Some people are to us as kryptonite is to Superman. The closer we get, the worse we feel. The longer we are in proximity, the weaker we become. How should we handle those people? Don’t stand too close. Some relationships can be fixed, and others cannot.
Relational toxicity can be very difficult. But, deal with it, we must. Followers of Christ should try to fix the broken relationships. Trying may be quite hard and will take too long, at least it will feel that way.
What should you do? In a controlled setting where interruptions are minimized, have a patient and honest talk. Express your goal and feelings about the relationship. “I value our friendship and want to maximize it. I need your help to deal with something. I feel ________” or “I know you would not do this on purpose, but when you _______, I feel _________. Would you help me work through this?”
If statements similar to what I have suggested, produce a strong defense reaction, address the goal of the conversation. “I am not trying to make you feel bad. I do not think I am better than you are. You are my friend, and I need your help? What is your take on this?”
A good response is what we hope for, but not always what we get. I’ll talk about responding to defensive posturing and aggressive comebacks tomorrow. Listen without becoming defensive. You asked for their opinion, accept it. It is OK to ask for examples or clarifications. Listen and learn. Proverbs 19:25b “…rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.” (NIV) As you listen and gain their perspective, you will obtain insight to make the situation better.
Closeout a good response by thanking them for making it so easy to come to them. Thank them for being vulnerable and being willing to help. Then acknowledge that it will not be unusual to be a little sensitive after a talk like you just had. From time to time, touch base with them just so you both feel all is OK.