Have you ever gone out for a coffee or a meal with a friend and left feeling worse after seeing them? You leave the event tired, drained and kind of grumpy, questioning why you even made the effort to begin with. There have been times when I have been so excited to see a friend only to feel like I was not being reciprocated the same positive feelings.
Yesterday, I met a girlfriend for a long overdue coffee. Less than a minute after meeting she says, “I see you partner finally took you on a trip. He seems to go solo a lot,” with a bit of sneer and a chuckle. I rolled my eyes and mentally prepared myself to get through a competitive, my-life-is-better-than-your-life conversation, which is masked as two friends meeting for coffee. My Americano had not even cooled enough to drink and I was already ready to get the hell out of there and get back to work.
As we get older, we get more and more impatient when it comes to unnecessary bullshit in our lives. A dinner with someone I am not too keen on spending time with? Cancelling it. A coffee with a girlfriend who only nags on you or judges your relationship? I just added an hour to my life that I did not have earlier by cancelling said meeting.
In theory, removing negative people from your life can sound really simple to do, but can sometimes be quite difficult to actually execute. Sometimes the toxic person is not so easy to get rid of, they might be a colleague, childhood friend or relative, so someone that would be very hard to cut out of your life, without massive consequences or drastic changes.
Here are five simple ways to control the toxic people in your life, if a clear cutting off technique is not possible:
- Others will show you how much you can trust them. I have the biggest flaw because I go into many friendships one hundred percent. I trust that everyone comes from a good place and as I wish them well, they wish me the same; this is not necessarily true. Do not open your whole heart or start sharing your deepest darkest secrets during the honeymoon phase of your friendship. Get to know your friend, so you can see how they treat other people who are close to them and they will show you what type of person they are.
- Have lower expectations of certain friendships. My partner has so many friends who are just ‘fun’ to be around. He does not share his deepest, darkest secrets with them, nor do they with him. They are friends to shoot the shit with, watch hockey games with and just hang out with. We should not expect each and every friend of ours to be our soulmate friend, some might just be great to spend time with and chat with.
- Teach someone how they are allowed to treat you. Did you share something really personal with someone and they used it against you in the future? Does someone always bring up your flaws or judge you, even when things are going really well in your life? This person is teaching you how much you should disclose to them. Perhaps this is not the person you call to discuss issues in your relationship with because they, perhaps, enjoy your misery a bit too much and always remind you of it, even when things are going well. Teach them that this is no longer appropriate by setting a clear boundary with them, call them out on what they have said in the past and make said conversation private and something you do not share with them in the future.
- Limit their influence. Do not meet a toxic friend once a week or share lunch with them everyday at work, if you only leave said meeting feeling frustrated, sad or even angry. Your daily life will be negatively impacted by this emotional damage and it will hinder your daily personal goals and self care, if you are having negative feelings on a regular basis.
- Stay home and get to know yourself better. Is it Friday night and you have no one meaningful or beneficial to spend time with? Do not find someone to fill your time with, rather, stay in and work on something you have been trying to find time for. If you really want some relaxing conversation, schedule a Skype date with someone you have been meaning to catch up with, or order take out and catch up on your favourite television show. It is much better to be alone than to be with someone who makes you feel lonely.
What I have realized is that sometimes our expectations for others are simply too high. Not everyone we meet or have in our lives is going to be ‘our people,’ some are simply meant to be shopping buddies or friends you enjoy going out with a few times a year with to simply catch up. Have realistic expectations for your friends because having an active social life is very important, but that does not mean that you should be discussing your deepest darkest issues and feelings with each and every one of your friends.