By Neil Patrick
Many self-help books and coaches talk about the dangers of toxic people. We should distance ourselves from them they say. Better still remove them from our lives. I'm not so sure about this.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Just how would you go about removing a person from your life I wonder? Like your boss, or a colleague or a family member? Short of committing illegal acts, it all seems a bit tricky to me.
There's a much more realistic alternative option I think. We all have some of these toxins within ourselves. And it’s a much more practical proposition to change ourselves than attempting to change or remove those around us.
So not only should we be alert to toxic character traits in others, we should also try to purify our own system.
I am not here to preach or claim I am above criticism. I can count at least two or three traces of these toxins within myself. I don’t quite need a Betty Ford Clinic-style detox I hope, but relentless alertness to them and removing them is a sure way to purify ourselves I think.
And just as toxins in others make them destructive and debilitating to be around, toxins within ourselves don’t just erode our own strengths, they drive a wedge between ourselves and those we want to have productive and happy relationships with.
Here're my top nine poisons and how to detox from them.
Controlling people think they know everything and the best way to do anything. They’ll never give anyone else a chance to contradict them, express a conflicting idea or influence their opinions. Learn to value and listen to the opinions of others. Don’t try to find fault in their views, but seek to find ways to improve their ideas.
Confidence and arrogance are totally different things. Confidence inspires; arrogance intimidates. Arrogant people always think they know best and feel superior to others. Remember to celebrate and show more enthusiasm for the success of others than your own.
Negatively charged people see themselves as perpetual victims. Victims look at their own situations and mistakes and seek to find others to blame, from their boss to their staff or their customers. Take ownership of your own life and change to adapt to the world around you. Don’t expect the world to change to suit you.
Those infected with jealousy don’t feel pleasure when good things happen to you. They can't appreciate it when others achieve success or move forward; they feel that if anything good is going to happen, they deserve it more than you. The success of those around you should be just as important to you as it is to them. Help others succeed as a matter of course. Sure, not everyone will reciprocate, but which is better a whole heap of goodwill, or a whole heap of indifference?
Liars are impossible to rely on. You can never know what to believe. You can't trust their promises or their statements. They will lie to you about others, and they will lie to others about you. Likewise we should tell the truth, always. Even if it’s bad news, sharing it now, is better than hoping it will disappear and be forgotten. It won’t.
Some people are always suspicious of everything and everybody. Negativity destroys relationships, and spending time with negative people makes you feel the world is a much worse place than it actually is. My mantra is this: trust everyone and disappointment is a risk. Trust no-one and disappointment is guaranteed.
Consumer culture relentlessly nags us to want more, achieve more and possess more. Sure, desire and ambition can be good things. But it turns toxic when people want everything for themselves and when possession, rather than doing or being, becomes the focus of their life. Aspire to success not as a way to have more for yourself, but as a way to be able to give more back to others.
Making a judgment and being judgmental are not the same thing at all. Judgments are objective and based on discernment, while being judgmental is just about criticism. Judgmental people are poor listeners and communicators and always too quick to jump to conclusions. Seek to understand before you seek to judge. Then consider how something can be made better.
Gossips see themselves as being interesting because they share fascinating information about other people. And the more sensational this is the better. They do it because they secretly believe that their own lives are less interesting or deserve more privacy than those of others. They make little distinction between speculation and fact. We all talk about others – that’s natural. But if we bad-mouth someone, we can fully expect that those who hear this criticism will suspect that we will do the same to them.
So personally, I’m not about to remove anyone from my life. I’d much rather try and make others’ lives better by forever striving to become a better person myself. It'll keep me out of jail at least.
Any thoughts on what I should add to round this up to make a top 10?