You have probably heard the phrase “toxic people” in different internet articles attempting to persuade you how your life will be better if you just do this or that. This idiom is not inaccurate per se, but it does create a false perception that we need to cut ties with people to be happy or successful in life.

The problem is, everyone knows someone who creates unnecessary problems. Whether they are personal or business relationships is irrelevant; we all have different needs and goals. Where these people fit into your life does not matter because wherever they are, you will be affected by them.

The Choice is Yours

The people who challenge you force you to make a decision: you can either see them as toxic behaviors which need removal like a tumor, or can perceive it as a learning experience. It is easy to get into the habit of merely cutting people out of your life because with social media there are a million more people to take their place.

What if you take a step back and think about this? Isn’t it possible that if you eliminate these so-called toxic people that they will simply be replaced by other, and even more abusive, people who make you feel worse? It is not only a possibility; it is almost a certainty. “Wait a minute,” you might think, “how could anyone be worse than Mr. or Ms. Blank?”

It may be difficult to comprehend, but perhaps Mr. X is not as bad as you believe he is. Or maybe Mrs. X is simply having a bad day. However, when you notice a pattern of behavior, it becomes time to evaluate your next move. Until then, perhaps you shouldn’t take everything as a personal affront. With chronic abusers, you will have to decide whether the person is important enough in your life to continue investing time and energy in.

You Can’t Change Others, but You Can Change Yourself

The most difficult part of dealing with a person like this is, often the person does not or will not see the behavior in him or herself. Completely oblivious to the pain they cause others, toxic people will continue behaving as such because they simply do not realize that they are part of the problem.

For example, an office administrator in the Detroit area often experienced difficulties she was having with people who came in as new employees. As it turns out, the administrator was the instigator, not vice versa. Unfortunately for her, she did not realize she was creating the obstacles with her assistants by using manipulation, control, and scare tactics.

Most people are unlikely to be prepared for such an onslaught, so as an employee is imperative to learn how to manage that sort of bullying behavior. It would be impossible to convince the manager that she was the one moving the goal posts or to point out to her that she needed a better system. As the saying goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” What you can do, however, is learn how to identify people who display these types of behaviors to either (a) avoid them altogether, or (b) manage conflict with them more effectively.

Cutting People Out Should Be Your Last Resort

There is something to be said for knowing when to call it quits. Sometimes, there is really nothing you can do and you simply have to cut ties. Yet, if you consider all of the work you put into cultivating your relationships, it may just be better to reduce contact instead of giving up on a person altogether.

Burning your bridges in the moment may seem vindicating, but how does it align with your ultimate goals in life? Is there another way in which you can remove the negative behavior from your day-to-day life without completely disowning the relationship?

If it truly suits you to move on forever, then by all means, do so; but if you know that there may come a time that you could reconnect with that person that will be mutually beneficial, it’s time to rethink how to detach instead of simply breaking off the connection.

We are all learning every day; how to work with others, how to be more effective communicators, but ultimately we are trying to learn how to achieve peace within. “Toxic people” are likely suffering. It is up to us to teach them through our compassion so that they too may experience peace and happiness.

If you can’t, that is okay too, but simply removing people from your life without forethought will not teach you how to be a better person – and that should be everyone’s ultimate goal.

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