Saturday, April 8, 2017

Dealing With Toxic People - Plan A and B

Dealing With Toxic People


Remove toxic people from your life?


It's easy, right? If you spot a toxic person, you avoid them. That is Plan A. If only it were that easy ...

How can we tell a negative person from a destructive one? And what if they are our employees, family members, bosses or even our spouses?

Why emotional intelligence helps dealing with toxic people

Do toxic people exist?


First, I would like to answer an ethical/philosophical question. Is it allowed to define other people as toxic? Or is it too simplified?

Is it compatible with a mindful way of life? Is not every one of us a product of his upbringing and his circumstances?

And doesn't a toxic person deserve respect even though he makes life difficult for others?

My answer: We have to call a duck a duck.

And if someone acts immoral, destructive or antisocial, I may call it by its name. I will go even further: I feel I may say someone who acts chronically destructive is poison.

Luckily toxic people are rare. We must not mistake just any negative person for a poisonous one.

What is a toxic person?


When you were in contact with a toxic person you are left with a bad feeling in your stomach. You might not be able pinpoint what causes your uneasiness.

But you know instinctively that the contact did not do you good.

Toxic. As if you were exposed to poison.

Some typical behavior patterns of toxic people:

  • They start a fight where a constructive conversation would suffice.
  • Often they have a learning resistance. They do not want to understand your point of view and don't consider changing theirs.
  • They do not have a strong sense of "wrong" and "right". They are right and everyone else is wrong. 
  • Overstepping boundaries is another characteristic. They do things they are not entitled to and don't respect limits. 
  • They have concrete expectations but do not put them in words. If you fail to deliver, you will get punished. Example: Your boss tells you: "Build a nice house" (he expects it has a cellar and is painted in green.)
  • Toxic people are great at emotional blackmailing and guilt tripping you. 
  • To get what they want, they lie. They might leave information out, start rumors or straight lie.
  • Manipulation is another feature often seen in toxic people. They'll tell you what you want to hear to get you on their team or achieve their goals. 
  • Often they are jealous, envious and full of other negative feelings (always self-reflective)
  • They show no empathy or consideration for your needs and well-being.
As I said earlier toxic people are very rare. Occasionally we might exhibit negative behavior ourselves. We are not perfect and we have weak moments. We make mistakes. That doesn't make us toxic.

A toxic person acts like listed above most of the time. The behavioral pattern is the norm, not an exception. That is how you can tell a toxic person.

Sometimes "normal" people temporarily turn into toxic people, when they are under severe emotional pressure. For instance, when their partner leaves them, they get fired or someone they love dies.

How to deal with toxic people


First, we have to understand that a person we are dealing with is destructive. That implies that we have a healthy amount of self-esteem and awareness.

Toxic people are great at making you feel as if you are the problem - and not them. Most times, it takes people long to even realize they are being manipulated. 

Often, people suffer for years at a workplace with a toxic boss or in a marriage with a destructive person until they understand. Some severe forms of toxic people, i.e. psychopath, are masters at hiding their true colors. 

Earlier this week I worked with a CEO who had a toxic employee. Destructive people are not limited to certain roles. 

Don't take it personally


That is the most demanding and most important tip. How on earth do you not take it personally when someone spreads poison over you?

That is hard. Very hard. But it is the way to go. 

The more personal you take it the more emotional you will react. A toxic person often feeds on your emotional reactions.

Energy thieves that suck you dry and leave you empty.

Don't let that happen to you.

There is a second reason why you should not take this toxic attack personally: if we feel attacked we want revenge. Attack - counterattack - more aggressive attack - more aggressive .... you get the picture. 

Keep telling yourself: "This is not about me, my personality, my person or my words.The other person wants to take it to a personal level but I will not allow this because it only weakens me."

Protect yourself mentally


Toxic people often use the big guns. Their ammunition is pure emotion.
  • They insult you on a personal level
  • They stalk you
  • They do hurtful and harmful things
  • They accuse you
  • They invade your privacy and ignore boundaries
Emotional intelligence helps to process these attacks systematically. Mindfulness is another powerful defense supporting you in gaining back control over your mind.

Talking to others can be a source of support. It is not as helpful as getting professional help and there is a risk that the topic will soon go on the other one's nerves. 

