How To Distance Yourself From Toxic People Without Them Noticing
Whether it’s a fantasy football league, a book club or your happy hour crew, there may come a time when you feel the need to move on from social groups that no longer make you happy. Whether it’s you who has changed or it’s them, it’s completely normal for social interests to shift as we age.
Unfortunately, getting out of social engagements and relationships can be a delicate thing to maneuver. If you find yourself in that situation, here are some things to consider.
What can you do when you just don’t like being around certain friends anymore?
You must restrict access. When I tell some people that, they often say something like “but that’s not easy to do.”
My answer to that is this: “True, and it’s easier than living with the results when you don’t.”
I call this “hard/easy vs. easy/hard.”
When you make hard decisions up front, things become easier for you later. However, if you make easy decisions upfront, they become harder for you down the road.
One of the ways to restrict access without angering someone or burning bridges is called “benign neglect.” This involves any decision you make that allows a person in your life (or an activity associated with that person) to move toward the back. Doing that allows someone else to step closer in your life.
As a rule, there’s no need to burn bridges. Simply, don’t engage as often or engage in what we call “homeopathic doses. This is the minimal interaction necessary to address the individual over time”.
Are there times when you just need a break from some people?
Yes, this is not uncommon for most individuals. This is particularly true when the two of you have personal values that are not in alignment. Personal values don’t have to be exactly the same. Diversity is valuable, however, the values need to be “resonant” with one another.
When values are “dissonant” with each other, it creates varying levels of frustration and even conflict. When this happens, you’ll need a break from interacting with that individual.
How do you address personal boundaries with your friends?
Most people don’t enforce the boundaries they desire in life. Worse yet, many people don’t communicate those boundaries to others.
Don’t make apologies for the boundaries and don’t get mad when people want to encroach upon them.
Why? Because it is inevitable that people will try to encroach. Simply state your boundaries clearly and politely, and then stand firm. Learning to say “no” is an important skill in setting boundaries.
One of the best techniques that I use to say no to someone is to say something like “If I said yes to that, I’m afraid I’d let you down.” You may say that because you don’t have the bandwidth, the knowledge or the expertise to do what they are asking but in any case, you’re not the person to do what they are asking.
Is it okay to say your interests or values have changed and you want to spend more time with your family or other friends?
It is inevitable that people’s interests and values change over time. For some people, there may be subtle changes. For most, they can be major changes in interests and values. In either case, changing interests and values are normal.
The key to growing throughout your life is to remember to “live in your flame and not your wax.” When you do things you hate to do (especially over time), you are in your wax. This means that you are doing things that are sapping your energy.
When you are doing things that you love with the people in your life, you are living in your flame. You are energized and excited.
If you want a life of harmony, strive to do things that are in your flame, not in your wax. Say yes to people and activities that make you feel alive, align with your values, and add to your experience of life.
Written by Dr. Ivan Misner, Ph.D., author of “Who’s in Your Room? The Secret to Creating Your Best Life”, and founder of Bni.com