One of the scheduled activities I went through during Navy Boot Camp was the gas chamber. Once we walked into the room adjoining the gas chamber, we were given gas masks to put on and instructions on what to do once in the chamber. We formed a line and entered the chamber donning our masks. As soon as the door was closed, the gas was released into the room and we were instructed to remove our masks. Immediately, the effects of the gas were felt; Sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, stinging eyes, and a runny nose. There was also the desire to run out of the room but our instructors told us that leaving was not an option. Doing so would restart the process. I still don’t remember how long we were in the chamber but it seemed like hours even though it was probably a minute or less. Our instructors had some fun with it by making us say our names out loud during this exercise.
Most of the stress we face is connected to people even though relationships are a crucial component to growth and progress. The greatest resource in any organization is not equipment but employees. We cannot do without people so the question shifts to, “How do we deal with people?” More specifically, “How do we deal with toxic people?”
First, let’s identify some common characteristics of toxic people:
You have probably noticed these characteristics in people you know (I hope none of my friends are nodding right now and thinking about me). You walk on eggshells when you are around them. They are easy to bruise and hard to please. They always want to be the center of attention. If you mention something good that has happened to you instead of celebrating, they seek to upstage you by mentioning something good that has happened to them. They see you for what they can get out of you but never reciprocate. The only time they appreciate you is when they use it to keep you hooked to the relationship.
Second, what are the effects of toxic people in your life?
- Pollute your thinking
- Drain your passion and energy
- Devalue your worth
- Crush your dreams
- Suffocate your growth
If you are always trying to avoid meeting someone because the above effects happen to you, that person is toxic to your life. They take away from the relationship and never add anything. They are what I call relational locusts. They expect you to be there for them, but they always have excuses why they cannot be there for you. They never pay when you go out to eat. Somehow they never have money but they are always dressed in the latest fashion trends.
Third, you will notice these red flags when relating with toxic people:
- Take and never give
- When confronted they play the victim. Excuses and blaming others are their go-to crutches
- They always complain and whine
- The theme of their party is “pity me”
- Lekking: pretending to be who they are not, to get what they want.
- You get a sick feeling in your stomach when you see a phone call or a voicemail from them or duck into the closest cubicle or restroom when you see them approaching, hoping they pass by. When we can’t hide we pray that God makes us invisible!
Lastly, how do we deal with toxic people if we must interact with them?
- Set and enforce boundaries by limiting access and interaction: This will help keep your sanity by reducing your “exposure” to their toxicity. One example of this would be to stop them from turning you into their garbage disposal by gossiping about other people to you. Another would be putting a time stamp when you have to interact with them. “I can only give twenty minutes to ______________.
- Constantly assess level of toxicity: We can take out our frustration, anger, or other negative emotions from toxic people at work or elsewhere on our healthy relationships such as family, and close friends. Assessing toxicity ensures you always have a read on the relationship and make necessary adjustments before their toxicity bleeds into your healthy relationships.
- Discover their why: Why are they toxic? Start by pointing out positive things about them and the impact it has on the relationship. Then, make them aware of their toxic behavior and how it affects the relationship. Sometimes, people don’t know they are being toxic and your perspective might be the lens they need to see correctly and make changes that could salvage the relationship. Other times, there is a root cause for their toxicity and if discovered can change the dynamic of the relationship. This requires confrontation, love and the desire to see the person become better even if the relationship ends because of your honesty. Remember, not everyone will take your honesty and good intentions very well.
- Inject positive energy to neutralize their attempt to introduce a negative atmosphere around you. Be the thermostat, not the thermometer.
- Learn and apply the power of “no”: Take it from a person who likes to say “yes” to people, this is a hard one. If you appropriate “no” correctly, you will free yourself from the control of a toxic person.
We will rise or fall on the quality of our relationships. Be intentional about pursuing healthy relationships and guard them. Never sacrifice your vision, passion, potential, dreams, and energy on the altar of a toxic relationship.
Always cheering you on!