Things you can ask yourself to process emotional attacks:
  • What has been said/done with the sole intention of hurting me?
  • How much importance do I want to give a person who obviously just wants to harm me?
  • Which parts of what has been said are true?
  • Which conclusions/accusations do I deem valid?
Emotionally intelligent people would know the most important factor: "What is someone's motivation and agenda?"

Questions like these help you to differentiate between poison and reality. They also help you to decide if you are dealing with a toxic person. Keep in mind: Not every negative person is a toxic person.

Set boundaries


Toxic people cross borders, invade your privacy and act encroaching. 

They do things they shouldn't do. They don't do things they should do. 

What you can do is verbalize a factual and clear statement. Your statement should outline the consequences of ignoring it. 

Stipulations should be clear and precise. Try to focus on the facts only. No emotions. No conclusions.

Focus only on your own goals


A toxic person can entrap you in his web of blackmail, lies, allegations, self-pity, etc in no time. 

That can make it hard to keep a level head. Often we resort to putting ourselves on the same level as the toxic person. We fight back in the same emotional way.  At least we try.

On the playfield of the toxic person, we are hopelessly inferior.

The poison dwarf (I hope that translates from German) just has more routine.

A simple question can help to redirect your thoughts in the right direction: 

"What do I want to achieve in this relationship realistically?"

Emphasis on realistically.

Your realistic goal could be to seek the help of a coach. Or to find a new job in the next six months. 

Sometimes, for instance, if the toxic person is your sick Grandfather who has only two months left to live, the only realistic goal is to protect yourself mentally and physically.

You should always set a goal for yourself when you're dealing with toxic people.

Important is that you set a realistic goal. 

Keep your compassion in check


It speaks for you if you are a compassionate, empathetic person. Your good character can become a trap when you're dealing with a toxic person because they will try to take advantage of it.

They will make it sound as if their negative behavior is your fault and you're the one to blame. 

They will offer explanations and excuses for why they are who they are. You might feel bad for them.

And they deserve our pity.  It must be horrible to be trapped in your own destructiveness and negativity.

You will be a helpless victim in the hands of a toxic person if you develop a guilty conscience for looking after yourself or setting boundaries. 

Feel bad for the toxic person if you like. But stick to your goal.

Whatever causes the person to become destructive might be sad but your well-being comes first. 

Get support


Being exposed to someone toxic is exhausting, energy-sapping and upsetting. It can damage your self-esteem and well-being.

Consider hiring someone who can help you through it. 

People who deal with toxic people on their own often start to doubt themselves at some point. Friends might listen and comfort you but could provide unhelpful advice due to a lack of experience with this kind of situation. 

Don't assume the toxic person wants peace


Positive peaceful people assume that others feel just like them. That everyone wants to get along. But that isn't true. Toxic people are looking for conflict, emotion, intrigue. 

A high EQ  helps you to understand the agenda and motivation of someone. Misjudging someone's motivation can lead to clumsy and unhelpful actions. 

Toxic people are not looking for peace. They are not looking for harmony.  They want war. Whatever they might tell you.

For them, it is not exhausting, troubling and hurtful like it is for you. For them, it is a distraction from having to be alone with themselves. 

Don't try to convince poison


"Oh, if only he would understand that he's making life difficult for others. If I could just make him understand my perspective."

Well, you can't. Accept it. 

Toxic people are not interested in learning about your perspective. Some might pretend to be to keep the energy theft and parasitic relationship going. 

Don't try to convince them. They don't want to hear it. They don't want that there is truth in what you are saying. Because then they would have to question themselves.  And that is not what they want to do.

Again: set limits, set a goal, protect your soul. Get support.

Don't try to understand the toxic person


When someone acts toxic and destructive, our first reaction is perplexity. We ask ourselves: "Why are they doing that?"

Difficult childhood?  Mental disorder? Never got chances? 

It doesn't matter. The only time when this matters is if you are their psychotherapist. The human mind is a complex matter and you will not understand why they act the way they do. 

You are just wasting energy  that you should invest in the three important points:
  • What is my realistic goal in this situation?
  • How can I protect myself mentally?
  • What are my limits and how can I protect them?

Act, don't just react


You often end up in an exchange of blows when dealing with destructive people. 

He does that. I retaliate. He attacks again. Now I will show him what wood I am made of!

