5 key ways to avoid and manage toxic situations

Ever had a bad feeling about something but ignored it because of what you thought you needed to do?

I recently found myself in an interview situation where I felt straight away the place wasn’t right for me. But, I really wanted the job and frankly I needed the money. So I ignored my gnawing sense of anxiety and discomfort. I got through the first interview ok, but the second interview was the stuff of nightmares. It was one of the most uncomfortable and unprofessional experiences of my life. Despite getting the job, I came away feeling awful with all the emotional red flag feelings ‘I’m not good enough’, not spiritual, clever, educated or pretty enough, you know the drill…

Years ago, I would have thought this was just a crisis of confidence and would have tried to make it work, trying to make myself fit and please other people. But this time I stepped back, called a few trusted friends, and recognised this as what it was.

It was a reminder about values, personal sovereignty, recognising gut messages and about handling toxic people. All of us can benefit from remembering these and they’re extra essential for anyone who tends to put the needs of others first or is empathetic.  

So how can we handle these situations?

5 key ways to avoid and manage toxic situations

Don’t ignore your emotions!

Emotions have such a bad rap in our culture. They’re seen as unreliable and even dangerous. But truth is, emotions are important messengers. Ignore them at your peril! Next time you find yourself feeling a strong emotion, rather than avoiding it, ignoring or or trying to shift it, let yourself get quiet and feel it. What is it telling you?  

For example, when I felt bad about the interview, I had thought it was because I felt criticized. It was only when I sat with the feeling that I realized it was compromising my values and pretending to be different to who I am that was really causing my angst.

But don’t be a drama queen either

It’s important to recognize this is about being aware of emotions, not necessarily acting on them in the moment. We can actually push emotional messages away by over dramatizing them. Think about a kid screaming when they can’t get what they want. They’re responding to a situation and unmet need, but they haven’t yet developed the insight to work out if there’s another way to get that need met or what it means and often they make themselves actually feel worse.

Get clear on what you want

Your emotions will show you this. Think about what you want and notice the feeling you get from it. Often we’re in denial or scared to admit what we really want but the message is always there if we take the time to notice.

A classic example is asking for a pay rise at work. You only have two options if you want one – ask and risk getting knocked back, or don’t ask and live with the niggling awareness that you haven’t dared ask, haven’t dared speak up for yourself. Much more disempowering. 

Ask for what you need

Once you know what you want, you can start asking for it! It seems so simple, but most of us spend a lot of time expecting others to intuit what we want and need and then being upset when they miss something or get it wrong.

Sometimes we even we’re being kind to others by not asking for anything but flip it around. Would you rather people ‘protected’ you from knowing their wants and needs or would you like to have that information? It’s really silly! By keeping it semi-secret we deny people the chance to meet our needs.

Once you’re aware of your wants and needs, you’ll be able to set and act on boundaries for what is and isn’t acceptable for you. This is what is meant by boundaries.

Support yourself

While there are some things we can only do alone, there are other we can only do in relationship. Ever had a realisation about something as you’re talking about it to someone? Or a new great idea as you bounce off someone else?

The 5 people we spend the most time with have enormous impact on our lives. Who are yours? Are they positive and supportive? What other social connection do you have that support you?

I teach strategies to learn how to connect and glean the wisdom from your emotions and intuition in my yoga classes and retreats. Join me for a safe and fun exploration of connecting inward at my next half retreat in Melbourne.

Lots of love