How to Handle Toxic People

Some people straight up suck.

It's so liberating to realize this upfront, that way you can choose not to deal with this person ever again.

Others aren't so easy to cut out of your life. They can have an extensive influence on your life and make you feel guilty for wanting to be away from them for a while. They have done things for you in the past and you appreciate that, but now they make life so much harder for you.

As much as life is a journey about learning to be by yourself, your quality of life is also heavily influenced by the quality of your friends.

You can't expect to be happy all the time if you spend all of your emotional stamina trying to lift your pessimistic friends out of a rut. You also can't expect to be successful if every time you pitch a new idea to your friends, they shoot it down and you end up just sitting around and playing video games.

Toxic people will drain you of your energy and make you feel guilty for wanting to do what you want to do.

People like this will hold you back.

Part of the reason I enrolled in college was to be around like-minded people: ambitious, mature, and responsible. I thought that by hanging around these type of people, I would be able to ascend to much higher level of consciousness. That's what growth is to me: sharing conversation and experiences with people you admire.

My expectations were shattered when I realized I had overestimated and incorrectly stereotyped college students.

So trust me when I say it's quite the journey to find really good friends in college and in real life. You really have to wade through a bunch of people and experiences to realize who is toxic for you.

Here's an excerpt about how to identify toxic people from Vanessa Van Edwards, lead scientist at the Science of People:

"Whenever I talk about toxic people, the same categories seem to crop up over and over again:
  • Friend by History: This is a person who you have known forever. Maybe you went to elementary school together or you were neighbors growing up. Now you feel guilty ending the relationship.
  • Friend by Proximity: This is a person who comes as a package with someone else in your life. Maybe it's your partner's best friend or your friend's brother who always tags along or your best friend's childhood friend. You feel guilty because you don't want to put your person in an awkward situation.
  • Friend by Context: This is a person who you see all the time in a specific area of your life--someone you work with everyday. Someone on your flag football team. Someone who lives across the hall. You feel guilty brushing them off because you see them all the dang time.

Can you identify any people in your life that match these descriptions?

If so, how do you let them go? Should you?

Let's start with this: you don't need to "cut people out of your life".

But if you really are feeling negatively affected by these people in your life, you can or rather you SHOULD stop seeing these people.

If you let them continue to run rampant on your emotional state and personal growth as an individual, then it's just screwing yourself over so that the other person can continue not feeling "bad". Why would you want to hold onto something that's toxic while you perpetuate his/her state of ignorance?

I don't want that for you. I don't want that for anybody.

I understand you might feel guilty for doing this. I mean, you've been friends with this person for a while now, and now that the relationship is turning sour, it feels like you're "giving up" on them, like you're ditching them. But you have to do what's best for you, and what's best for you is ultimately what's best for them too.

It's just human nature for two different people to grow in two different ways. Maybe you just don't see eye-to-eye anymore. It's useful for both parties to recognize that.

I don't advise openly telling someone you don't want to be their friend. Especially if they're hugely involved in your life right now and it would be awkward to see them everyday after that.

I recommend finding new friends with a common mindset, start hanging out with them a lot more, and slowly just stop hanging out with the toxic friends altogether.

You'll be so much happier that you did.