them go.
2. Establish And Maintain Boundaries
Toxic people drain your resources by constantly pushing you to work harder to please them, making you compromise more and more. This is exhausting, and transgresses all acceptable relationship boundaries.
Give some serious thought to what you will tolerate and what you won’t—from partners, family members, colleagues and friends. When you get a sense that something’s not right in your interactions with someone, run through your mental boundary checklist and enforce these boundaries deliberately and rigidly.
3. Don’t Be Pulled Into Crises
Toxic people often make it seem like they “need you” because they’re always in crisis—but the important thing to know is that these are crises of their own making.
Toxic people create drama deliberately in order to attract more attention and engage in manipulation, so remember this the next time you’re asked to run to their side. You might feel bad, but remember that you’re not dealing with a genuine person in distress.
4. Focus On The Solution
Toxic people give you a lot to be sad and angry about—but if you focus on this, you’ll stay miserable and frustrated, even if you’re excising such a person from your social circle.
Instead, turn your attention to the fact you’re clearing up a psychological and emotional mess in your life. If you spend much your time ruminating on (and trying to understand) a toxic person’s negative behavior, they’ll suck away all your resources even when they’re no longer in your life.
5. Own Your Difficulties And Weaknesses
When you’re in a toxic relationship of any kind, you’ll notice that the other person tends to exploit your flaws and find ways to use them against you. However, you can dramatically reduce the likelihood of this happening by simply getting to know yourself and learning to accept your weaknesses.
Balance them against your strengths, believe that you are a good person, and commit to self-improvement. That way, it’ll be old news is a toxic person tries to highlight your perceived flaws, and you won’t be easily manipulated by such a tactic.
6. Understand Projection
Part of removing toxic people from your life involves reducing their power over your emotions—and that requires recognizing that they’re not really seeing you when they’re hurting you.
In truth, they’re projecting onto you the parts of themselves they don’t want to acknowledge or accept, so that they can pour all their suppressed self-hatred into attacking you. See their cruel behavior for what it is—a way of avoiding the truth about themselves.
7. Know They May Resist
Toxic people often throw tantrums when they feel ignored, as you’re stopping them from being able to control or manipulate you. They may increase their previous tactics tenfold, but eventually they will back off and look elsewhere to meet their needs.
Don’t give in when their behavior escalates, and instead remind yourself that you’re teaching these people that their old behaviors will no longer work.
8. Choose Your Battles Carefully
On a related note, make sure you choose your battles wisely. Conflict with toxic people requires huge amounts of energy and time—just remember you don’t need to engage in every fight that they might try to instigate. Instead, save that energy for looking after yourself, and for nourishing relationships that are genuinely healthy.
9. Surround Yourself With Healthy Relationships
Finally, removing toxic people from your life can be deeply painful, as you may deeply care for some of these people in spite of how difficult it is to have them in your life.
To maintain your resilience and cope with any sadness, stay in close contact with those who make you feel safe, cherished and happy. These are the people who will model healthy friendships and relationships, reminding you exactly why you are choosing to sever toxic ones.
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