There are quite a number of behaviors that would characterize someone as toxic. But, in short, a person is toxic when they challenge another person’s sense of well-being – emotionally, mentally, and/or physically. The toxic person’s actions can be overt or quite insidious in nature. And while the individual will often times act intentionally to negatively impact another person’s state of being, there are those who are quite clueless about their own dysfunction and the incessant cloud of negativity that they drag around with them wherever they go.
And this is why communication is important. It removes all doubt and helps all parties involved to have a fair chance of getting on the same page.
However, it may be safe to assume that most toxic individuals know full well that their core actions are quite negative in nature; for they intentionally say and do things that they know offer some form of disturbance to others; and more times than not, that is the goal. These types of people are so uncomfortable in their own skin that they use the act of causing misery in others to distract themselves from their own pain.
What makes the toxic person’s actions so insidious is that they will oftentimes present themselves as caring, loving, and supportive. They present as the doting parent who does the best that they can for their child, while underhandedly working to undermine that child’s sense of self. They present as the man who works to convince his partner that he loves her, in between beating her on a regular basis. They present as a seemingly good friend who is only supportive when you are wallowing in negativity with them; but at the first sign of you trying to do better for yourself, the friend shows signs of agitation and tries desperately to get you back under her control.
Before opting to cut a toxic person out of one’s life, it is important to first assess the relationship and the overall situation. If the toxic individual is a family member, there is definitely more at stake than if the person is a neighborhood friend that you have gone camping with a few times over the past two years.
- Decide whether or not the person is worth keeping in your life.
- Decide under what circumstances you are willing to keep that person in your life, and under what circumstances you are willing to let them go. (In other words, establish your boundaries.)
- Have a conversation with the person. Tell them how their negative behavior impacts you, and ask them to work with you on building a healthier relationship. And as a good show of faith, it would be nice for you to ask how you might have contributed to the negative space that the two of you share, and ask their thoughts on what you, yourself, can do to contribute more positively to the environment.
- Check-in with yourself. Make sure that your words and actions are aligned with truth (not fear, judgment, or revenge, etc.). The energy that you contribute to this fragile space should be, to the best of your abilities, as healthy as possible.
- Take note of the person’s response. If there is no respect for your feelings, then you have to face the fact that there may not be much to gain from having an on-going relationship with this person. However, if there are signs of the person sincerely making an effort to hear you and to helping mend the relationship, then there may be hope.
- Let the person know what the consequences are for continuing to hurt you. And if one of those consequences is that you will cut them off, let them know at this time. (You will best know how do deliver this message by paying close attention to how the person responds when you express how their toxic behavior has negatively impacts you. You may have to be firm or sensitive in your delivery. That is your call.)
When the time does arise to cut a toxic person out of your life, it is best to just jump in and get the deed done as quickly as possible. In some situations this simply may not be feasible. But, in general, prolonging things just opens the door to more confusion and pain down the road. And because you have been clear about your boundaries and the consequences of crossing those boundaries, it will not come as a surprise to the toxic individuals that you have decided to no longer make room for them in your life. Your conscience will be clean and you will know that you have done the best that you could.
Moving forward, you make emotional adjustments and deal with the pain that comes from losing someone close to you. But, in the end, you are moving forward – and that is what is most important. Learn from your mistakes. Commit to creating a space for yourself which allows you to thrive.