Navigating toxic behavior (Episode 176)
There are some people in our lives that are a huge energy suck, a negative Nancy, or some other verbal landmine of toxicity. You may have toxic behavior around you, and unfortunately we can't just live in a hole and hide out. So how do you navigate the toxic people - or, more specifically - the toxic behavior that can creep into your life?
We don't have toxic PEOPLE; we have toxic BEHAVIOR
Back on podcast episode 57, we talked about toxic relationships, and it's definitely been the hottest download of all of our podcast episodes.
The truth of the matter is, we are all dealing with some level of toxicity in our lives, and the toxic behavior has definitely come out in droves this year as every sense and emotion has been heightened. In times of conflict and crisis, this is completely normal!
This has definitely been the year of magnification. All our emotions have been turned up a notch. And this has been a serious year of karma, and reaping the harvest of the lives we've sown. For some, this has resulted in some beautiful fruit. And for others, the toxic mess that has been brewing below the surface has exploded out the top.
Recognize your energy. We all have those certain people that bring out certain traits and qualities in us. We all have those characters in our lives that bring out a certain aspect of who we are. When we are dealing with people emitting toxic behavior, our natural tendency is to mirror that within ourselves. Be careful to not get trapped in a "duel of toxicity."
We had the potential, in our own relationship, to go down a toxic wall in our own relationship. For me, growing up in a home with a lot of strong personality styles, we fell into this vicious cycle of teasing as a means to one-up the other person, and, as long as it was in jest, we got away with it. And yes, we could act "loving", but the biting edge in the teasing was really not helping to build love and connection at all.
When Nathan challenged me on "what is your goal", it really hit me on the impact with my words. What was truly my goal? To have the upper hand? To make someone feel bad or lesser than? Nathan shifted my perspective to really looking at "would I root for this person as a human being?" If you do, then why in the world would you find joy in making fun of them or putting them down? Pay attention to teasing - is it helping your relationship? Building up confidence and support for another? Teasing can quickly become toxic, so proceed with caution, awareness and love.
Toxic Behavior...or person?
Don't throw the baby out with the bath. It takes a lot to truly become and overly toxic person. Toxic behavior, however, is something all of us are capable of exhibiting. You can have toxic behavior in one area and still have something beautiful in another area you can glean from. And when you can see the good, then it's about steering the conversation in that direction. Then you're getting back into the driver's seat on managing the conversation and what direction it will go...away from the toxic behavior and into a neutral or positive territory. Ultimately toxic management is really about managing yourself around other people. Because remember, that is always within your control.
#1 - Define What You Won't Accept
How much are you willing to accept into your life? The truth is, toxic behavior is here to stay - we are human beings, and we all have this tendency. Yet, we can determine how much energy we give to it. Drawing a clear boundary around what you will and won't accept is very valuable. For example, when we need to talk about stuff that is weighing us down, we like to "air the laundry" outside instead of bringing it into our home.
We set a limit on how much we allowed ourselves to be "dumped on" by the family, either. We drew a line on family gossip. If it is negative and unproductive, if it is something completely out of my own control, then how much time and energy do you need to devote to it and still be able to remain recharged yourself?
Redirect The Conversation
Being prepared with some redirection and taking ownership of your own actions is critical. If you don't want to "go there" in a conversation, ask questions that can redirect, like "what is something good that happened to you today?" Or, if they really need to vent, ask them what they think the other person "should" do. Sometimes people just want to lay out their perfect scenario to get it off their chest, and then they are better able to come to grips on what really is out of their control.
Oftentimes people in pain don't want to hear your solution. They simply want to be heard themselves. Can you have the grace for someone to allow them to just spew simply because they need to get it out? When it becomes personal, it's because we've picked up that torch to take it that way. We don't have to carry that weight. And we don't have to take in more than what we're able to bear. Think long and hard about whether you're in a place to just give with no reciprocity. If you're able to listen without agenda, go for it. And it's okay, and extremely healthy, to acknowledge that for every give, you do need that opportunity to recharge and take something for yourself as well. And at times that is very much around creating a clear boundary on how much time you're willing to "sit in the stew" with someone.
When you shift the conversation to what is in your control, your own emotions, your own response/reaction, and you start speaking in ownership of your own feelings and actions, you have a higher likelihood that the other person will mirror your behavior as well.
#2 Find Accountability
Find your accountability and support. Life is a series of give and take, ebb and flow. You have to exhale just as much as you inhale. And that means that, when you do take in toxicity, you need to release it. For some, that's journal-writing, or going for a run. For another, it may be having a safe place or person of your own where you are free to say anything and everything unfiltered. A therapist, counselor, or even friend in a healthy spot may be a great fit.
Oftentimes toxic behavior in another may bring things up in you that you may not be fully ready to deal with or in control of. They become the antagonist, or the emotional dump that just triggers you in an unhealthy way.
Just like drinking too much alcohol can give you a hangover, too much toxic behavior can be too much. If we don't have a healthy way to release this, we will simply perpetuate the issue by projecting that toxic behavior on to someone else.
