Friends who bring a negative energy can have a toxic effect in every area of your life. Your own mood and stress levels can easily be influenced by those around you. Although your own well-being should be your number one priority, it can be difficult to back away from these toxic friendships. There are ways that you can subtly create distance from them without hurting feelings.
Create a Shield
If you can't completely push them away from your life, it's important to develop some protection against your friends' negative energy. Being around toxic people can create a stress response in your body. Find strategies to stay physically calm when you are interacting with them. In her article "How to Stop Absorbing Other People's Negative Emotions," author and psychiatrist Judith Orloff, M.D. recommends concentrating on your breath or visualizing an envelope of white light surrounding your body and shielding you from the negative energy.
Limit Your Time With Them
It's hard to break off ties with your friends overnight. If you've noticed that certain friends are having a toxic effect in your life, start by limiting your time around them. Instead of spending time with them every day, make plans to meet once a week and then start tapering it off to once a month. If possible, make your meetings a group affair where other people can be a buffer to their negativity. Don't answer all their calls and text messages, especially if they want to complain or vent about something. Slowly, they will get the hint that you need to take a break from your friendship.
Create Physical Distance
Research has shown that negative emotions are more contagious when you are physically close to someone. A study published in "Psychonomic Science" found that being closer together intensified negative feelings and hostility. Start by creating a physical distance from your negative friends. When you are around them, make it a point to sit at the other end of the table or take a few steps back if they are angry or complaining. Communicate with them by phone, text message or online messaging as much as possible instead of in person. Virtual communication is less intimate and you will find that you respond less to their negativity this way.
End the Relationship
If you've tried everything and you still feel like your friends are having a negative effect on your life, it's time to break up with them, even though it's hard not to feel guilty. Remember that your own well-being should be your number one priority. In his article, "How to End a Friendship," internist and author Alex Lickerman, M.D. recommends ending a friendship by using passive rejection in which you sluggishly return calls and always make up excuses. This way, you avoid confrontation and minimize hurt feelings.
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