Throughout life, you will encounter toxic people. Whether it's a pessimistic family member, a friend who doesn’t respect your time, or a manipulative boss, it’s just unavoidable. While this may just seem like an inconvenience, the truth is these types of individuals can be dangerous to your health and well-being.
For starters, they can eat up a lot of your time and energy. For example, when you come home from work you may spend the rest of the evening complaining about a co-worker with your partner -- which may put a strain on your relationship.
Another example would be a friend who has a habit of arriving late. So, if you were meeting them for lunch, that means the rest of your afternoon has to be adjusted because they didn’t show up on time.
Additionally, they may cause you to lose your temper, which in turn leads to negative feelings like anger, resentment, and even poor self-esteem. And, this could create more stress in your life. Perhaps that’s why those with more toxic relationships in their life are at greater risk of heart disease.
Even worse? Toxicity is contagious. The reason is that it’s a natural defense mechanism. As Howard Bloom explains in The Lucifer Principle, increased toxicity was one of the earliest evolutionary adaptations -- this bacteria had to become more toxic in order to survive.
At the same time, because this term is thrown around too loosely, you should first be able to spot the warning signs before taking any further action. According to Barrie Sueskind, a therapist in Los Angeles who specializes in relationships, these include:
self-absorption or self-centeredness
manipulation and other emotional abuse
dishonesty and deceit
difficulty offering compassion to others
a tendency to create drama or conflict
If you know someone who displays any of these, then you may want to remove them from your life. It won’t be easy. But, it’s in your best interest.
How to eliminate toxic people from your life.
1. Let them know how you feel.
While you do not owe them an explanation, this is probably more for you. After all, you don’t want to keep your feelings bottled up. If you feel like severing the relationship, let them know calmly and do not sink to their level if they fight back. If it makes you feel more comfortable, you may want to do this in a public space.
2. Put some distance between you and them.
You may want to completely put an end to the relationship. If so, you might just want to go with the pull-off the band-aid approach. This means cutting off all contact from them.
If you don’t want to go to that extreme, especially if it’s a family member, then try to put some space between you and them. Maybe you could unfollow them on social media or only plan to see them once or twice a year. If they ask to spend time with you, let them know that you have other plans and you’ll have to do a rain check.
3. Set hard boundaries.
“Toxins have to be met with a powerful force,” says Tara Mackey, author of Cured by Nature and founder of The Organic Life. “It's likely that they won't just respond to ‘Go away,’ and will perhaps even dig their claws in deeper if you try to create a separation. Don't let this discourage you.”
Be clear with your intentions and maintain the boundaries that you’ve established.
“Stick with your boundaries long-term or [toxic people] will use any weakness overtime to sneak back into your life,” says Mackey. “If you told yourself you wouldn't respond to their texts, don't. Block their number and block them on all social media. Don't send them any e-mails and don't check in six months from now.”
4. Don’t be pulled into a crisis.
Even if you’re standing your ground, toxic people have a way of pulling you back in. Maybe they’ll call you because they’re going through a family emergency and need you. There’s a good chance that this is just a ploy to get you back into their life. While it’s going to sting, stay strong, and do not fall into this trap.
Remember, it’s not your responsibility to always be their shoulder to cry on. And, if they are truly in need, direct them towards the appropriate resources.
5. Spend more time with positive people.
Instead of spending your time and energy on toxic individuals, spend more time with people who are positive and supportive. In short, they should accept you for who you are and make you feel good about yourself. Most importantly, they should be people that you actually enjoy spending time with.
Does this mean that they can never be critical? Of course not. But, it’s constructive criticism meaning that both positive and negative feedback is delivered in a friendly manner.
6. Talk to someone.
You might not think of it this way, because whenever you remove someone from your life, you’re breaking up with them. As a result, you may grieve the end of the relationship. To help you cope with these feelings, connect with your support system or a trusted mental health professional.
7. Forgive but don’t forget.
“Forgiveness is about letting go and moving on with your life,” writes Steve Spring in a Medium post. “It doesn’t mean that you approve of the behavior or forget how it has affected you in the past. It doesn’t mean that you are giving them another chance. I just mean that you are letting go and moving on with your life.”