I was having a pretty interesting exchange of FB messages back and forth last night with an old friend of mine. The exact nature of the topic is not terribly relevant, but she raised a few concepts in a fashion I never previously considered… and THAT is the stuff of blog posts my friends. Pure blogging gold.
So my old friend (herein after “OF” for the sake of expediency) is the same age as me and was talking about things she has noticed at this point in her life. The biggest thing she noticed was that she’s begun to take very firm, passionate positions on certain topics and that results in one of two divergent reactions when those topics come up: she is either fiery and combative or just lets it roll on by as if it never happened.
And you know what? It makes complete and utter sense to me.
I’ve written about this before, but I’m someone who finds that it’s absolutely critical for my own personal sanity, success and well-being in life to have a set of principals to guide me. Anytime life gets on the wooly side, I know I can rely on these principals to help steer me along a path that will be consistent with who I want to be as a person – what could be more important than that?
As OF and I were discussing, we are both realizing how much more this matters as the years begin to slip by. What’s interesting is that events or people or situations that conflict with these principals can have one of two effects: (1) You go on the attack because something is assaulting that which you hold so dear or (2) you completely ignore it because it is out of line with your principal and, quite frankly, it’s not worth even a precious drop of your emotional energy. Now, which things elicit which reaction are completely dependent upon each individual person… but I’ve noticed I have my own little list of things falling into that second category.
Yes, these are the things I just don’t have time for. Enjoy.
Negative, jaded, toxic people or drama queens. I could go into this at length, but it’s something I’ve covered previously here. You suck the life out of me and you’re just not that interesting, so I just ignore you and move on.
Internet forums. My God did I ever waste some time on a bodybuilding and fitness forum at one time. Now, I will say that I actually developed several very cool friendships through those forums and I’ve gotten the chance to hang out in person with several of those people. That was a huge positive… but for the most part? It’s an incredibly convenient way for people to be cowards. Seriously. Where else do you find so many people who can be so ugly and confrontational? And only because they are safely squirreled away behind a keyboard and able to anonymously spew their venom without any consequences at all. Ugh. No thanks.
Super political people. I’m a politics major with philosophy and English minors and a law school grad to boot. I’m more
than a little accustomed to people debating politics. That’s cool. I’m even good with people who are really into following politics or reading a lot on it. You know who I just ignore? The people who feel utterly compelled to argue relentlessly with me about political topics when they find out my views. Dude, I hate to break it to you… but I’m just not that interested (which of course only sets them off to further heights of utter hysteria).
Anyone who thinks my training/lifting program is “weird”, “strange” or “excessive”. I really don’t have any anger on this one at all – it just doesn’t matter to me if someone feels that way… and believe me, there are quite a few people in that lil’ rowboat. A matter of fact, y’all are doing me a grand favor – the more people comment on what I do as being “insane”, the more I know I am doing the right thing. Thanks for keeping me on track, my peoples. Much appreciated.
Anyone who doesn’t realize the greatest journalist of the past 50 years is Heidi Watney from NESN. I will not debate this and refuse to engage in yet another meaningless discussions about Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite. The Heidi knows all, sees all, rules all. Obviously.
The final takeaway (to me at least) is this: Many may think people become stubborn as they age… and hell, they are probably right, but I am beginning to see this as not nearly as bad of a thing as it is often made out to be. While some may become stubborn and close-minded, let’s not forget that sometimes we are finally hitting our stride of knowing what our true values are… and how damn important it is to protect them.
I’m not sure if it’s El Nino or global warming or the Winter or some mysterious cosmic force only foretold of by Dionne Warwick and the Psychic Friends Hotline, but toxic people have been on my mind. Some of these have been people I have had the dubious pleasure of interacting with, but more often than not, it’s been friends of mine dealing with this abomination of the human spirit.
