I’ve been running into this false notion, this idea that the right person or people in your life will always make things easy.
To a certain extent, this is true. Both romantic and platonic relationships alike work better when everyone is on the same page and when there is effective communication taking place. However, people are mistaking “easy” for “absence of conflict”.
When Self-Love Backfires
We are in the era of self-love and recognizing the importance of self-care. This movement is phenomenal for a number of reasons. More and more, I’m seeing new parents instill positive affirmations and good self-talk into their kids. I am seeing people recognize that they cannot pour from an empty cup; that working themselves half to death over a job that can replace you easily is not worth it. I am seeing more people love themselves enough to escape toxic relationships and friendships.
However, with every social movement, there is always an adverse side effect. It seems that, somewhere along the line, we have attributed any type of rift or discomfort in a relationship to be cause for termination.
We hear this a lot, but it’s even more prevalent during the New Year: “Time to cut people off!” There are so many articles guiding us on when it’s time to cut someone off, how to cut them off, determining if someone is toxic, and so on.
There are valid reasons as to why someone would need to be cut out of our lives. But more often I am seeing that people are misusing the word ‘toxic’ for anyone who challenges us. More often I am seeing people “cut someone off” as a means to avoid conflict, rather than deal with a problem.
Are they Really Toxic?
Let me be clear: Toxic people are definitely real. And there are a lot of definite signs that you could be dealing with a toxic person.
But we also have to recognize that there is no relationship that can be considered effortless. There is always going to be some give and take but, more importantly, the give and take won’t always be 50/50. This article from The Ladders highlights some more common toxic behaviors such as selfishness, being controlling, constant negative talk, etc.
There are numerous resources you can find that can tell you how to identify a toxic person and what those common traits are. Typically, a toxic person is easily identified by the way they treat others and the way they make others feel. While there are so many articles listing toxic traits, I have trouble finding ones that list the traits of non-toxic people. Understand that the following people are not toxic:
People Who Challenge You
There’s an old saying: friends don’t let friends make bad choices. I think a better way to phrase this is: real friends don’t let friends stay where they are. I interpret a good friend as someone who not only wants to see me be happy but also wants to see me grow and change for the better.
And guys, sometimes that does mean running into conflict with each other. Sometimes it’s being honest with each other when we’re not in agreement. Sometimes it means that you don’t just pacify the other by telling them what they want to hear, but help them by telling them exactly what they need to hear. A true friend wants to see you grow. But a toxic friend will criticize you and talk down to you for not growing/changing at the rate that they see fit.
People with Different Personalities
Sometimes we mistake another person’s general mannerisms and their style of communication to be hostile because they differ so much from our own. If we prioritize educating ourselves on the different types of temperaments, we can avoid such misunderstandings from taking place.
You could assume that this person who constantly shows up late or flakes out last minute is an inconsiderate jerk, or you could see that you’re just dealing with a Sanguine who’s concept of time management tends to be distorted. You could assume that this other friend is abrasive and unsympathetic, or see that you’re dealing with a Choleric who needs to work on their empathy skills.
But don’t get it twisted, a person’s personality is definitely not an excuse to be rude or disrespectful. However, communicating with that person and making them aware would be crucial to strengthening friendship. After all, good friends don’t let each other stay where they are. But a toxic friend will be fully aware of their character flaws and do nothing to improve them.
“That’s Just the Way I Am” Doesn’t Cut It
Your temperament is not an excuse to blatantly ignore your personality flaws
This is a seemingly short description of people who aren’t toxic, but these are simply an umbrella for other positive traits in a friend that don’t equate to always being complacent and agreeable.
Take a Look in the Mirror
Honestly, it’s a lot easier to cut someone off than it is to have real and crucial conversations with our friends and peers that challenge us. It’s more comfortable to just skip to the step where we keep our distance from each other and move on with life. And if all else has failed, then yes, cutting that person off is the best option. However, simply cutting someone out of your life shouldn’t be your first and only solution. It would come after you both have already made serious attempts to repair the relationship.
This isn’t to discount the true accounts of people who have had to face the result of toxic relationships, but it isn’t fair for us to constantly point out the toxic traits of theirs without acknowledging our own ability to be toxic as well. As difficult as it can be, we need to take a moment to look in the mirror. and check our own behavior in our relationships. I seriously question the person who seems to always be falling victim to someone who is toxic for them, and I mean always. The majority of your friend circle, your coworkers, your significant other, your family members, they’re all just ganging up on you? And you have played no part in anything? I find it suspicious.
Toxic traits are nothing to take lightly. We should be sure that what we’re describing in others is actual toxicity and not just us avoiding conflict whenever it arises.