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“Until you let go of all the toxic people in your life, you will never grow into your fullest potential. Let them go so YOU can grow.” – Anonymous
~The Simple Sophisticate podcast, episode #54
Toxic weeds, toxic chemicals, toxins in our bodies, each of these entities are labeled as such to designate their ability to negatively effect the environment around them. The label of toxic is an indicator that it cannot be changed, no matter how badly we wish to reform it, tweak it and coddle it. The same can be said for toxic people.
All of us have or will in the future encounter a toxic person. They can be the stranger on the street we will never see again, but the interaction leaves our minds reeling and our confidence depleted, or it can be someone we once thought to be a friend or even someone we are related to. Work too can bring toxic people into our lives in which we have less control regarding the interactions; however, with the proper tools each of us can effectively maneuver and handle these toxic people when they pop up into our lives unexpectedly or are people we cannot completely physically eradicate from our lives.
Today, discover 10 ways to continue striving for and attaining your true potential no matter what toxicity you encounter.
1. Limit Interaction
Once you’ve determined, the person is not someone you wish to continue a relationship with, but may see from time to time or regularly such as at the workplace, make the conscious decision to limit spending time with them. Politely decline their invitations and eventually they will no longer continue to ask, select to work with people who add value to any collaboration, and use the most powerful one word sentence when it comes to setting boundaries, “No”. Don’t waiver. Refrain from being nice and putting yourself in a position that leaves you drained and/or disrespected. Simply say “No.”
2. Shift Your Thoughts About Them
Marianne Williamson shared with Oprah a few years ago an intriguing idea about how to deal with people who have betrayed you. And without question, someone who betrays you, promises their loyalty until it is inconvenient for them and destroys your trust or someone who hurts you is a toxic person. She suggests in the video below to stop spending time and energy being angry and instead pray for them, pray for their happiness.
Initially, such a course of action sounds absurd, and Oprah is shocked as well until Williamson explains. The purpose in praying (or meditating, whichever works best for you) is to shift our mind and actually has nothing to do with the other person. She states that by doing so, either one of two things will happen: either the person will change or the person praying eventually won’t care anymore, thus it is no longer occupying a space in our minds. Either way you win.
3. Master Your Emotions
One of the destructive aspects of a toxic person is that they seem to masterfully know how to push our emotional buttons. They know our Achilles’ heel, they know our sacred cows and will attack them to gain control. How? Because we lose control when we allow our emotions to take control of our actions. In other words, rather than allowing our emotions to drive our actions, we can feel angry, hurt, betrayed, recognize how and why we’re feeling, but we then need to gather up the reins and be able to think rationally, “What is the best way to act in the situation to extract the best outcome?”
When you can master your emotions, no one can have control over you. In other words, the toxic person loses their power and often will either, sadly, find someone else who isn’t as strong or simply stop.
4. Don’t Get into the Arena with Them
Perhaps the first time you engaged with someone you now define as toxic, you had no idea. In fact, you approached them as you approach anyone, politely, with a friendly smile and with a curiosity to get to know them cordially. However, you quickly realize, the person doesn’t not behave logically for reasons you should not try to deduce as again it will waste your energy, and any common sense reasoning is falling on deaf ears. Walk away. Do not try to reason with them. Do not try to win the battle because believe it or not, it is a war you will never be able to win.
This is hard to do because you don’t want to assume or jump to conclusions, but with time and experience around people, you will be better able to ascertain that every once in awhile there will be people that you must not engage with. Keep Mark Twain’s words of advice in mind and you’ll be just fine, “Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”
5. Shift Your Approach When Interactions Occur
A handful of years ago, I received advice from my mentor teacher that I still adhere to to this day when it comes to dealing with people who will not change and therefore never allow a discussion to allow the relationship to improve or grown. Be it family members or friends, when engaged in a discussion that involves a tense topic, treat them like you would a difficult parent at conferences: act professional, remove the emotion, offer common sense solutions (whether they take it or not), but then let go, remove yourself. It may never be something you will be able to resolve, and you will have to simply move on to the next relationship, friend, colleague or someone who is able to converse with reason, allowing of growth.
