Are there really toxic people? The dictionary defines toxic as poisonous, as in the dumping of toxic waste. Also, as a toxic substance. So, can a human being just by the nature of their behavior poison you? Sorry, but no, not really. You’re not actually eating a substance (the person) or breathing in a person’s essence like a Dementor in a Harry Potter movie. No but, we use the phrase toxic person to label someone that we find extremely difficult to be around.
Wait, what? You mean those people aren’t zapping your energy, making you feel awful, drained, upset, angry? No, they are not. Consider when we believe that another person has the power to make us feel bad, we are giving away our power to them. Why would you want to give away your personal power to someone else? Why not simply empower yourself to feel the way you want to feel based on the thought you choose to think. If you choose to think being around this person is so difficult and draining, you are going to feel awful. However, if no matter what they other person says or does, you choose to think, I am not going to give them the power to influence how I feel. I am choosing to feel good, then you will feel good. Even if they say awful things to you, you can choose to remember that what they think, say or do is not a reflection on you. It is a reflection on them. You are great! You got this.
I just saw this modeled on the November 9, 2018 episode of the TV show Blue Bloods. Eddie is taking her fiancée Jamie to meet her mother. Eddie’s mother says a lot of judgmental things to Jamie and Eddie about Jamie’s career choice. Eddie is upset. Jamie tells Eddie later that it didn’t upset him. He says something like, your mother’s upbringing is probably influencing how she sees things and what she says. She probably had it rough growing up. Jamie is fine, happy, unaffected. He even goes back alone to get to know his future mother-in-law. So, Eddie’s mother behaved badly. Because of how Eddie and Jamie thought about it, they both felt differently about the interaction. You don’t have to be like Eddie. You can choose to think the thoughts you want to think to feel good. You can be like Jamie.
This does beg the question, does that mean we have to be around people that we don’t like being around. The answer is no, of course not. Adults get to behave how they want to behave. You get to choose how you react and who you spend your time with. Just like the reasons you are choosing to be with some people and the reasons you are choosing to not be around other people.
Consider that there are people (not toxic people) that trigger you to think, feel and act in a certain way. There are people that will cross your boundaries. There are people that won’t like you. If you take responsibility for how you choose to think and what you do when your boundaries are crossed (read my blog on Boundaries, what they are and how to enforce them), then none of this is a problem. This is so much better than thinking this person is toxic so now I must react in a way that might not be in alignment with how I truly want to behave and/or thinking I must remove them from my life. Not labeling people toxic gives you back your power. It allows you, once you manage your thinking, to decide how you want to behave and who you want to spend time with.
Remember that adults get to behave how they want to behave. Take responsibility for managing your thoughts, feelings and actions. Now you from a clean place can choose who you want to spend time with. You don’t have to spend time with people that you don’t want to spend time with. Not even family members. You are an adult you get to choose. Just like the reason for your choice.
Let me be clear, when I say like the reason for your choice, I am not saying blame the other person. If your reason for not being around someone is because they upset you, then you haven’t done the work to manage your own thoughts. So, back up. Remember no one can make you feel anything. It is your own thoughts that are making you feel how you feel. Take responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and actions.
Think of it like someone telling you that you have brown eyes when your eyes are blue. You wouldn’t take it personally. You wouldn’t get upset and yell at them. You would just think, they can’t see that my eyes are blue. The problem is not with you or your eyes. The problem is with them and their thinking your eyes are brown. It’s not your problem. There is no reason to react.
Now you just get to decide who you do and don’t want to spend time with. You are deciding without blaming the other person. Clear, clean, simple. Here are some questions to help you choose who to spend time with:
- Think of a person that is difficult for you to be around. Write their name here.
- Why is it difficult to be with them. Write out everything that makes it hard for you to be with them. Don’t filter. Be as judgmental and blaming as you want to be.
- Re-read what you wrote and highlight only the facts. Remember a fact is something that is completely neutral that everyone can agree on down to the smallest detail. Be careful here. Your thoughts will seem like facts to you, but they aren’t. They are just your thoughts. Highlight only the facts. Everything else are your thoughts, feelings and actions.
- Is this how you want to feel? Is this how you want to act? Are you behaving how you truly want to behave? Why or why not?
- Who do you want to be? How do you want to feel and act? Take responsibility for choosing your feelings and actions.
- What thought can you think that will having you feeling and acting the way you want to feel and act?
- Now that you have taken responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and actions, ask yourself if you want to be around this person? Why or why not?
- Does your reason blame or in any way make it the other person’s fault for why you don’t want to be with them? If it does go back and keep answering the above questions until your reason doesn’t blame the other person.
One last way to think about this. I have a few friends that love football. Before my son married, he didn’t like watching sports. He married a woman that loves sports, particularly football. I can’t stand watching football or any sport. It is totally boring to me. I love sailing. As it happens my friends and family that love football, don’t like sail. I do love being with all these people. Even though I have been invited many times to watch football with them, I choose not to go. They have been invited many times to go sailing with me, and they choose not to come. I don’t blame them for liking football. They don’t blame me for liking sailing. I just take responsibility for choosing not to like football. No one to blame here. I just don’t choose to go watch football. No reason needed. I simply choose not to go watch football. They ask if I want to come watch the game with them. I reply no thanks. I ask them if they want to come sailing with me? They reply no thanks. When we invite each other out to dinner the answer is always yes. Easy, simple, no blaming. You got this! So, are you going to watch football?
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