We’ve all experienced it. It may have been a subtle comment. An unexpected jab. A diss dressed like a complement. Toxic relationships exist and are a lot more common than we’d like to admit. And let’s not even get started on just how prevalent this becomes when you join the ranks of motherhood (the mommy shaming is just as, if not more, exhausting than being an exclusive pumper- telling you from experience).
It can be a friend, a family member, a neighbor, a coworker, a fellow mom in your community, or that one person you see every other week at a function. They all have one thing in common: they are toxic. Toxic people are manipulative, judgmental, take no responsibility for their own feelings, don’t apologize, are inconsistent, make you defend yourself, and are definitely not interested in what is important to you. They blame, criticize, and manipulate. Their words hit you like poison... sometimes quick to the death but sometimes a slow painful torture. Ok- enough with the dramatics.
To be quite frank, the best way to deal with a toxic relationships is...
But it’s not that simple, is it? Some ties aren’t easily severed, especially when it’s family or someone you have to see as a byproduct of your personal or professional routine. I’ve learned that while you can’t control toxic people, you can control your reaction and the level of effect they have on you and your well-being. Here’s some tips on how to manage when the poison starts to seep:
If it feels wrong, trust your gut.
Toxic positivity is real. If you’re questioning someone’s intent, even though it was a “positive” conversation, trust your gut and listen twice- to what was said and who it was said by. Some people have a lot to gain by pretending their life is perfect. Some people like giving compliments only to patronize and minimize your success. Next thing you know, you are questioning what you’re doing wrong and they’ve got you exactly where they want you, questioning yourself and buying into them. Allow yourself to feel the questions about the exchange, but don’t allow yourself to linger. You felt it, so it’s there. Shield yourself and move on.
You don’t have to engage.
Have you ever heard of gaslighting? Narcissists? Yeah that all falls into a category I simply can’t allow myself to interact with. The moment someone tries to twist reality and put their own spin on factual events to change my perception of them or myself, I bow out. I simply listen, am polite, but don’t engage in a dialogue. It’s just not worth it, and the less attention you give it, the less it will affect you. It took me a long time to learn this one, and I would constantly fight the story in someone else’s head to try to show them how far from reality they were, but if someone wants to live in their own story, away from actual reality, nothing you say will change it and you will exhaust yourself (and the relationship, actually) trying to change someone who doesn’t want to be changed. So don’t!
Stand up for yourself.
There’s a fine line between being rude and being direct. Standing up for yourself doesn’t mean bringing someone else down- it simply means you can voice your discontent. “Hey, I don’t like how you spoke to me. Please don’t do it again!”- simple and effective, this sentence says nothing negative about the toxic person but gets the message across that you didn’t like their action. Think about standing up for yourself as defensive, not offensive. The goal is not to attack the other person, but to protect you. If you attack, you only perpetuate the toxic relationship. And we’re not about tearing other people down!
Create boundaries and make them known.
There are certain topics that I refuse to discuss with people who are toxic, and some details of my life that I don’t want to put within their reach. Remember, the way to win when dealing with a toxic person is to not play the game. If you have had this toxic relationship for a while, you know exactly what to do to avoid the uncomfortable situations. Set boundaries for yourself so that it doesn’t get to that level. Even if they ask, or the topic arises, stick to your boundaries and don’t be scared to state that you’re not up for discussing it or don’t want to share it. If pairing up with them during an assignment is a sure-fire way to make you miserable, don’t. You don’t have to please anyone but yourself. This quote says it all: “Pay Attention to when people react with anger and hostility to your boundaries. You have found the edge where their respect for you ends”.
So next time you are dealing with or trying to manage a toxic relationship, I hope you find some peace in knowing that you’re in a lot more control than you think, and have the authority to remove yourself from situations that do not benefit or empower you.