Toxic people. We know them. We try to accept them. And in some cases, we even love them.
But how do you deal with toxic people?
And are they good to have in our lives?
The short, but very clear answer, is no.
Removing toxic people from your life can be one of the most challenging things you can do.
It can be even more challenging when those people are family members.
Yet, it can also be one of the most liberating, rewarding experiences you will ever have.
Rather Listen? Enjoy!
What (Or Who) Are “Toxic People”?
Toxic people try to hold you back. They discourage you from pursuing your dreams. They also sabotage your success or wellbeing or both.
Toxic people are people who bring you down. They are unsupportive and can even be manipulative at times.
Toxic people love to keep you guessing about which version of them you’ll get. It’s one of the ways they keep you around.
One minute they will be warm and inviting and the next they’re giving you the cold shoulder.
Ringing any bells yet?
Toxic people can derail your dreams, squash your motivation, and even contribute to health issues (more on this later).
Finally, toxic people come in all flavors and forms. They could be childhood friends, romantic partners, a coworker or boss, or even a family member.
Why Are People Toxic?
I mean, let’s be honest, who knows?
There are so many reasons toxic people have for being that way.
Whether they’re born toxic or become toxic through life’s journey is open to debate.
What we do know is that their motivation can range from jealousy to insecurity to downright selfishness. It can even be a personality disorder.
A recent series of studies found that there is a common denominator in people who have toxic personality traits.
They called this factor the D-factor or “dark core”, aka toxicity.
But here’s the thing… it doesn’t matter what their motivation is or why they have it. The fact is they’re not supporting you in living the life you want to live so in the end, you don’t owe them anything.
How Do You Know If People Are “Toxic”?
How do you know if people are “toxic” or if they’re just… complicated?
Some people may seem toxic when they’re really just trying to protect you. They have good intentions. They may not know how to share them in a positive way.
What are the traits of toxic people?
- They leave you feeling drained
- You dread seeing them
- You don’t feel better after being with them
- They discourage your dreams
- They rub off on you and you find yourself judging or being toxic
The 7 Types of Toxic People
There are 7 types of toxic people that I’ve identified over years of coaching thousands of clients.
1. The Protector
This person straddles the line between being toxic and trying to protect you. But every now and then they take a running leap over that line and land squarely in toxic people territory. They will try to talk you out of your dreams because they’re afraid you might fail. They don’t want you to feel the pain that comes along with that.
2. The Controller
This person needs to control the things you do and sometimes even the things you say. If you’re not careful, they will try to control the things you think. It needs to be their way or the highway and they are always right. The Controller can also be sneaky. They will give you “advice” but there’s not an option to not take it. If you don’t, they will persist until you do.
3. The Liar
This person doesn’t need a lot of explanation. They lie. To you. For you. About you. You cannot trust them. They are toxic.
4. The Victim
The victim is always right. Things are always someone else’s fault. Everything happens “to” them. They refuse to take personal responsibility for the things in their lives.
5. The Narcissist
Narcissists take credit and give blame. Like the victim, they also never admit fault or take responsibility. They also do not apologize. Why would they? They’ve done nothing wrong. In fact, in their eyes, they will never do anything wrong. But you will.
6. The Judge
This person is always finding fault in others. No one can ever live up to their standards. In fact, they are probably judging you too.
7. The Critic
The critic doesn’t mince words. They make it very known that they don’t agree with something you’re doing. They may even make it clear that they don’t like the way you’re being. You are always doing something wrong in the Critic’s eyes.
People can be one or all of these types.
Why Is It Important to Cut Toxic People out of Your Life?
Simply put, you deserve better. You really, really do.
If that’s not enough to convince you, let me share some other reasons it’s important to cut toxic people out of your life.
1. They do not add to your life and in most cases, they take away.
It’s true. You will not thrive with toxic people in your life. You will only suffer. So, unless you’re all about that suffering life, you may want to let them go.
2. They are bad for your physical health.
There are many studies that show having toxic people in your life hurts your health. It can put you at a higher risk of heart problems, result in high blood sugar levels, and lead to high blood pressure.
It also raises your risk of obesity and can interfere with your ability to lose weight. Research has also found that toxic people can slow your healing process. Crazy, but true!
3. They’re bad for your mental health.
Being around toxic people can even impact your mental health. You may you feel insecure or like you’re not enough when you’re with them. They may increase your anxiety or even exacerbate your depression. You may feel pressure to change even though there’s nothing wrong with you.
Why Is It So Difficult to Cut Toxic People out of Your Life? (And How I Cut My Mother out of Mine)
Even with these facts, it can still be difficult to cut toxic people out of your life.
I get it, I do.
My relationship with my mother was toxic. I tolerated it for over 30 years.
I tried fixing her, fixing me, fixing us, but in the end, I realized you can’t work harder on someone than they’re willing to work on themselves.
So, I made the difficult decision to end this toxic relationship for good.
And… it’s not so simple.
If I want to see my dad, I have to be around my mother. We don’t speak and that’s awkward but it’s also necessary.
I find a way because I know the price of letting her back into my life and it’s a little higher than I’m willing to pay.
Let’s be honest here… it’s difficult to cut toxic people out of your life because they’re family. Or they’re like family. You’ve known them for so long. They’re your boss. Your co-workers. They’re aging parents. They’re your mother.
They are people with whom your life is so intertwined that you don’t ever see a way to separate yourself from them. It’s hard to “walk away”.
It’s hard. It’s not impossible.
Is There a Place for Toxic People in Your Life? Do You Have to Cut Them Out Completely?
