These people were not created unreasonable or unwell, however, they have taken on the challenges of life and interpreted it to mean that they are unworthy of good, they lack self-esteem and therefore feels that everything that others do is a personal attack on them. They suffer from what I call a dis-ease mind.
As a result, they are negative, defensive and see the world and everyone around them from that negative perspective. They long to be held by the world but yet they take offence as the world for trying to do what they ask. They take no responsibility for their mistakes and can find a way to lay blame at your feet for the mere fact that they woke up today and drew breath.
If it sounds like I have personal experience, you are correct. I have spent most of my life with a relative who is the epitome of toxic. This very well may have been the reason why I choose to become a conflict analyst, who has spent over two decades helping others to escape this very scenario in their workplaces. Alas, this blog is not for my ranting. My intent is to let you know that I understand on a personal level and is not just an expert. I also want to share some of the tactics I have come up with and have taught my clients to deal with such situations at work and personally.
One of the strategies I use is the Healthy Boundaries course that I teach. In this course, I teach you to identify the kind of relationship you ideally can have with this person. Not necessarily what you desire but what is realistically possible. First I implore you to not trying to “fix” the other person, as that is and will always be beyond any us. These folks will only change when their behaviour is no longer serving them.
Once you have decided the kind of relationship you want to have with them, proceed with caution. Remember their job is to convince you that their way of seeing the world is the best and that eagerly try to convert you.
They are passionate advocates for their perspectives. Your job, however, should be to keep yourself from adopting their world view, they can be very cunning.
They celebrate the bad things that happen in their lives and take pleasure in reporting those as their flag to show that the world is just as they had imagined (they attract what they desire).
Your job is to share the great things that are happening in your life and remind them they could have similar experiences if they adopt a different world view (don’t worry, they won’t believe you).
Another strategy is to ensure that you guard your boundaries and refrain from discussing certain topics with them. Keep yourself on the alert because they may pretend to be normal for a short time only to revert back to their “all is bad in the world mantra”.
Your job is to guard your mind and emotions against the toxicity they exude. You can get my healthy boundaries checklist here if you want to learn more about dealing with these toxic people.
Joyce Odidison is a Conflict Analyst, Coach, and founder of Interpersonal Wellness Services Inc. & Coaching Institute. She consults, teaches and coaches with mid-career professionals and organizations to improve performance within the workplace. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at: 1-877-999-9591.