That can soon spiral out of control.  Just look at the silly number off sensible people who end up in court after fighting their neighbors for years.

People will often act upon the actions of their "enemy". They start to react which makes them calculable. 

And that is the playfield of manipulative people. Toxic people are way better at the game of action and reaction than you.

They are not afraid of conflict stress and pressure. On the contrary, this is why they are playing this game.

Once more: emotional intelligence is the key. Stay in control of your emotions and actions. Focused on your goal.

Some questions you can ask yourself to not become the play ball of the destructive person:
  • Which reaction do they expect from me?
  • What will happen if I don't react?
  • How can I break free from the spiral?
    AND
  • What was my goal again and which reaction supports it best?
Act. Don't react.

Take a deep breath. Turn on your intelligence. Look at the situation from a distance.

To sum things up

  • Don't take it personally
  • Protect yourself mentally
  • Set clear borders
  • Set goals and stay focused 
  • Let no one guilt trip you
  • Get support
  • Don't assume the other one is looking for peace and harmony
  • Don't try to convince toxic people
  • Don't try to understand toxic people
  • Act, don't react
Is that easier written than done? It certainly is.

The higher your EQ the easier to deal with situations like this - and any other situation. 

Mindfulness training will help with stress-management and make sure you don't focus on the negative situation more than necessary. 

Recommended tools:

Monday, April 3, 2017

8 Best Tips For Introverts

8 Best Tips For Introverts


Extroverts benefit from these tips too!


It's difficult to be an introvert. Often it seems as if the surest way to be the center of attention is trying to avoid it.

Most of our interests, character traits and likes have developed during our childhood. Our family, friends, our profession, and setbacks and failure - all of that influenced who we became and what is important to us.

While you can change the color of your hair with some dye, the same does not apply to personality traits, for instance, introversion and extroversion.

Introvert, extrovert, ambivert


The third category is ambiverts (like myself).

Introverted people are quiet while extroverted people are "loud" and outgoing.  At least this is our perception. In reality, we are chameleons. We adapt to our environment. That's easier for some than for others.

Introverted people can act just like extroverts. And that is advisable in many situations. For instance, when you are applying for a job, host an exhibition or want to make new friends.

Extroverted people often act like introverts. That too can be advisable in many situations. For instance, in a relationship or when you start a new job.

How do you fuel your engine?


The important distinction between an extrovert and introvert is on the inside. Important is

  • How does a person refuel and recharge?
  • What is the source of power?
  • How does he recover?

Introverts

Introverted people often gain strength in a quiet setting. They can replenish best when they are alone with their thoughts.

Extroverts

Extroverts can gain power and strengths when they are in the company of others. Dialogue and togetherness are sources of power for them.

Ambiverts

And then there are ambiverts. They can switch from introverted to extroverted pretty well. They can extract energy from togetherness but also need their alone time.

From black and white to gray


Introversion and extroversion are not inflexible categories. Most of us are somewhere in the middle with a tendency to one.

Fact is there are introverted people and extroverted people. And the difference is in our brain. Introverted people process impressions different from extroverts.

Introverts have different needs.

Great Tips For Introverts


If you are extroverted, you will still find value in this article. I am sure that there are introverted people in your personal or professional environment. Knowing how they tick can only help your relationships.

1. Find your energy spots and sources of energy


If you are introverted, you know to refuel and recharge your battery you need alone time and quietness. Consider

  • Where do you feel most comfortable?
  • Where can you refuel and regenerate?

You might learn about yourself that the best situation for you is not to sit home alone. Maybe you're feeling more comfortable on a long ride on the highway in a public library, etc.

👉 Find out where you can refuel and make sure you can access this energy spots all the time

What are you doing when you want to energize? One likes to listen to music while the next prefers reading a book. Some resort to mindfulness while others prefer to do nothing at all.

  • What strengthens you?
  • What aids and empowers you the most?

👉 Find out how you can energize best and make sure you have a lot of this in your life. Often an energy spot and energy source can be combined. For instance, if you're reading a book in a public library.

2. Don't wear a label on your forehead


A lot of introverted people carry the label "introvert" like a crown.

They will often say something like: "That is difficult for me because I am introverted." After hearing it for the second or third time, people will get annoyed.

