Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eliminate Toxic People from Your Life

In my desire to have more serenity in my life I am writing about toxic people who bring us down.  You know the ones – they zap our energy, demand too much, are easily offended, and bother the heck out of us. Sometimes we have no choice about having them in our lives because they may be family members. But if they are clients, acquaintances, or friends, we can decide not to tolerate their bad attitudes and eliminate them from our lives if we want to.

In the alternative we can communicate with toxic people and let them know our boundaries in a non-threatening way.  When we do this we are standing up for ourselves and placing value on our serenity and happiness.

So let me ask you: Who do you have in your life that is a toxic person? Can you communicate your boundaries or decide to eliminate their presence in order to have more peace and serenity in your life?

Part of a successful entrepreneur's education is learning how to maintain a positive attitude in the face of poor economic news, a slowdown in revenue, and a culture of negativity.  But an often overlooked aspect of business success is learning to eliminate toxic people from your life.

As part of my role at Toastmasters, I often mentor new members to help them assimilate into the group and learn beneficial tips about how to speak in public with confidence – I have performed this role with great success in the past.  A new member was assigned to me last year whom I recognized as a toxic person. As such, I was still unprepared for the negative attitude in her vocabulary, emails, and voicemails.

I offered to meet this new member for coffee – please understand - I have the kind of business where I work with clients via phone, in most cases. I rarely have to leave my office. So when I offered to meet at a location halfway between my office and her home I expected her to jump on the offer. However, that wasn't good enough. She wanted me to meet her at a time that was convenient for her at a location that was close to her home. None of this was convenient to me so the meeting was postponed.

When I noticed that she was giving her first speech (icebreaker) I emailed her:
Hi - ,
Looks like you are giving your icebreaker on Thursday.
Please let me know if you’d like to talk by phone!
Warmly, Suzanne
She asked if I could meet her before the meeting on the day that she was giving her speech. Since I had a client meeting scheduled I emailed her that I could not swing it.

Here's her response:
OK, so as a mentor, what could you help me with on the phone in the next day or so? Perhaps I was too quick to ask you to be one for me, since you truly do seem to be too busy. I went to a very grueling seminar this past weekend and realized that my # 1 reason for being there was to overcome the strange awareness that for most practical aspects of external life I am quite invisible. Being overlooked for doing my speech on the day originally scheduled didn't help alter that awareness. And, although you said you thought my speech was good, I really have no idea how to make it better, esp. since actually LOOKING at people when I give it will be an overwhelming challenge. Perhaps you could offer some just general suggestions.
(Notice the victim attitude and blame mentality).

My response:
I don’t think your response is appropriate and I decline to be your mentor.

None of us needs to be associated with pessimistic, demanding people who feel they are victimized and voice their negativity at any given opportunity. If you have family members or clients who are negative you must learn to create boundaries that protect you from their toxicity. 

Don't put up with toxic people!

Suzanne Muusers


Andrew Leigh said...

Wise words and a really good example of how to recognize the signs of toxicity in a new acquaintance.

Too often people think it's always good to 'go the extra mile' regardless of the cost to themselves. You can bet that the person you talk about will latch on to someone else - who will probably wonder why they have become such a toxic people magnet.

Anonymous said...

This was a very helpful example to me! Thank you so much for sharing. I do try to go the extra mile and take on clients who are difficult psychologically. Something about my upbringing leads me to "try harder" and to overrule my intuition. The more I experience dealing with the fallout of that choice, the more I learn to trust myself. Not everyone is looking to make the world better, and that is hard to remember sometimes.