At the end of my last post, I briefly mentioned toxic people and the role they play in our social media etiquette. The overarching goal of my last post was to get everyone to just get along already, so this might seem a bit hypocritical in contrast but we need to let go of toxic people.
I think that one thing we need to be mindful of is that people may be toxic to us, but they may not be toxic to everyone. They might, in fact, have a great circle of friends who share their values and beliefs and who absolutely love them. Which means that we shouldn’t feel bad about cutting people out of our life who are toxic to us. In fact, we could very well be toxic to them.
Oftentimes, I think it is a mutual thing. We should be able to tolerate everyone, but that doesn’t mean we have to include everyone in our circle, or have close relationships with people that we just don’t jive with. And chances are, if you are having a hard time being friends with someone because they really grind your gears, they could be thinking the exact same about you.
I am not proposing that we cut out anyone who has a different opinion than us and surround ourselves with people who are carbon-copies of ourselves because realistically this could never happen since we are all unique, but it would also keep us from growing and learning and becoming more open-minded.
I am proposing that we keep our closest circles full of people who share our core beliefs and values, but who also challenge us to be better people. Because we’re going to be happier and more successful if we do this.
And I think we should be honest with each other about how we feel.
It’s easier said than done. I struggle with this daily. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, I don’t want to cause any drama, and I will make up excuse after excuse because maybe I just don’t have the energy to deal with it.
But wouldn’t it be a lot better if we could just say, face to face, “Hey Karen, I know that we’re still Facebook friends but I really haven’t talked to you since high school and I realized that we really have nothing in common and to be totally honest the stuff you post on Facebook really gets under my skin sometimes, so I wanted to see if you felt the same way about me?”
To which Karen responds, “Actually, I was feeling the same way myself. Thanks for bringing this up like an adult. Now we can part ways civilly and move on with our lives!”
Obviously this is grossly oversimplified. Not everyone is going to react the same way, and not everyone acts like an adult (unfortunately). But I think being transparent and honest with other people is something we should all strive for. It really does come down to treating others the way you would like to be treated. I’d certainly prefer if people were up-front and honest with me all the time, instead of feeling like they have to put up a front or pretend like they agree with the things I say. I don’t know how many people in my life feel like they have to do that, but I’m sure there are some.
And even if telling the truth does hurt someone’s feelings, it’s probably still the right thing to do. I recently had a very close friend decide to cut me out of her life. Although I was very hurt by the way she decided to do this (which was not up-front, transparent, honest, or face-to-face), I have started to realize that our relationship was not really that great. At first, I tried to fix things the way that I know how, which is through open communication. This was not well-received and, with the help of my husband, I realized that it was probably better to just let it go.
Letting it go is not my thing. I like to attack things head-on, aggressively, until the issue is resolved. But that’s not always what needs to happen (as I am slowly learning) and not everyone handles things this way. Although I do still hope there will be reconciliation, I am trying to accept that maybe this was the right thing for both parties. Maybe we were toxic to each other, and maybe we are better off and will both be happier in separate circles.
To wrap this up, I’ll leave you with a few steps that I hope are helpful when it comes to cutting out toxic people (and surrounding yourself with people who share your values and beliefs, because that puts a more positive spin on it).
Step 1: Be aware of how you feel when you are around other people (or when you see their posts on Facebook or get text messages from them). Does being around them bring you joy or does it stress you out? Does it recharge your energy or leave you feeling depleted? Do the conversations more often have a positive tone or a negative tone? Ask yourself these questions when you are around the people in your circle.
Step 2: If you feel like someone in your circle is not bringing you joy, if they are bringing toxicity into your life, then be honest and open with them about it. But be kind. Be cognizant of their feelings. Treat them the way you would like to be treated. Be calm, be understanding, and be open to a potential resolution. You never know, maybe there has been a misunderstanding and all it needed was some open communication.
Step 3: Invite this type of communication from other people. If you are going to go out there and tell people how you feel, they should be able to do the same.
Step 4: Remember that this is not some shallow bash-fest where you go on a rampage telling everyone what you really think about the color shirt they wear with absolutely no regard for their feelings. This is serious. If you’re just mad about some one-off instance, like that time Grandma shared some political propaganda, just un-follow her on Facebook for a couple of days and let yourself cool down. Don’t act out over one small thing. This is about who you want to surround yourself with for the rest of your life, so you’d better spend some time thinking about it.
Step 5: In retrospect, this should have been step one. Think about yourself and how you interact with people. Are you bringing them up, are you having positive conversations, are you adding value to their lives? Do you think they enjoy being around you? Don’t over-think every interaction you’ve ever had with someone, but take some time to think introspectively about whether or not you have been a toxic person in the past. We have all been at some point, I guarantee that, and we’ll continue to have those moments but we should constantly challenge ourselves to be better.
While I think this is a great start, it does not encompass all of my thoughts and feelings about toxic people. For example, toxic family members are a whole different ball game. I’ll get into that in a follow-up post. But I’d also like to remind everyone that this is just one perspective and, like everything you read, you should take all of this with a grain of salt. Think about it and see if it is even applicable to your life currently or if you have an entirely different perspective on toxic people.
But hopefully this got you thinking.