My good writer friend R. taught me the phrase, “Talk With Your Feet.” I didn’t truly understand the full meaning of this phrase until recently. In the last two months, I’ve learned some bitter lessons about making assumptions, toxic people and knowing when to start talking with your feet.
When conflict appears in my life, I don’t ignore it. I analyze the situation, thinking of what I did wrong or how I can work toward an amicable solution. I’ve never been afraid of apologizing, acknowledging that I am human, and yes, sometimes I may act or say more words that are wrong than right. My mission is to live an authentic life. What does that mean? I believe it starts with holding your own actions accountable and learning from your prior mistakes. And although it means that you may have to apologize sometimes, it also means that you aren’t always wrong. As much as you may embrace your own accountability, others may not be ready to take responsiblity for their own actions. Sometimes I get so preoccupied by my own actions and accountability that I fail to realize that other people may not be as forthcoming or honest about their own behavior.
I’ve always speculated about others motivation, wondering in my own mind, “Why did he or she say that?” or “Why would he or she act that way?” In situations where you’ve built a trust with someone, those questions are particularly hard. You don’t understand the reasoning behind the behavior, but feel the hurt of their actions over you. And then it is up to you to make the hard call. You have to make the decision to have a hard conversation with yourself and decide whether or not it is in your best interest to continue this relationship. Because part of leading an authentic life is to be free of people who choose to play games, manipulate and always desire to have the upper hand. You learn that you will always be the person getting hurt in this kind of of relationship.
As difficult as it is, sometimes you just have to walk away. You have to talk with your feet.
Have you walked away from a toxic relationship? How and when did you realize the relationship was toxic? Where there red flags? Do you find that you speculate over behaviors you don’t understand?
Thank you. Well said Rudri. The phase of the moon might be just right. Have been sideswiped this week by a “friend,” and have lain awake, my sleep side-swiped, wondering what I did to deserve the recent lecture I got after all I’d gone out of my way to help her, her ill child and “do my part,” to be part of her support system and community. Finally realized that maybe she was having a bad day/week/month/ and that maybe circumstances in her life had set me up for the dressing down that she couldn’t bring to bear at work or in closer relationships. For many people, friends are more expendable than a job or an onerous ex-spouse with whom they must still co-parent. After checking in with my internal compass and a friend, my so-called external “snark meter,” I decided instead of continuing to retread so many steps that may have led us to this point and instead of walking away, I could make my voice heard by taking a few steps back.
This is a wonderful post. There’s so much that it touches on. Accountability – which seems to be something that some people try to deflect (I think of them as Teflon). Taking too much blame/responsibility for something – when it really takes two to create the situation that isn’t going well. Decisions to try to work on something – or – as you say, to talk with your feet. Without question, when a relationship is toxic, survival can mean walking away. But it’s tragic when the toxic relationship involves a family member – or a spouse. Those repercussions are often for life.
What a fabulous post – and something I needed to hear. It validates some of the uncomfortable decisions I’ve made in my own life. Such wise words.
Your words touched a thought that I will journal about tomorrow morning. I always have had many friends — different genders, ages, ethnicities…yes, even interests. In Barbara Streisand’s words, I truly believe “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” (As a true blue baby boomer she has always been a favorite.)
That being said, sometimes it is time to let go of a friendship, especially if that friendship brings toxicity into your life. That doesn’t mean abandon a friend in need. It does mean that one needs to know when the friendship is being used by another. I have had to abandon a friendship a couple of times in my life and I am glad I was courageous enought to do so. I only hope the best for people who take advantage of “friendships.” For my part, I refuse to be a victim.
Thanks much for the nudge, Rudri!
This is never an easy decision but it ultimately becomes a practical one when we acknowledge how burdensome a relationship has become. For me, there is often residual guilt and doubt in the beginning, but eventually, I learn to release myself fully.
It is hard not to assume when you think you have all the information. However, there are always two sides to a story and many interpretations. I often recount conversations or comments. Letting go and deciding the drama is or is not worth it can be very taxing. However you should not have to worry with true friendships. We all have our good days and bad but we always come back to our friends with pure hearts. Often times we are most cruel to the ones we love most. Why….I don’t know. I find it true with me…I guess I know they will forgive my bad behavior and let me relax and release.
fabulous post. and so hard to do. I’m more often putting my foot in my mouth than actually talking with them. Even when I should. I struggle to walk away from toxic relationships and instead try hard to fix them. I’m gonna try and do a little more foot talking this week.
I have learned to talk with my feet quite a few times as an adult, with both family and friends. Though it’s hard, I’ve found that if you’re constantly questioning yourself or walking away from an interaction feeling bad about yourself, it’s time to move on. My theory is that not everyone is destined to be in your life forever. Act with good intentions, love with an open heart, and understand that as you grow, some relationships stop fitting.
I’ve been there. I’ve made the hard choice to “talk with my feet.” And even now, many many years later it feels raw, but right.
You wrote: “Sometimes I get so preoccupied by my own actions and accountability that I fail to realize that other people may not be as forthcoming or honest about their own behavior.” Indeed, I know this well, and I’ve only just started to think this way instead of placing all the blame on myself.
Important post Rudri!
Yes, I have walked away. And it was not easy. Nor was it clear at the time that it was the “right” thing to do. I think so much of it came down to instinct, and deep-seated unease. I can look back and be proud of my decision to free myself from that unhealthy bond, but at the time it felt uncertain and messy. Does that make sense? Great, provocative post.
Hi Rudri, thanks for stopping by. What a great post and something that has been on my mind a lot lately. I recently had to “talk with my feet” and walk away from a person who was saying and doing toxic things toward me. After trying to talk about it with this person, I realized that we are operating in two different realties concerning what happened and that I would make myself crazy unless I removed myself from the relationship. Sadly, it is someone in my family 🙁 and that makes it very confusing and hard. It seems like every time I walk away, I am reminded of it by conversations with others or by different reactions to the situation. I hope that you get some pani-puri this week:)
The older I get the more I’ve learned to walk away…I think it’s something you master as you get more and more jaded! I could have written this post – seriously. So many people have disappointed me and the only way – the best way – to deal with it is to cut my losses.
Hi, Rudri! How are you?
Oh yeah…walked away from a few of them. It’s healthy. You have to or they, like flesh eating bacteria, can eat away at everything lovely in your life.
Rudri, this is a wonderful and very thought-provoking piece. As you said, you might be wrong sometimes but you might also be right and it’s okay to stand up for what you feel is right (at least that’s how I interpreted it). At the same time, there are people with whom a nice and amicable conversation is impossible. It is those moments that talking with your feet is important to do.
I have talked with my feet a few times (love that phrase by the way!)…sometimes it is the very best way. It’s hard to take that first step at distancing from the toxic person, but once you have the courage, it is such a relief.
Yes, I have walked away…and I have used that term “toxic friendship” before…sometimes you do just have to leave.
I saw this the other day and tried to comment, but my device was giving me trouble.
Anyway, I really like this idea. For a long time, it was hard to not say what I thought. But as I’ve grown older and more mature, and realize that not everything is about me, I am much more quiet in the way I handle things. I just let them be a lot of the time, and either literally or figuratively talk with my feet.
Love that phrase!
Yes, I emotionally walked away from a close family member after a long -overdue argument made it clear that nothing was ever going to change. It was an *extremely* difficult time but I ultimately came away a happier and stronger person.