I've found myself feeling some pretty negative emotions lately in response to actions by people close to me. Feelings like hurt, anger, sadness, frustration, contempt and even hate. These are all normal emotions. Part of life. I know. What I also know is that you can't change other people, only how you react to them. Let me repeat that. You can only change the way you react to others.
You've probably heard this before. It makes sense, theoretically, but how do you stop yourself in the middle of negative feelings and turn your emotions around? It takes conscious effort, but it is possible. You can take your life back, get control of your emotions and move past the destructive path we often allow ourselves to go down when dealing with toxic people in our lives.
Understand That Their Issues Are Their Own
When people lash out at you, say things that are hurtful or push your buttons, consider the reasons behind their behavior. In my personal situation, I had a recent online, public dispute with someone close to me. Immediately, I let old instincts kick in. I felt furious that this person couldn't just leave well enough alone and had to push her ideas and opinions on me. After some time, I put things into perspective. Yes, these are old patterns, I realized. It's not likely that this person's views and actions will change, so I took some time to consider why she took the steps she did. I can see that she felt the issue was an important one to push. I decided to appreciate her passion for her stance, but not to let it affect me. If anything, I've decided to look more into why I took the position that I did.
Take the High Road
It's so tempting to let your emotions get the better of you when dealing with negative people. However, the consequences of doing so can be steep. If your instigator is a co-worker, you could lose your job. If you allow a loved one to bait you on a regular basis, you could lose your sanity or your sense of self. It's just not worth it. Take a moment to consider the worst case scenario of walking away from the situation or simply relenting and allowing the person to believe their behavior is right. I'm not saying it's good to constantly give in, but it can be the best decision to make until you can get some distance to think. Sometimes, however, you have to take a stand.
Stand Up for Yourself
Taking a stand for your position and letting the other person know the reasons for your actions can be very empowering. Sometimes we get in a pattern of allowing others to tell us who we are or have their say simply to avoid confrontation. We may let our wants and desires to take a back burner to those of someone else for any variety of reasons. If you're starting to feel that you've given too much, take a moment to contemplate what might happen if you stop giving in and start standing up for what you want and for your own rights. It's okay to do so, as long as you're not infringing on the rights of others or letting yourself feel out of control. No one likes to get to the point where they snap and say things out of frustration or anger. That's not helpful for you or for the other person involved. But it's more than okay to tell someone why you feel the way you do. It's good to set limits and inform them of what you'll tolerate and what you won't. Put some of the power back in your hands, and you'll feel worlds better. And stronger.
Live Your Life
If you've tried everything, and your interactions with the negative person haven't changed, try just living your life despite their influence. At least to the best of your ability. If the person causing you strife is your boss or someone else of heavy influence in your life, it's probably not feasible to just do what you want. However, you can move forward with your life in many ways and make proactive decisions that work for you and make you feel good. Let the other person have their feelings, do what they want. For lack of a better phrase, you just do you. Give it a try. I bet it'll feel great!
Know When to Let Them Go
All the self-help experts say get rid of toxic people. Purge them from your life. Sometimes that's just not very realistic. It's unlikely you can just quit your job on a whim, get a divorce without a thought about it or just cut a familly member out of your life for good. I get it. That's why I always try to implement the above strategies. But if you're hurting, really hurting. Or if your health is suffering or you just can't take anymore...You know what that last straw may be. Only you know. If you've determined that it's time, let that person go or at least take a break. Sometimes we have to do it for our own good. Sometimes we have to do it for those we love most.
I hope these tips have been helpful. I've learned some the hard way through personal experience. Others I've learned through my professional counseling background. Please feel free to share your best strategies for dealing with toxic, negative people in your life. Let's share, so we can live less stressful lives.