Toxic People, Ownership, and Boundaries
What do you do about toxic people? We all have our ‘interesting” relationships with family, friends, lovers, and co-workers. Some of these relationships are wonderful and stimulating, and others are not. As part of the 100 days of Trance project, I thought I’d give you some insight that I have learned as a result of this day of trance.
If you are going to be successful, in any relationship, you need to know that whatever happens, you have Ownership in the success or failure of that relationship. We teach people how to treat us. Good or bad isn’t as important as the knowledge that we taught them. So if you are currently in a relationship where people treat you badly… guess what? You can change/modify that relationship or better yet; you can leave the relationship.
The problem I think is that we have been taught by our society, our media and the lawyers that whatever happens is someone else’s fault. It isn’t. If you remain in the same situation and don’t speak up, leave or modify the surroundings… it’s totally on you.
You hear a lot about boundaries these days. So what is a boundary? Simply put a boundary is what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in your life. Obviously, these boundaries are pretty fluid depending on whom you are settings these boundaries with, but for the purpose of this article, I will keep it very general.
In a work environment, the company is usually the one who sets the boundaries. What is permitted, what is not in the context of your 9 to 5 life with the company you work for. No hitting, swearing, touching etc., all the standard stuff. But what about friendship? Or intimacy? In a company environment, those boundaries are usually VERY CLEAR.
Where it gets fuzzy is in our personal lives. When do parents begin to treat their young adult or adult children like adults? When do intimate partners begin or stop telling their partner the truth? When do children get to have a voice or opinion inside their home?
The answer is also fuzzy. personally, I grew up in a household where there were no boundaries for the adults and the children were treated little better than silent, free labor. it wasn’t very fun. But it did teach me that in order to have a happy life I needed to learn how to set boundaries for my self and others who were going to be in my world. It didn’t always work out… but I think I’ve got it now.
How to Set a Boundaries
Here are some simple steps for boundary setting:
(ref: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-13176/6-steps-to-set-good-boundaries.html by Kelly O’Brien)
6 Steps to Setting Better Boundaries:
1. Know this sad truth: NO boundaries = little self-esteem.
This used to describe me. I shudder to think of that time and it wasn’t so long ago. The first step to change is admitting this. (After all, what’s the point of saying we want to grow if we’re not going, to be honest with ourselves about where we are now?) I say this because many of you reading this probably do not know what your boundaries are. They should roll off your tongue like the alphabet. Your boundaries are your values. Boundaries are representative of how much or little you respect yourself. Boundaries are your friend.
2. Decide what your core values are.
Who are you? What do you value? Figure out what, exactly, you’re comfortable with and what you aren’t. For example, I don’t like to talk on the phone during work hours, so when I’m at work I don’t accept personal calls until after 5 pm. In my relationship, I value and expect monogamy, quality time each week (so at least one date night a week) and 100% honesty at all times. Once you get clear on what matters most to you, then you can take bigger step of communicating this to others.
This is key: Instead of creating your boundaries around a difficult relationship in your life, you must make your boundaries about you. For example, my boundaries with my limited phone time are about honoring the fact that I tend to get overstimulated due to a busy writing schedule. This boundary is to decrease my stress level and not about avoiding others’ phone calls or distancing myself from loved ones.
3. You can’t change others.
Gosh, we all want others to change, right? I mean, that’s part of the human experience. We get into arguments with our spouses hoping, wishing, demanding even…that they STOP being difficult. We get mad when our moms call us five times in a day. You want your co-worker — that one who is so negative — to treat you with more respect, etc. The list is long.
We cannot change others. We are not responsible for what comes out of their mouth, the daily choices they make or their reactions, etc. The bottom line? Since you can’t change other people, change how you deal with them. As Dr. Cloud says in Boundaries, “They may be motivated to change if their old ways no longer work.”
4. Decide the consequences ahead of time.
So what do we do if anyone pushes our boundaries (because they will)? Decide what the consequences are. For example, if my boyfriend cheats on me after knowing monogamy is a boundary of mine, I leave the relationship. If a friend of mine calls me repeatedly during a time-frame I had shared I would not to be able to talk, I simply do not answer the phone. The best way to figure out your own boundaries and consequences when people cross them is sitting quietly down with yourself and making this all about you. (Remember: boundaries are about honoring your needs, not about judging other people’s choices.)
Write it down.
5. Let your behavior, not your words, speak for you.
A new boundary of mine is that during the work hours, I don’t take personal calls. I am a person who thrives with structure. People have and will continue to test this boundary. What I don’t do is present them with an ultimatum. (“If you call me again during the work day, I absolutely will not be speaking to you.”)
You present your boundaries clearly to people and then let your behavior do the talking. So, if anyone calls me continuously during the day, and they know my boundary, I simply do not pick up the phone until after 5 pm. People WILL test, push and disrespect your limits. You’ll know you’re getting healthier when this doesn’t get an emotional reaction out of you. When your boundaries are your core beliefs, you will not get riled up if you are tested.
6. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
The biggest part of boundaries is HOW clearly you communicate them. You can have the most healthy set of boundaries on the planet but if you do not communicate them clearly, you are going to create some really confusing relationships, both for you and everyone else involved.
One way to quickly get someone to question your character or authenticity? Say one thing and do another. Sometimes we’re afraid to confront others with truth in love or relationships. We’re afraid to tell people what we really want, to admit that we hate going to certain restaurants, or have trouble spending time with a friend’s toxic cousin, or hate when a boss dumps deadlines on us at 6 pm on a Friday. We conceal our true feelings because we’re scared of people’s reactions. The more you ground yourself with your boundaries and values, the more you’ll be able to be very clear in your communication!
Toxic people suck. Having said that, as a therapist, I kind of know what’s going on inside of them. Somebody hurt them. This is really sad but I also know that if they took Ownership in their stuff they might realize they need to work on that, themselves, and stop blaming the world for a situation that they are no longer in or need to get out of, immediately, so they can stop being jerks.
If you find that you are attracting toxic people you may need to ask yourself, what it is that you are doing to attract them? Are you trying to work out some issue of your own? Do you set poor or no boundaries and the toxic folks don’t know that they are hurting you? Are either the toxic person or you refusing to take Ownership of the relationship?
The flipside of this is, are you the Toxic Person? Are you frequently in a bad mood? Do you think the world owes you something? Did you have a crappy childhood, marriage or life? Hey, guess what? You can change that.
Take a few moments and think about this. Whatever the reason that people are in your life, there are always lessons that you can learn, if you are open to learning them.
email me if you have any questions