“When you suspect you are in the presence of an infector, don’t argue, don’t try to help, don’t pass the person on to your friends, or you will become enmeshed. Flee the infector’s presence or suffer the consequences.” Robert Green (Author of The 48 Laws of Power)
I kinda stole the title to this blog post from the book The 48 Laws of Power. Law 10 is “Infection: Avoid The Unhappy and Unlucky.” I’m now about half way through the book, and I’m a little scared by it. I’m being truthful. I honestly am not sure how I feel about The 48 Laws, but I can’t stop reading.
It’s a little bit serendipitous that I started reading this particular book at this particular time, considering how I ended The Absolute Idiot’s Guide To Inspiration: “If there is someone in your life who brings you down or stifles your creativity, break ties with them immediately. It doesn’t matter who they are. They’re toxic and they don’t deserve you.”
If you’re like me or any other normal person (Did I just call myself normal? Yes, I did!), you probably want to help people who very clearly need help. Whether that’s helping them up off the ground when they fall or giving someone in front of you at the grocery store a dollar because they’re short on change, we all like to do good. But that direct do goodery is not what I’m talking about.
The Bad Kind of Good
At one time or another, we’ve all had a friend who brings us down. We try to help, giving our time and soul, but it’s to no avail. We think we’re “doing good,” but we’re not. Not only does this friend not listen, they complain that whatever you’re offering isn’t going to help.
They do anything they can to keep digging themselves in a hole because then they can be “right.” You know: “Well, I knew that wasn’t going to work out.”
It almost turns into a contest. How many shitty things can they be right about?
You already know I don’t believe in luck: Life Lesson #94: There is no such thing as luck. You either make good things happen or bad things happen. If someone consistently tells themself something bad is going to happen, then something bad is going to happen. And then they can be right! And more bad stuff will happen, because they so, so, so want to be right they’ll do everything they can to keep being right!
It’s almost fun for them (almost) to be right in the wrong way. “I’m right about how much my life sucks and nothing ever goes the way I want it to. Yay!”
Unfortunately, You Get Dragged Down As Well
Yeah, you know what happens.
They bring you along for the ride.
You start feeling like garbage. You begin to feel the same way your friend feels. And when you start feeling worse, your friend goes even further into the pits of despair. It’s a sick sick cycle.
How To Break Ties With Toxic Friends
First, know this: it’s OK to not want to be friends with someone you’re currently friends with.
Second, know this: there is no easy way to break the ties.
It’s going to be difficult. Extraordinarily difficult.
If you’ve already broken the ties with someone like this, you know exactly how difficult.
There are two approaches you can take to getting rid of friends who are bringing you down. First, the direct approach. Second, the indirect approach. Everything falls into one of these two camps.
Let’s break it down.
The Direct Approach To Getting Rid of Unwanted Friends
The direct approach is tough. You basically state that you just don’t want to be friends anymore. It’s just as awkward as breaking up any other relationship. :)
Depending on how you do it, this approach may be too harsh. And if your friend is mentally unstable it may result in dire consequences.
If you’re going to take the direct approach don’t attack or accuse. Bring the fault upon your shoulders.
The Indirect Approach To Getting Rid of Unwanted Friends
This approach isn’t much easier, especially if it’s a friend you talk to/hang out with very regularly. That said, this is the way more friendships end: naturally. They fade away instead of burning out. Only, in this case, you’re actively fading away.
When your toxic friend wants to hang out, have other plans. Ignoring someone is weak so don’t outright ignore them if they contact you. Just don’t go out of your way to hang out with them, knowing they’ll make you feel like shit in the end.
If you do hang out with said friend (considering you’re fading away instead of burning out, this may happen), don’t take the bait. Meaning, when they complain or gossip or do anything to bring themselves and you down, don’t react. Change the subject or state something positive in response. And if it gets really bad, just leave.
What To Do Once You’ve Rid Yourself Of The Toxicity
Now that you got rid of a friend, you might need a new friend. Especially if the toxic friend was someone you were close with and saw on a regular basis.
I’m not an expert at making friends. I would even go so far as to say I’m not really very good at it. But here is what I’ve learned in the past 8 months of traveling and forcing myself to make new friends:
a) Ditch your iPod when you’re out and about. If you’re closed off to the world, the world will close itself off from you. Nobody is going to randomly talk to you if you have headphones on.
b) Say “Hi” and smile a lot, with no expectations. Simple, but not easy. You can make this into a game: see how many people you can say “Hi” to in one hour, one evening, or one day. ~10% of the time it will actually turn into a conversation. And that’s how any relationship begins.
c) Hang out in places where the people you’d like to hang out with already hang out. How many more times could I have used “hang out” in that sentence? At least one more time, but I spared you! You’re welcome. ;) This one is obvious, you wouldn’t try to sell food to someone who just ate, right? I mean, you could try, but you probably wouldn’t be successful. So don’t hang out in places where people you don’t want to attract hang out. Do things you enjoy doing and you will naturally meet other fun people who enjoy the same stuff as you.
d) Start a blog. I’ll write about this more some day, but connecting with people online is a great way to then connect with people offline. If you’ve written a blog for any length of time, I’m willing to bet you’ve met with at least one of your readers or another blogger in the same niche as you.
Oh look, it’s your turn!
I’m going to take a page from Havi Brooks, and ask for specifically what I want and don’t want in the comments.
– Negativity. That’s obvious, right? :) Truthfully, I don’t even have to state this because you’re awesome and I’ve never had a problem with negative comments. Yay! Thank you for being sweet!
– Positive ways to end a negative friendship. Since it’s a touchy subject, and I’m by no means an authority, let’s brainstorm how to make this necessary part of life happen more peacefully.
– Awesome ways to meet fun new people. Again, I’m not an expert, so I’m down for trying any new social experiment. What has worked for you?