5 Simple Steps to Help Your Clients Identify Toxic Relationships - and Spot the Good Ones!

toxic relationships - Two men fighting on a couchRelationships are essential – we’re wired to connect and we literally need that connection to survive. So with Valentine’s Day coming up, it’s the perfect time to sit down with your clients and reflect on, review and appreciate their relationships. Because, as coaches we all know that WHO you spend your time with can significantly impact your life. In fact almost EVERY success book will tell you that if you want to be successful, hang around with like-minded, successful people.

How do you know if a relationship is working for you or not? Well, the question to ask is “After spending time with this person, how do you feel about yourself?” Do you feel energised, inspired, uplifted, supported or encouraged OR do you feel drained, let down, discouraged or somehow worth less? Once you have an awareness, you can decide whether to spend MORE or LESS time with that person.

And we created a coaching exercise to help people with this called Detox Your Relationships. It’s one of my favourite coaching tools and gives our clients a simple but powerful way to score and review the 20 people they spend most of their time with – including partners, colleagues, friends and family. And the great news is, it’s incredibly simple, you can even start now, just writing your list on a piece of paper. Here’s how it works.

5 Steps to Help (You or) Your Clients Identify Toxic Relationships – and Spot the Good Ones!

  1. Make a list of the (as close to 20 as you can) friends, colleagues, family and other people you spend most of your time with.
  2. For each one, pause and ask yourself: “How do I feel after spending time with this person?”
  3. Next, add a score next to each name from +5 to -5 to represent how you generally feel after spending time with them. Obviously a negative (-) score means you feel somehow less or negative about yourself and your life, and the positive (+) scores represent feeling better about yourself and your life.
  4. Consider how much time you spend with each person. What are the scores for the people you spend most of your time with? Are you generally spending more time with the ‘pluses’ or the ‘minuses’? How much time are you spending with the +4s and +5s on your list? What about the drainers (toxic relationships), the -4s or -5s?
  5. Make a commitment to  YOU.
    i) Look at your plus relationships:
    If you’re not already, find ways to spend more time with them. If you don’t have any +4s and +5s on your list, how could you develop some relationships that will be that support and boost in life?
    ii) Looking at your minus relationships: In theory, these are people you should be finding ways to spend less time with. BUT, any healthy relationship will have rough patches and we shouldn’t discard someone simply because times get tough. Consider whether there may be a wound or grievance that needs to be brought into the open and discussed. Or it may be that YOU have some ‘processing’ to do because it’s YOU doing the judging, not them. So, it may be that you need to spend less time with them or change the ACTIVITIES that you do with them, but if your gut is telling you to move on, that this person isn’t right for you, it may be time to pay attention and let go.

So, what to do this Valentine’s Day? 

For those relationships that are fabulous? Well, for people who are there for you, who support, encourage and inspire you – as well as finding ways to spend more time with them – use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to recognize them! What is it about them that you love? And then whether it’s a heartfelt thank-you with a hug, words of appreciation and meaningful eye contact over a cup of coffee or glass of wine, a card, letter, email or a spontaneous gift – make sure THEY know how much YOU love and appreciate them!

And for toxic relationships that are no longer serving us: We have some thinking to do. And if you can’t bear to let a friend go, or you HAVE to spend time with a family member, find ways to be with them where there will be less opportunity for the negativity to come out. For example you could go to the cinema with them where you’ll interact less. Or you could decide not to discuss areas of your (or their!) life that draw criticism and judgement. But if it IS necessary to see them, set your boundaries and find ways to make the relationship work on your terms.

“The only service a friend can really render is to keep up your courage by holding up to you a mirror in which you can see a noble image of yourself.” George Bernard Shaw

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