Toss out Toxic Relationships
Susan Newman, Ph.D.
If there's someone in your life who saps your energy -- makes you feel used, abused, and put upon -- it's high time to break free. And if you're spring-cleaning your closets of clothes that no longer fit, it's the ideal time to toss out (or at least pare down) toxic relationships that no longer work for you.
I know you probably want to scream, "Get out of my life!" But that usually just brings on more stress, especially if you're giving the boot to a family member. Instead, I recommend these three subtle -- yet super-effective -- strategies. You'll be amazed at how liberated they'll make you feel.
1. Pull back
Suppose your sister-in-law is the source of your strife. Instead of letting her vent to you 24-7, make it clear when she calls that you only have a few minutes, or just don't answer the phone. Instead, send her a text or email saying that you got her message, but you're too busy to talk this week. The more time you put between speaking to each other, the more likely your problem person will find another ear to bend.
I never accept an invitation on the spot that I'm not wildly excited about. Instead, say something like "I have to check my calendar" or "I don't know my schedule yet." Be matter-of-fact, but don't give a reason why you might not be able to go. There's a chance the person inviting you will not even follow up. But if she does, you can say, "Sorry, I looked at my schedule and I couldn't make it." You can do the same with invitations through social media, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. You're under no obligation confirm everyone who sends you a "friend" request. I've hit the "Ignore" button on more than one occasion.
3. Call her on it
If you're in a situation where it's hard to avoid the person making you miserable -- say she's a co-worker -- the next time she complains, tell her what you're thinking. It's not mean to say: "I've heard this compliant so many times before. Why don't you do something about it?" Your challenge might actually prompt her to take action. But if she still has that woe-is-me attitude, chances are she'll find somebody else in the office to listen to her rants.
Susan Newman, Ph.D. is a social psychologist and the author of 14 books, including The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It -- And Mean It and Stop People-pleasing ForeverSuccess Books)
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