In thinking over this phenomenon, I tried to look to the cultural giants in human history for guidance. There is certainly nothing new about the existence of toxic people – they have certainly existed for probably about as long as human beings have walked the earth… and at least as long as MTV has decided to collect them for the purposes of reality TV.
You’re toxic I’m slipping under With a taste of a poison paradise I’m addicted to you Don’t you know that you’re toxic
Yes Ms. Spears… yes. I do know this, but it was never going to work out between us in the end. We come from two different worlds and… umm… wait, where was I again?
Oh yes, toxic people. I think there are essentially a few different ways to handle this bane of human existence:
Avoid them. Like the plague. Seriously. Certain people out there will just suck the life out of you every time you interact with them. It’s just their nature (or maybe their nurture if they grew up oppressed by a toxic parent). In the end, they are just not worth the time, aggravation and drama. And ohhhhh, the drama! The drama queen/king is really one of the more common forms of toxic people running around. Sure, there are people out there who look to tear you down with biting comments, but they are more rare than those who seem to have a parade of complete disaster trailing in their wake. They make me smile and chuckle softly to myself because their dead giveaway to their drama-dom is the line “… and I cannot figure out why all this stuff happens to me!” If they repeat that a lot… flee. The reason that all that stuff happens to them is because they subconsciously enjoy the drama (it gives them attention) or they constantly make bad choices that bring it upon them. But what if they are your family member or co-worker or boss?
Address the drama: Family members. This is trickier, obviously. It can be a little easier with family members because… well… they cannot really fire you from being related to them. I think in this case you just need to ask more gently when they are in the midst of a drama meltdown “Huh… well, why do you think this is happening to you?” They may have no idea they are creating their own drama and you need to ease your way into discussing this with them. If you go this approach and it stays the same or, God forbid, gets worse, then you will probably have to default to tip #1 more often than not. As harsh as that sounds, think of it this way – if you have brought the issue up with your family member and they continue the behavior and you end up absorbing all the stress, how fair is that really to you? I know you love them, but a little tough love through the absence of your presence may begin to snap them out of it.
Address the drama: Your boss. A boss is a harder one because you don’t want to derail/ruin your career or lose your job by ticking off your boss… and if your boss is a toxic person, this is a definite possibility. I ain’t gonna lie to ya. The first and clearest option to me is to complete kick ass at your job and be sure you can prove you kick ass at your job. Why? Because a toxic boss who likes to pick away at you or create havoc for you will have a difficult time refuting cold hard facts of your complete awesomeness. Is this easy when you work for a toxic person? Hell no! But it’s what you truly need to consider because there are 2 primary benefits of doing this beyond having material to use with your boss if the gauntlet is thrown down: (1) You are making yourself more marketable and prepping your resume for your next step; and (2) Other people in your company/organization/department will begin to notice you are really good which can ease your transition to something new. You cannot underestimate the power of this second point, especially since other people where you work likely can tell you work with a toxic boss.
As you can see, there are various themes to these tips and avoidance is a piece of it (if possible). I can see a reaction from people that avoidance is a bad idea because you aren’t really “addressing” the problem. My response to that? Umm… yeah, that’s the point. We are often taught that every problem must be met head on… confronted directly in order to vanquish it like St. George slaying the dragon. Hogwash. Why? 2 reason: (1) It’s not your job to fix everyone else in the world, quite frankly. In addition, toxic people are by their very nature stressful to those around them. Why seek out stress you really don’t need? My life philosophy these days is to keep things very simple because life adds its own complications just fine without your help. (2) A toxic person has to choose to change. Yes, your confronting them on it may cause that change, but at some point, it’s like yelling at a wall. Believe me… I’ve yelled at some walls in my time and they really don’t listen well. Heck, they may not even listen AT ALL. Umm… oversharing?
In the end, putting in an effort to handle those people who are toxic is fine… to a point. After that, let it go and enjoy a life with a slightly smaller slice of happiness. Believe me, life is much better outside of the Superfund.