I was recently asked to comment on an article regarding toxic people. My response was quite different from the typical response people have come to expect during conversations about dealing with toxic people and as a result, it caught some attention, so I thought I would share it here with all of you.
The first truth I pointed out and want you to also understand is this: there are no toxic people. No one is literally poisonous and nobody can cause you emotional harm by simply being next to you. In fact, thinking that someone is toxic is not at all helpful because you lose your power when you label someone as such.
The reality is that many people will behave in certain ways that can trigger upsetting or stressful thoughts inside of our minds, thus causing negative emotions. These triggers can signal healing and unprocessed traumas that could actually benefit us IF we take the time to explore them within ourselves, but ultimately they have very little to do with the person who initially triggered us.
Let’s say you ask someone to go on a date with you or attend an event and they say they no because already have plans. Their response may trigger you, making you feel upset, abandoned, or rejected, but this reaction is coming from your thoughts about the “NO” – not from the person who you declined your offer.
I always tell my clients that people are allowed to behave in any way they want to (which might include some negative consequences) but despite their actions, YOU get to decide how you want to think and feel about the actions. This is where YOUR power resides. You always get to decide who you spend your time with and how much.
When you acknowledge this truth and take back your power, you will find that this is also an excellent opportunity to create better boundaries in a relationship, especially if you find that you are triggered many times by the same individual. Often times, we are quick to label someone as toxic, when really we have little to no boundaries in the situation.
Understand that you always get to decide how you want to think, feel, and act around another person. You must recognize that it is your own thoughts that are creating your feelings, not the other person. They are not that powerful!
Having said all of this, this does not apply to anyone who is physically abusive or emotionally manipulative due to a personality disorder. However, the boundary work would still apply (check out this post on emotional manipulation for more). For the rest of the people in your life, remember that all your power resides in how you think and feel about how someone acts.
If you would like any support in establishing better boundaries in an existing relationship, whether that be with a loved one or someone at work, I encourage you to schedule a connection call so we can talk it through together. You can find the article about toxic people referenced above here.
Mind Your Strength,
Melanie Shmois, MSSA, LISW-S, is a licensed social worker, holding a Master’s Degree (MSSA) from Case Western Reserve University and a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Spanish. After spending 2 decades helping others achieve their mental and personal goals, Melanie worked with Master Coach Instructor, Brooke Castillo, and became a certified Life and Weight Coach through the Life Coach School.