One Mindset Shift Away From "Toxic" People and Situations
by Robin Sacks
Do you have any difficult, challenging, or toxic people in your life?
Ha! Is that a joke, Robin?!? Of course, you do. We all do!
When we talk about these people, we say things like "they're driving me crazy" or "they're stressing me out" or "they make my life a living hell."
What we do in these instances is talk about them as if they are the problem. Anytime we give our power away to somebody else by believing that they are the ones making us feel a certain way, we are giving them way too much credit.
What we should be saying is, "I don't like the person I become when I'm around that person."
That one change of wording completely shifts your mindset from helpless to in control. In other words, if they are the problem, and they are the ones making me feel or act a certain way, I have no control over that. They have to change themselves, and I am at a loss because I can't change other people. If I think about it like that, we can't do anything about it.
However, if I take personal responsibility and I own the fact that I don't like how I feel when I am around them, I've now taken charge, because I can do something about that. I am now in control of doing something to change that.
When you have decided that you're the one calling the shots, you have given yourself options.
I can choose to completely step away from that person, and remove them from my life. I can choose to have a conversation with that person and make it quite clear that I don't like who I become or how I behave when I am with them, and therefore, I am going to step away or lessen the amount of time I spend with them. Or I can simply, without any kind of conversation, drift away from that person.
In other words, I can make a choice not to attend every argument or conversation to which I'm invited. I can choose not to answer the phone every time that person calls. I can choose to simply go focus on other things and allow them to naturally drift away (because those types of people will often move on to other people if they're not getting what they need from you).
One sentence, where you simply choose different words, can completely shift your life in a more positive direction.
Here's are a couple examples of how this looks in real life.
I had a long time client with whom I worked over several years. During that time, this person hired me for various types of consulting, coaching, and presenting. This person also happened to have a personality trait that was not conducive to keeping relationships healthy for very long; this person was a certified narcissist. What you learn quickly about narcissists is that you are either their best friend or you are an enemy...and that can change on a daily or weekly basis, depending on whether or not you can give them what they need in that moment.
Although a good person (don't we always feel like we have to say that), I had watched on many occasions as this person was extremely rude to people, and exuded everything a certified toxic person embodies. At times, I was the brunt of some of these ego trips. Although we were able to create some good things for her business, she could never get out of her own way or leave her ego at the door long enough to accomplish the things she ultimately wanted to accomplish.
I spent the last year working with this client in a pretty constant state of stress. I would fly off the handle, yell, and swear (a lot more than normal) during our meetings. I found myself emulating many of her traits, as well as losing control of my usually calm and confident demeanor. I would feel angry walking into those meetings, and would feel angry and exhausted walking out.
Since I am typically a pretty laid-back person, there was no doubt where this stress (and new behavior) was coming from. There was only one person in my life who made me act that way...this client.
After many attempts at trying to shift her or receive her in a different way, I knew there was only one thing to do. So, I fired her. That was the only client I have ever fired. But there was no question that she needed to go. She was not going to change, and I was not going to change her. I did not like the person I became when I was with her. That is what made the final decision.
Another example is that I have a long time friend who has spent years working through a lot of negative self-talk, low self-esteem, and self-doubt. For years, we have had the same conversations over and over and over again to no avail.
Over the past year, this friend began implementing and actually applying some of the things that we've talked about over time. Lo and behold, anytime she found herself actually doing instead of overthinking, the result was exactly the one she wanted to have.
That's great! However, I realized that we had gotten in the habit of having daily 'coaching' conversations for an hour or two. Every single day!
There came a point where I was becoming stressed about the amount of time I was giving to her (taking it away from my work, my family, and myself), and the fact that my habit was to slip right into "coach" mode with her and get lost in every call. While this was not a case of a toxic person, it was a case of a toxic situation that I was not managing better.
I didn't like the person I was showing-up as every time I answered the phone to have another conversation that we had already had two or three times previous. That led me to being louder, more irritated, and a bit critical every time I opened my mouth during our talks. I know that I am more of a motivator than a bully... but with her, I was beginning to act only like a bully. And I didn't like it.
So, we had a conversation.
She took a few weeks to just do things herself, with no calls to me. When we began having calls again, I put time limits on them knowing that I would always devote time to help a friend, but that I also needed to have boundaries firmly in place to respect myself, my time, and my stress levels.
When you find yourself not liking the person you become around certain people, it's time to make a decision. They are not going to be the ones who make you act differently. That's your job. Take control and take action.
When you decide that you're the one calling the shots, you have given yourself options.