Somebody That I Used to Know: How to Remove Toxic People from Your Life

“Now you’re just somebody that I used to know…” ~Gotye

We’ve all met toxic people. You know the type – they’re always bitter, negative, and condescending. They cannot see the good in anything or anyone but themselves. They are energy vampires or Dementors sucking the joy out of your very soul. After spending time with them you may feel physically ill. You’re exhausted, you have a headache, or your neck is stiff. To put it bluntly, toxic people are bad for your health and at some point, you’re going to have to choose health and happiness over that relationship. It’s never easy to end a relationship and it is more difficult to end one with a toxic person. It becomes doubly hard when that person is a long-time friend or worse, a close family member.

In order to deal with a toxic person, you have to know what toxicity looks like and sounds like. A friend who complains a little too often every now and again isn’t toxic. However, the one who makes it a point to tell you why and how all of your endeavors will fail definitely fits the bill. Here are a few ways to recognize a person with a toxic personality.

  1. They never take responsibility for their actions. Nothing is ever their fault. They are unable or unwilling to admit that their words and actions land them in the situations they find themselves in. Your best friend cusses out her boss and gets fired. It’s your fault because you didn’t excuse yourself from your work meeting to answer her call and calm her down before she lost it.
  2. They always have to be in control. This includes being in control of you. They may do so through manipulation or outright demands. Toxic people will tell you how to live your life when theirs is a fucking mess! They will attempt to use their money, withholding affection or in extreme cases, threats to control you.
  3. They are masters of playing the victim. I swear they should have shelves lined with Oscars and Emmys. Don’t you dare call them on their bullshit. They will view that as a personal attack because everyone is against them. Everyone conspires to keep them down. Nothing good ever happens to them.
  4. They are always right. The toxic person is perfection personified – at least in their eyes. They don’t make mistakes, they are never, God forbid – wrong! If faced with indisputable facts they will argue you down continuing to insist that they are right.
  5. They have no respect for boundaries. Not yours or anyone else’s. You can repeatedly tell them that their behavior is hurtful, their speech disrespectful and they will continue to treat you as if you never said a word.

They have to go, but how do you get them out of your life?

  1. Accept that there is nothing that you can do to change them. No matter how much we love or care about a person there is nothing we can do to make them change. Change begins within when we consciously choose to acknowledge that we have a problem that we need to fix. That isn’t likely to happen with a toxic person because they never take responsibility for their actions.
  2. Keep it simple. You do not owe them a long, drawn out explanation. Simply tell them that their continued mistreatment of you has forced you to remove them from your life. Do not let yourself be sucked into an argument. Do not sit and take further verbal abuse from them. Say your piece, wish them well, and walk away.
  3. Forgive them for their words and actions. The forgiveness is not for them, it is for your benefit. You can’t move forward carrying hurt from the wounds they have inflicted upon you. You can use a forgiveness ritual like the one I use. You can also use affirmations. One of my favorite people in the world, Shy Davis, is the queen of affirmations. You can write something as simple as, “I love, forgive and release *insert name*” Say it at least once every morning and evening but also try to say it periodically to yourself during the course of the day.
  4. Have the talk in a public place. Toxic people are prone to causing a scene. They are less likely to act an ass in public but if they decide to resort to yelling, threats, and/or insults, you have witnesses as well as people (the establishment owner or manager) who will step in and shut down the fuckery. You can also simply get up and leave.
  5. Limit all access they have to you. You’ve learned that your toxic friend or family member doesn’t respect boundaries. Though you clearly communicate to them that there is no longer a place for them in your life due to their continued disrespect, hurtful behavior, and/or downright abuse, they will continue to reach out. Block them on social media, and blacklist their number so they can no longer call or text you. Inform any mutual friends or family members of your decision so that they cannot be used unwittingly to contact you on the toxic person’s behalf.

Cutting someone out of your life is one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make. It is not a decision to be made lightly. If you are ever faced with this situation please remember that you deserve to enjoy healthy relationships and you deserve to be happy.


— Jae

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