This skill is not only the most important skill in dealing with toxic people, but in dealing with life in general. It’s something that’s missing in our society particularly from the millennial generation.
The best way to deal with toxic people is to focusing on creating an amazing life for yourself. It’ vague, but that’s because an amazing life means different things to different people.
Episode 13 – The Most Important Skill For Dealing with Toxic People
As the title states, in this episode I focus on what I consider to be not only the most important skill in dealing with toxic people, but in dealing with life in general. It’s something that’s missing in our society particularly from the millennial generation.
Here is part a review someone left me referring to toxic people that states, “I think it's an issue I didn't give a space to in my life. I'm focusing all my life in so many good people that serounds me.”
That’s exactly my point! The best way to deal with toxic people is to focusing on creating an amazing life for yourself. It’ vague, but that’s because an amazing life means different things to different people.
One of the ground rules for creating your amazing life is developing this skill. And that is detachment.
Detachment is not apathy, which is an absence of feeling or purpose and can be associated with depression. No, detachment is actually healthy.
It’s not sticking your head in sand.
It’s being aware of toxicity, drama, chaos, etc. but not being emotionally caught up in it.
At the time of recording this podcast, there are 3 more days left in the semester. This is the time, I get bombarded with emails from students about their grades despite me telling them that in the final week, there’s not much you can do to change your grade at this point.
I had one student in my office freaking out about her grade. I listened more than I spoke. Finally, she said, “Don’t you care?”
I said, Sure I do, or we would be having this conversation. I’m just detached.”
She gave me a puzzled look and asked what was the difference. I said, “I care enough to listen to what you have to say, but I am not getting caught up in the drama of it.”
I know that’s not what she wanted to hear, but I was trying to get across that she has to take responsibility for her actions.
By being detached, I was releasing myself from the burden of taking responsibility for someone else’s actions and happiness.
We continued our discussion and I gave her some guidance on how to proceed from there.
It’s one thing to say that you will learn to be detached from your emotions about a toxic person, and another thing entirely to achieve true detachment. It is not easy to get over a toxic encounter. You may be left feeling unsatisfied, angry, and manipulated. Your natural instinct may be to get back at the person who hurt you. Ask me how I know! You might feel a need to prove a point or get revenge, or even just to get in the last word. You might persist in the belief that you can work things out if you just give it one more try.
All of those feelings are understandable, but none of them are particularly productive. If you want to truly recover from a toxic relationship, then you have to accept that no amount of revenge or talking is going to make things better. Those things won’t help because it takes two people to make a healthy relationship. If one person in the relationship is prone to toxic behavior, the relationship may never be healthy. It can be hard to accept that, but it’s true.
Emotional detachment is a skill. It is something you can learn. If you find yourself replaying encounters with toxic people in your head, or if your emotions tend to get in the way of accomplishing the things that are important to you, then learning emotional detachment might be very helpful to you. Here are some of the things that emotional detachment can help you do:
Avoid dwelling on upsetting or troubling events from the past
Help you maintain an air of calm even in the midst of a stressful situation
Keep calm and avoid being agitated in the face of provocation from toxic people
Achieve a state of inner calm that allows you to stay on an even keel
Free yourself from unhealthy emotional attachment
It is important to note here that nobody is calm all of the time. No matter how detached you are, there will be times when your emotions get the better of you. However, by practicing emotional detachment, you can learn to control your emotions the majority of the time.
The student then asked me how did I learn detachment. I said that it was a process.
1. Going bankrupt
2. My dog
With that in mind, here are some specific tools you can use to help learn emotional detachment:
1. Accept full responsibility for your own happiness. A lot of times, people can lash out because they think that they need someone else to make them happy. For whatever reason, they believe that having a spouse, or making a certain amount of money, is the key to happiness. It might sound like a cliché, but the truth is that happiness – real happiness – can only come from within. If you find yourself saying things like “If only this person would do such-and-such, I would be happy” that’s a good sign that you are putting responsibility for your happiness with someone else instead of with yourself. When you focus your attention and energy on becoming the person you want to be, and on filling your life with things that gratify you and make you feel good, you will be able to stop depending on others for happiness.
2. Identify and remove the hooks that attach you to the toxic person. Toxic people are very good at placing “hooks” into their victims. For example, I was once a member at an organization. They put me on the list to teach some lessons without asking me first. I refused and told them that no matter how good the cause may be don’t volunteer me for something. Ask for my permission. If I had said yes as long as it’s for a good cause? They would have done it again with the excuse that it’s for a good cause. That’s a hook. These behaviors tend to repeat themselves over and over again. It can help you to examine your interactions with people and identify hooks. Once you know what the hooks are, you can remind yourself of what they are when the toxic person tries to use them. Just because someone puts a hook in the water, you are under no obligation to take the bait. Learning that can be a big step toward emotional detachment.
3. Acknowledge that it is never your job to make someone treat you well. People will treat you to the extent you allow them. Sometimes, an interaction with a certain people can lead to a feeling of walking on eggshells. That’s when you tell yourself that the other person’s behavior is your fault. You convince yourself that if you can manage not to say or do the wrong thing, things will be better. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it is faulty logic. If a person is resorting to blame or chastising you for certain behavior, or blaming their behavior on you, then the best thing to do is to acknowledge that and move on. It won’t matter how careful you are. You’re always going to be walking on eggshells with them.
4. Sometimes we convince ourselves that things will get better. We have an expectation that, at some point, the person in question will begin behaving in a respectful and acceptable way. We do that because we measure our expectations of other people by the way we behave ourselves, as well as by socially-accepted norms. However, someone who is a toxic person has no interest in such things, and no amount of hoping on your part will change that. In such cases, the best thing to do is to find ways to increase emotional detachment by lowering your expectations. If you say that you don’t want to do that. I don’t blame you, neither do I. If you continually expect that things will get better, then your expectations are working against your well-being. The sooner you accept that things might not get better, the easier it will be to achieve detachment. This is something I learned in graduate school. When I lowered my expectations of my toxic co-worker, it’s amazing how peaceful I felt around this person.
5. Finally, remember to look at the big picture. A lot of times, a toxic relationship can loom large in our lives. We give it more weight than it deserves, and as a result we can lose sight of the other things that matter to us. The more you do to focus on the good things in your life, the easier it will be to emotionally detach from the toxicity. Seek out people who make you feel good, pursue hobbies that you love, and do as much as you can to relegate the toxic person to a supporting role in your life.
All of the above techniques can help you to detach from a toxic person or relationship. The more you detach, the more confident and calm you will feel on the inside, and the more self-assured you will seem from the outside.