6. Set Boundaries Preemptively
The quote is often uttered, and it is to be trusted, that we teach people how to treat us. In other words, when we initially meet someone, our self-respect is either clear, absent or somewhere in between. A respectful person wouldn’t take advantage of this, but a toxic person will determine rather quickly if they see someone who can be messed with or not.
When we set clear boundaries for ourselves, determining what we need in our lives to thrive and what we cannot tolerate, we are showing ourselves self-respect. When someone crosses a boundary, perhaps the first offense is simply in the form of speaking up. After all, if we don’t speak up it will be assumed that the behavior was okay. But if the boundary is crossed again, we must exude strength and stand up firmly, perhaps even walking away entirely.
The gift of setting boundaries prior to any infringement is that we teach those around us how to treat us. Just like a puppy or a child, how can they know what to do if no one shows them the proper course.
7. Don’t Rely on the Response from Others to Dictate Your Happiness
Even if we master all of the tools discussed here today, we will still run into toxic people from time to time, but if we’re mentally strong such occurrences will not ruin our day. It is when we happen upon a toxic person and the interaction invades our thoughts, poisons our potential happiness that the toxic person has won.
We need instead to not be dependent upon what others say about us, what others think about us because if we do, we hand over our happiness to them as well. If you approve, if you truly believe that you are doing what is best for you and no one is being harmed, then revel in your strength to follow your path, but do not be deterred by those who always see the obstacles or discourage your decision simply because they don’t know what it feels like to reach and eventually attain.
8. Learn and Don’t Repeat
Often toxic people enter our lives to expose something within us that needs to improve or be repaired. Rather than dwell on the situation or the person, take a moment and ask, what can I learn, how could I have handled the situation better or avoided it all together? Often there is a lesson waiting to be discovered. Now be sure to put into use your new found aha.
Another point about learning, the simple saying of forgive, but don’t forget absolutely applies to toxic people. You most certainly should forgive for your own mental health, but to forget is to open yourself up to more hurt down the road.
9. Gain Perspective
While whining about the situation or the person that is causing you angst is not productive, it is a good idea to share your experience with someone to see it from a different perspective. Perhaps you were wrong and they aren’t toxic at all. Or perhaps, while yes, they are toxic, you could have handled the situation better. By gaining a wider perspective, you are attempting to learn the larger lesson so that the lesson doesn’t keep repeating itself.
10. Solve and Move Forward
In order to successfully handle toxic people, focus on the solution, not the problem. Remember, most likely you are not going to change them or even reason with them, but you can decide how you will change or improve to better handle future interactions. Once you have a plan in place, put it into practice and place your energies on more fruitful projects, people and experiences. In other words, dwelling is wasted energy.
Toxicity robs us of our joy, reduces our creative energies and depletes our ability to reach our full potential. And while we cannot control everything in our day to day lives, we can control much more than we realize. Once you begin to use these tools, you will begin to find more energy, less stress and before you know it a more fulfilling life. While such a practice must be a conscious effort, it is by living consciously that not only do we know how to navigate the situations and people we wish we didn’t have to encounter, we also know how to make the most of those we thoroughly enjoy having in our lives.
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A simple decision that immediately brings a touch of nature along with a touch of chic style is a monochromatic bouquet. No matter what your favorite flower or color, keep it simple and instantly brighten your day. Barefoot Contessa suggests making a monochromatic bouquet involving different types of flowers, but all offering the same hue. This is a lovely idea especially when there aren’t enough of your favorite varietal to fill a vase. Below are a few images I’ve captured in my own everyday routine.
~Listen to Episode #54 of The Simple Sophisticate here, or download on iTunes.