Literally keeping the toxic discussions outside has created a sacred place of peace and comfort in our house, with a very intentional line being drawn on the conversations we allow to "settle" in our home.
Think of geese - they will fight...and then they will flap their wings to get that excess nervous/negative energy out. Are you letting that toxicity out of your life, or shoving it down to were it may erupt?
#3 HAVE A PLAN
Create a script or game-plan for how things will go if/when you may be triggered. If you know you're going to be going into potentially toxic territory, be prepared with a few conversation redirects, or how you'll shut the negativity down. Think about gratitude redirects where you can shift to what you're thankful for. Pay attention to what cues you may be able to notice to sense when things may spiral into a negative conversation.
It's okay to shut down a conversation you're simply not ready to have. It's not always about a taboo topic; it may simply be that you just aren't in a place to get into it with someone. My lifestyle choices don't resonate with everyone. And I don't need to prove myself to others by justifying my actions or trying to convince them that my way is the right way. Not every topic is worth a conversation with two people seeing from very different perspectives.
#4 Have A Mantra of Forgiveness
Set the foundation from the beginning. Before you even get into a conversation, are you clear on the goal of it? I have one client who checks in with her family members before they start, asking them, "are you looking for a solution, or simply to be heard?" What a great question to preface so you can truly listen to them in a way that supports them best!
Focus on what you are personally responsible for. How can you love someone with toxic behavior in the best way possible? For some, it may be hearing them out. For another, a gentle suggestion. And for another, the best way to love may simply be shutting them out for a while, giving them the space to process and deal with the consequences of their actions without you by their side. Look at how you can take ownership of the one thing within your control - you.
How can you continue to give your best self to another? That means setting clear boundaries, showing them how to respect you best, and doing what you need to recharge.
Manage Your Energy
Learn how to manage your energy. You only have so much bandwidth during the day. We are capable of putting our phones on silent and staying completely focused for the length of a movie. Many "emergencies" aren't really an emergency as much as it is a time demand that you get to choose. Pace yourself and what you can handle. For example, I know that on Mondays I'm in business meetings making decisions all day. By dinnertime, the last thing I want to do is plan for and coordinate for the family that evening. So I ask for Nathan's help, and I take it easy on Monday night so that I can have the juice to interact in a positive way with my family vs. pulling from an empty bucket to direct the family.
I don't take on 5 coaching calls a day. I know I give a lot of energy to my clients, and I listen to heaviness they need to process through in their lives. So on client days, I make it a point to allow for extra recharge time for myself so I'm able to be present with family as well.
Just like you can spend your whole life working on the "nest egg" and then, by the time you're ready to enjoy it, everyone has left the nest. Don't wait to recharge when you finally have that vacation or hit that golden number in your bank account. You can't guarantee you can hold out that long. There are no rollover minutes in life. Learn to recharge daily, just like you need to go to the bathroom, blink, and breathe every day without question. It doesn't have to be an official vacation. A mental break of just a minute of focus can do wonders.
Some additional resources for you
- Here Come the Holidays...And Relationship Drama (Episode 27)
- Toxic Relationships...And What To Do About Them (Episode 57)
- What Is Your Goal?
- If You Want Daddy To Be Involved, Get Out Of The Way!
- Understanding Emotional Labor Is Key To A Happy Marriage
- Tasks: They Are Taking Over My Life!
- Life Isn’t Compartmentalized…but if it were…
- The Burden of Overwhelm – Moving Forward While Always Feeling Behind
- 5 Tips To Focus For Frazzled Families (Episode 160)
- Opposites Attract…And How To Live With Them (Episode 86)
- My Marriage Sucks (Episode 66)
- How Do You Navigate Gender Roles In Marriage? (Episode 56)
- Welcome to the Fight Club – Choose Wisely (Episode 34)
- Self-Love, or Self-Sabotage? (Episode 152)
Your Weekly Challenge:
What you personally project, others will start to reflect. Whether that's toxic behavior or love and light, you have the power to create the mirror others will follow!
We all have the power to not only have toxic behavior but to get lost in truly becoming a toxic person. But we also recognize it is in our own power to decide what we'll do with that, and whether we'll fuel it for the positive or the negative.
You may not know the story behind the venom another person spews. You may simply be the closest lightening rod next to them. But YOU get to decide whether you get to shoot that back, or whether you want to diffuse or redirect that.
Know your own energy level, and get clear on the person YOU want to be. Then, choose that with intention and start to reflect that positivity beyond yourself into every interaction you have.
Remember what you are in control of.
- Be clear on what you will and will not accept (define what is okay and what you're willing to address)
- Have some accountability to help you defrag (let the ripple effect of toxicity stop with YOU)
- Have a plan on where you're willing to go (know how to navigate your way out of a situation)
- Have a mantra of forgiveness (you may not know the deeper story and pain another may be going through)
The more we can recognize our own triggers and how we refuel, the better we can also see and understand it in others, and truly see how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.