Remove the label. There is no need to emphasize that you are introverted. You just are. Empathic people and people who care about you will be understanding.

And the rest? They will not develop sympathy or be more understanding because you tell them you are introverted.

That doesn't mean you should hide that you are introverted. Just don't use it as an excuse or explanation.

👉 Make a conscious decision whom and when you will tell that you are introverted. Try not to stick a label on your forehead.

3. Don't shoot your own foot


Many introverted people have been through a lot of suffering. Especially when they spend a lot of time with extroverted people who never show a lot of compassion for their otherness.

When they are young, other kids might mock them because they often choose to be alone. Parents might try to pressure them because they play outside less often than their siblings.

As grown-ups, they embrace their new freedom. Finally, they can decide whom they want to spend time with. Sometimes that leads to isolation. For some, withdrawal has become a habit while others want to avoid to be pressured again.

If that applies to you make sure you notice it. You are a grown up now. You decide how you want to live and how often you want to go out. Just make a conscious decision and do not allow negative experience or fear taking control of the way you live your life.

👉 Ask yourself, do I live like I want to? Would I want more or less excitement and people in my life? Which experience might block me from living the life that I truly want to live?

4. Have faith in others


Introverts often feel like nobody understands them. For instance, when they RSVP with "no" just because they want to think about it and not decide right away. Experience has taught them that every other reply leads to discussions.

You could still give others the chance that they might understand you. Without a big fuss. Just being yourself. Without explaining yourself or apologizing for who you are.

If you feel that this is difficult for you. Contact me and we can discuss if my EsteemedMe program is right for you.

👉 Give others the chance to accept you for who you are. That implies that you have to be yourself. Without fuss, explanations or apologies.

5. Leave your comfort zone


Often in life, it feels like everything happens at the same time. One appointment after the other and a stressful week at work followed by a workshop on the weekend. And on Sunday, it's your grandma's birthday.

You could cancel the workshop or not attend the birthday party. But maybe it will be great to hang out with your family again?

It is often very rewarding to push your own limits. You can make the conscious decision that even though it will cost your last bits of energy you attend all of the aforementioned.

👉 Confide in yourself and push your limits from time to time. Just make sure that you recharge your battery as soon as possible.

6. Appreciate who you are


Introverted people often feel exotic or even alien. That is not surprising because a there are more extroverted people and because they are "louder" they are highly visible.

There is nothing wrong with being exotic or different. We're all "different" if we are authentic. The problem is that for many people "different" has a negative connotation. Our society has conditioned us to comply. "What are people going to say?"  Even if we are not aware of it this way of thinking is still an us.

Society has changed. We can risk being different. It's okay. We can admit that we are not party people and that we want to spend our lunch break alone.

👉 Understand that there is nothing wrong with being yourself. Different is just different. Authenticity cannot be trained. Self-esteem can. Contact me if you need a hand. 

7. Accept incomprehension


It will happen to you all over and over again that you come across insensitive people. Your boss might not understand that you would rather go home instead of an after work party or your friend doesn't understand why you wouldn't want to go to the concert with him or her.

Develop strategies to handle reactions like this. Without blaming yourself for who you are.

👉 Create a strategy of how you will handle incomprehension and negative feedback. We must learn to accept that not everyone will like everything we say or do all the time. And that is okay. A high level of emotional intelligence is extremely helpful for learning to deal with rejection or criticism.

8. Don't get lost in details


Do you want to be heard in meetings? Do you want others to understand what you have to add to a discussion?

Mind the difference. Introverted people appreciate complexity. They have a good sense for details. It's one of their strengths.

Extroverted people sometimes can be irritated by complexity. They focus on the big picture and might lose interest or focus if you don't get to the point fast.

👉 When communicating with extroverted people focus on what matters. Keep the big picture in mind. Communication skills is yet another advantage of people with a high EQ

What next?


Did you discover a few tips that can be helpful to you?

You could pick one, two or three tips and implement them into your daily life in the next days. Some tips might require you to do soul-searching first. But if you are an introvert, this will not be too hard on you (;

And if you read this article as an extrovert you have gained a better understanding why your introverted friend or coworker sometimes seems a bit off.

I have more tips to share but this article is already pretty long. If you would like to see part two - just drop me a line.

Additional resources