‘Delete toxic people’. ‘Remove the haters from your life’. ‘Stay away from those who don’t appreciate your value’. Is it my imagination or has the message to cut people off proliferated? If you use social media, you will likely see it pop up in some form or other on various channels. There seems to be an urgency to create boundaries, say ‘no’ and close your circles.
Confirmed trolls aside, whenever we contemplate disconnecting, we should ask ourselves ‘why’. Are these people in our lives who express themselves differently or friends who simply have a different way of looking at things? Is there space for us to lean in with curiosity?
Qualifier here: no-one should tolerate verbal abuse, that is non-negotiable. And yes, sometimes there are harmful relationships that must end. There is power in recognizing this and taking the necessary steps. My question is whether we are open to listening to other views without labelling and closing conversation.
Here’s something else to ponder. What if you are the hater? Surely, we have all expressed unfavorable opinions or been obnoxiously self-righteous, in the hope that there is enough trust for a relationship to continue. There are moments when we have fallen short of being Positive Polly cheering on our friends and could use some grace.
Joshua Coleman stated in an article published recently in The Atlantic, “We are all flawed. We should have that at the forefront of our minds when deciding who to keep in or out of our lives—and how to respond to those who no longer want us in theirs.”
In my travels I have experienced many situations with people where, instead of disconnecting, through listening and trusting someone to listen to me, we bridged a gap. The healing that came from those moments was profound and enhanced trust, enabling us to achieve more together.
I have also found that there are seasons to relationships; our circles will contract and expand over time as people navigate in and out of our lives. This is the nature of change and renewal. There is no need to rush the end. It will come naturally, or you may find there are relationships you can save through discussion, debate, and a willingness to find the point on which you both agree. Or, you could accept that you neither need to agree nor disagree. You can shrug and say, ‘that’s an interesting viewpoint that I have never considered.’
Perhaps, next time, before you brand someone a hater and hit the delete button, check the list: engage, tolerate or disconnect respectfully. You just might find something worth salvaging.
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© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.