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7 Lessons After Leaving Toxic Relationships

7 Lessons After Leaving Toxic Relationships

We all have known someone or, more likely, several people in our lives who seem to bring us down. Whether it’s criticism, hostility or just their general, negative attitude, toxicity can be contagious and even affect our healthy relationships. Many can find themselves stuck in these situations for years. But for those of us fortunate enough to break away from those ‘energy vampires,’ take comfort in knowing that it wasn’t all for naught. Even the toxic can be teachers. Here are seven reasons why:

1. Setting Boundaries

Breaking away from unhealthy, highly critical, or controlling people can help us set more definitive boundaries in all of our future relationships. We recognize the red flags and questionable behavior a lot sooner when we’ve already experienced it. As Oprah says, “When we know better, we do better.”

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2. Focusing on Self-Care

Being around someone who tries to undermine our confidence and self-esteem can be a draining experience. Deciding that enough is enough is the first step towards self-care. You’ll be amazed at how your attitude improves once you’ve made the conscious choice to walk away from a losing battle.

3. Appreciating the Good Relationships

Toxic teachers can show us what not to do and how not to act. If you want the people who are important to you to know that, observe past negative relationships and learn how people don’t want to be treated.

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4. Practicing Compassion

Toxic people aren’t bad people. In fact, it’s not the people who are toxic, it’s their behavior, and often it comes out because they are feeling hurt themselves. Not everybody feels comfortable discussing their suffering. Many would rather project and lash out than reflect on their own behavior. However, once you’ve broken the cycle and ended the relationship, you can look at the situation more objectively and wish that person well while hoping they can heal from their pain.

5. Trust Your Intuition

Many of us get an immediate gut feeling about other people and situations. Those who have been in a toxic relationship will sometimes rationalize or flat out ignore the red flags that tell us to just cut our losses and get out while we can. But once you’re truly out, it’s a different story. You learn to listen to and trust the voice in your head a lot sooner.

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6. Embrace Change

A lot of people stick it out in a bad relationship. Many stay, either hoping the other person will eventually change or simply fearing being alone. But once you’ve decided that this relationship doesn’t work for you anymore, your life will change for the better. You just need to stick to your guns and you’ll see that the devil you know isn’t always better than the devil you don’t, and change isn’t such a scary thing.

7. Trust Yourself

Even though you’ve taken a big step by ending the relationship, your journey isn’t over. You may have had many people in your life encouraging you to end things with this toxic person, but sometimes that same support isn’t there when you are feeling lost and sad after it’s all over. It can feel lonely at times, but once you’ve gained the insight to leave you’ll have more confidence in your own judgment and will be less inclined to rely on anyone else to tell you when it’s time to take action.

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Again, toxic relationships are unpleasant for everybody involved. But if you can find the small positive takeaways in the overall negative experience, you can walk away a better, smarter person. As the Dalai Lama once said: “In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”

Featured photo credit: Sad teens sitting at the bench at the park via shutterstock.com

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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