Does the 2003 Britney Spears classic "Toxic" speak to you like no other song? Are you totally unable to name your best friend's birthday? Do you make faces at babies on the bus just to see how loudly you can make them scream? You, my friend, could use some ways to be a less toxic person in 2018. Please quell your immediate urge to excuse your unpleasant nature with tales of heartbreak and woe — it doesn't really matter how you got to be this way. The important part is that with enough effort, you can learn to be less of a jerk.
The word "toxic" gets bandied about on the Internet often enough, but what does it really mean? According to Psychology Today, it describes people who are manipulative, unhappy, and critical. Many of their actions are motivated by a need for sympathy, so as soon as one problem is solved, another rears its ugly head. As a result, interacting with them can be draining. Toxic people are, in a word, extra — and not in a pleasant way.
Does that sound a little too familiar? Everyone has behaved this way at some point or another, but it becomes a problem when manipulation and self-centeredness defines your relationships. In the interest of making the world a happier place, here are 12 ways to become less toxic in 2018. They aren't foolproof, but they're a start.
1No More Backhanded Compliments
In fiction, backhanded compliments — "Wow! I didn't expect you to get that promotion!" or "Your hair looks so nice when you style it!" — are an art form. In the real world, they're just hurtful. If your compliments are always accompanied by a subtle insult, you're not going to keep your friends. Learn to give legitimate compliments that come without any hidden barbs.
2Learn To Apologize
Like backhanded compliments, fake apologies, which take the form of an apology without actually expressing remorse, are just plain rude. Leave "I'm sorry you were offended" in 2017. Put on your big girl boots, take responsibility for your actions, and learn to give legitimate apologies. It's never too late to say sorry — if you really mean it.
Gossip and rumors can ruin people's lives — and even if you think it's innocent, it's a pretty obnoxious conversational habit. Stop gossiping and start watching Gossip Girl instead.
4Quit Judging People
This just in: Other people's personal lives are their own business. Instead of criticizing your friends, make an effort to shrug and move on, even when you disagree with their choices. When you stop judging other people, you might learn to judge yourself less harshly.
5Get A Hobby
Toxic people spend way too much time scheming and manipulating. If Game of Thrones' Littlefinger played the ukulele, do you think he would have had the energy to orchestrate so much backstabbing? Fill your free time with a new hobby this year.
6Leave Negative Conversations
In 2018, focus on the things that make you happy rather than dwelling on what makes you miserable. That can be hard to do when the people around you are in the middle of a grumpfest, so don't be afraid to remove yourself from negative conversations.
7Talk About Your Feelings
Picking fights is unproductive, but so is holding a grudge. When you have a problem with someone, identify why you're angry (or sad, or jealous — you get the idea) and talk about it like adults. If you struggle with openly discussing your feelings, therapy is always an option, and the Internet has plenty of advice.
8Be An Active Listener
A huge part of being a good friend is listening — not waiting for your turn to speak. It's easy to get distracted in conversation, especially if all you want to do is talk about your own problems, but if you want to be less toxic, you have to learn to listen.
9Take Up Meditation
Meditation has been shown to have all kinds of benefits. When it comes to toxicity, the most important is that is can reduce stress and anxiety. Take a few minutes each day to calm your mind, and you might be surprised by how much less angry you feel, which may change how you interact with others.
10Recognize Your Insecurities
Insecurities make people lash out, sometimes without realizing why they're envious or unhappy. Learn to recognize your insecurities, and work to change how you feel about them. It might change how you feel about other people as well.
Toxic people see their relationships as a one-way street. When they don't feel like hanging out, they may drop off the face of the planet — not exactly the basis of sturdy relationships. This year, don't make plans unless you're going to keep them.
Here's an easy resolution for the new year: Do something kind every day. It doesn't have to be a grand gesture; you can tip more than you normally would or buy someone a cup of coffee. Like any other habit, kindness can be learned.