No time? Listen to it instead
Look around for advice on how to handle any relationship in your life, and the first word you’ll hear today is “toxic”. The first course of action? Cut them off. I don’t buy that. I feel labelling any problem you have with other people as toxic is lazy. That is true, especially when we’re part of a species that gains incredible benefits from being around others in our species.
Yet, some people cause a tremendous amount of turmoil in our lives, which cannot be ignored either. If that sounds hyperbole or too extreme, then the annoying acquaintance or someone you knew from school at least deserves a cold shoulder sometimes, right? That we agree on.
I believe there’s an easier way to go about it: don’t cut off but limit exposure. Gary Vee also talked about something similar on his Instagram recently.
That’s it. That’s the idea. Genuinely, if you want, you can either scroll down to The Nudge or stop reading here. This is something I follow a lot, and with the tools available to us today, it was never easier to do this. We live in an age where you don’t just block people but mute and restrict them as well.
How Do I Do This?
Ideally, I mute first. I would turn someone’s phone call notification to Silent or No Ringtone. The same goes for whatever IM I talk to them on. This essentially creates a distance of time. So, if they call or text, I’m more or less bound to miss it when they do. Then, of course, I get back to them later.
Also, social media platforms let you unfollow people for some time or forever, restrict whether they see your content or not, and vice versa. Again, it doesn’t matter what you use; the idea is to limit exposure for some time which lets both you, the situation and the overall vibe of the relationship cool off.
Some Ground Rules
I don’t believe in treating people like shit. I am also convinced that the misguided focus on the self today, thanks to nuance-less, social media content is the problem most people are unhappy in their relationships today. You keep hearing the same naive advice on self-care, which has little to do with improving your life and more to do with acting like an entitled prick.
So, I have a few mental ground rules which may differ for everyone. For me, it is simply this: close friends and family (people in my support network) never get cut off and rarely get limited exposure. That is not how human relationships work. If there’s an issue, I talk about it. Sometimes, I take some space and regroup.
Also, consider apologising, even if you are putting someone through limited exposure. Even if you are limiting exposure to someone, you owe them a soft apology for the delay if it was something important. Keeping other people in mind never goes wrong, even if you’re putting them at an arm’s length.
Your ground rules are in your hands.
When To Cut Off?
Of course, you’ll have to cut someone off at some point. The first thing about this is acceptance. No matter how much a relationship matters to you, if limiting exposure to someone still produces enough stress and anxiety in your life for it to cease its normal function, you can cut them off. It’s allowed. It’s okay. The bottom line? Talk to them about it candidly.
If they understand, that’s great. If they don’t, raise the boundary, avoid the argument and forget about it altogether. The idea is to learn to be a considerate person and someone with firm boundaries. There is no either/or here. You can be both.
Cutting someone off should be the last resort for a lot of reasons. First, you never know when you need the person next. Second, you could be losing a significant relationship due to a misunderstanding. Third, the situation may be exacerbated because of some other things that are going on in your life.
However, if someone’s presence itself makes your life a living hell of chaos, by all means, draw the line.
Cutting someone off in an almost reactionary way is a simple, easy option to deal with it. Life has all kinds of variables: it could be their behaviour, quirks that irk us on a long day. There’s another way: don’t cut off but limit exposure. Countless tools and platforms today let us take a temporary break from some people. Losing people should be the last option we choose. Of course, if needed, we’ll have to pick it anyway at some point, and no one but us can be the judge of it, but we should use throwaway words like “toxic” with caution.
P.S. Here’s a video made from my favourite blog post on the internet, made by my favourite Youtube channel that puts more things in perspective.
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