Just what is a “toxic friendship?” Surely you wouldn’t be friends with someone who made you drink poison. True? However, that IS what’s happening, energetically. When you are involved in a dynamic with another person and you feel drained, disrespected, taken for granted, or even physically ill after interacting with that person, then you are involved in a toxic friendship.
Of course the dynamic also appears in other types of relationships including lovers and colleagues. Focused on friendships here, because toxic friendships too often serve to thwart progress for entrepreneurs – especially those in service businesses – since the dynamic detracts from the peace of mind necessary for effectiveness & success.
Sure, most long term friendships have their ups and downs. That’s normal; no surprise there. You and your friend alternate, over the years, supporting each other through hardships. One experiences challenge and needs more support than usual during that time. Then the other is the one who needs support. That continuous juxtaposition of support dynamics isn’t toxic. What’s toxic is when one person stops being receptive to solutions, and instead chooses to repeat the same unhealthy behaviors instead, becoming nasty, entitled, and often manipulative rather than appreciative in the dynamic.
The above description is only one of many possible scenarios, but does it feel familiar to you? Once you’ve identified your friendship as toxic, then what? Here are three effective suggestions:
1. Stop dealing with it! If you’ve been involved in a friendship wherein you feel tired out at best and emotionally abused at worse after interacting with your “friend,” then stop. Examine why you are involved with that person. How long has the dynamic lasted without improving? Is the friendship negatively affecting the other relationships in your life? Your work? Your own well-being? Why are you allowing it? Habit? Stop. You have the power to change your habits. You cannot change anyone else but yourself. So stop dealing with it. Make different choices and create some emotional distance for yourself. Further:
2. Create different boundaries. Learn to say, “no,” without involved explanations when your friend solicits your attention. “Sorry, I am unavailable for that activity,” or, “My schedule is already full,”or simply, “No, thank you” are all polite, clear, healthful boundaries that protect your space and support your emotional well-being. Your friend may be used to arguing with you about your reasoning. You don’t need a reason for taking care of yourself! Claim your space and stick with it. If you prefer a face to face discussion or even a phone call to create clear closure, then make sure to maintain a consistent, not mixed message. If setting clear boundaries is new to you, then practice what you want to say in advance, so that you are comfortable with your delivery.
3. Of course you want the best for your friend. You can offer support from a distance, while maintaining healthful boundaries for yourself, using compassionate detachment. Send your friend calming energy. Relax. Envision your friend whole, healthy, calm, and happy. Or pray for your friend if that is your practice. Energy workers often use a specific color representation of energy – pure white light, the violet flame, calming light blue energy. As long as your intention comes from your heart and you keep your own boundaries clear, you are doing no harm to anyone, including yourself.
We are each responsible for changing our own behavior. It may work to your friend’s advantage for you to step back, in order to enhance your friend’s personal growth. Then your friend will have the opportunity to mature, without being able to take your attention for granted or lash out at you. Sure, as we mature we do our best to be patient, tolerant, and allow others their space to grow – especially those of us in service businesses. But at what cost? Seriously, revisit your investment and return. Is your well-being worth the sacrifice? Likely not.
Wishing you all the best as you develop the life you desire! Sometimes, we just have to let people go, in order to fulfill our purpose in life. Honor yourself by allowing that release and you will create room for more suitable, enjoyable friendships and relationships of all kinds!