You might decide that instead of cutting people out of your life that you want to try and repair the relationship first.
You can do that.
Even if you see a higher D-factor in someone, it’s not the end of the world. Experts now believe that personality is fluid, meaning it can change.
How do you do this?
You start by having a very open and honest conversation with the toxic person (or people) in your life.
Share with them what you need and what you will no longer tolerate. Don’t beat around the bush. Make it honest. Make it clear. Make it so they can’t misunderstand.
Set limits, share your boundaries, put a stop to conversations that you do not want to take part in.
And, of course, don’t be afraid to cut the ties or invoke an extended separation period if you can’t reach a middle ground.
Can You Cut Toxic People out of Your Life for a While?
If having a candid conversation with the toxic person (or people) doesn’t work and they’re soon back to their old tricks, you have two choices:
- Cut them out of your life for now
- Cut them out of your life for good
If you decide to cut them out of your life for now, have the same candid conversation as I mentioned before. Be as honest as you can be.
Be clear about how much space and time you need.
You can say something like,
“I’m going to take some space for myself and focus on my own needs for the next 3 months. I will reach out after that. But for now, I ask that you don’t contact me. If we’re in the same space, please do not start a conversation with me. I will be respectful of you and I ask the same in return.”
Don’t overcomplicate it. Keep emotions out of it as much as possible. Don’t engage in drama. Stick to the facts.
If you feel the situation isn’t getting any better after your conversation, start to distance yourself from the person. Respond slower to messages and start to reduce the time you spend engaging with them.
Eventually, you can cut them out of your life for good.
How Do You Cut Toxic People out of Your Life for Good? Even If They’re Family?
If cutting toxic people out of your life for now isn’t enough, you can decide to cut them out of your life for good.
But, how do you do that without bringing along the twins – drama and trauma?
There’s a straightforward 5 step process I created to help you do that.
Once again, removing toxic people from your life can be hard. But it’s not impossible. This is your one precious life and you get to live it any way you want.
And let’s be clear…
The first thing to know is that you have to stop thinking you can change them. You can’t. It will not happen. People only change when they want to change themselves.
The second thing to know is that you have to make a decision to do it. A real decision.
The Latin root of the word “decision” means, “to cut off.”
When you make a decision, you are “cutting off” any other option. You are closing the door to other choices.
You don’t go back and forth. You make a decision and you stick to it.
While this may sound daunting and extreme, it’s not. It’s freeing.
We’ve all had to make difficult choices at some point in our lives – some painful and some heartbreaking – and we’ve done it. And usually, we did it for a reason. And we come out better in the end.
So, don’t think that because people are your family or you have a relationship with them that you can’t cut them off. You can. It’s always a choice. You simply have to decide.
Once you make the decision, you have a conversation with the person.
If there are many people you want to cut out of your life, have separate conversations. Do not talk to everyone at once. It’s too complicated, too messy, and not productive.
Start by sharing what you need in the relationship and let them know how that hasn’t been provided. Talk about the action (or lack thereof) not the person.
Let the person know that you do not wish to have them in your life anymore.
Don’t feel like you owe them a long and drawn out explanation. You’ve made your decision and you’re asking them to respect that.
You do not have to be emotional and engage. Be calm and firm.
Don’t argue with them. If they try to sway you, you can say, “I hear you and I’ve made my decision.” Say it as many times as you need.
My mother made the case that I couldn’t cut her out of my life because she “was my mother”.
I heard her. To her she was my mother. To me, I was my own mother.
In a loving and respectful way, I let her know I didn’t need her to play that role anymore. She was now free to focus on herself. To mother herself. To do what she needed to do to heal.
When you feel that you’ve made yourself clear, leave the situation in a calm manner.
Do not allow it to drag on and on. This doesn’t serve anyone.
The next step is to create distance between yourself and the other person.
Distance yourself thoroughly. If you don’t, you’re sending a mixed message to the person. This isn’t fair to either of you.
Put a stop to phone calls and text messages. Unfriend or unfollow them on social media.
You’ve set boundaries now stick to them.
How Do You Handle Toxic People You Can’t Cut out of Your Life Due to Extenuating Circumstances?
For toxic people you must engage with – for example in the case of shared custody of a child – you can still limit how, when, and where you interact with them.
Instead of speaking with them in person, on the phone, or through text messages, set up something called an “online communication notebook”. Google Docs is a great software for this. This allows you to share information in written form as needed.
It also provides space and time to think about your messages which will help remove emotion.
Speaking of emotions, leave them out. Stick to the facts and share information only.
This written form of communication will help prevent situations from escalating like they tend to do when you’re in person or on the phone.
Avoid text messages, phone conversations, and physical interaction unless absolutely necessary.
You can find ways to adapt this approach no matter what relationship you have with someone. Get creative and stand your ground.
How to Take Time and Space to Process the Letting Go of a Relationship
The loss of a relationship, toxic or not, is still a loss. Treat it like one.
Call on your support system during this time. Connect with close friends or family members that support your decision.
The nice thing about this is it helps you see the kind of people you want to surround yourself with. It helps remind you of why you cut out the toxic person (or people) in the first place.
So, Should I Cut Toxic People out of My Life (Even If They’re Family)?
At the end of the day, only you can decide if you should cut toxic people out of your life.
It gets back to what’s important to you. If drama, stress, or judgment isn’t something you want in your life then you have the right to choose to cut it out.
A strong support network is crucial to your personal success.
If the people in your life do not lift you higher or support your dreams, find new people.
You can cut people out of your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
The choice is yours.