The Mailman's Survival Guide
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This week, I decided to try something a bit different. So, instead of writing a blog, I have decided to put up the transcript for episode 32. This is a test of sorts to decide if posting transcripts will be helpful in reaching more people. I hope you enjoy the transcript, and leave a reply in the comments section .
Whether its a friend, family member, neighbor or co-worker, We've all had people in our lives that we knew were toxic for us, and sometimes we can unknowingly be the toxic one. So, what are the signs we need to look for to determine if someone is bad for us?
A huge indicator that someone is a toxic person is if they are overly controlling. I'm not talking about someone who likes things neat and clean, but someone who is manipulative. Someone who always seems to be pulling your strings to make you do what they want you too. Whether that's making plans for you and cancelling last minute, or forcing you to do things you don't want by making you feel guilty, its all the same.
Another way to identify a toxic force in your life is by noticing jealousy. These people are jealous of everyone else in your life, whether it be family or friends. Also, they are jealous of your accomplishments, so they will take actions to trivialize them. Its almost a passive aggressive act to bring you down. Have you ever gotten recognized for something and then had someone say, well, everyone gets that....yup, toxic person.
Third, The person frequently lies. It can be big lies or small lies, it doesn't matter. I have a cousin that my parents raised. Growing up, we treated him like, and told everyone, that he was our brother. He was a pathological liar, and a good one. And, over the years, my BS detector became pretty keen, and I can usually tell when I am being lied to. The thing is, just like my cousin, when a toxic person gets caught in a lie, their defense mechanism is to shift the blame to another.
This leads to my next sign, A toxic person always plays the victim. Although these people may be convincing in this role, and you may feel sympathy for them, if someone constantly claims they are the worst affected, and have no culpability for what's occurring in their life, they are not good for you.
Now, another big signal that a person is toxic, is that They Always Come First. These people always feel as though their time is more valuable then yours no matter what. These are people who will ask you for help, but never be willing to return the favor.
The last few signs I am going to lump together because I think one feeds on the other. Toxic people are negative and judgemental, and feel they are always right. Most of the time these people feel as though they are the smartest person in the room, and if something goes wrong they are quick to point a finger and instead of trying to solve the problem, they just complain. Now admittedly, there are times when I am altogether negative in situations, especially if I really didn't want to be in that situation, and thats something that I need to personally work on.
So, what kind of effect can these people have on our lives?
The first one is that we tend to talk about these people incessantly, whether its to our spouse or friends, they dominate the discussion and that gives them power over us. When I worked at the local post office where I live, I had a boss who was incredibly toxic for me. I would complain about her to my wife, and anyone else who would listen, but if I had learned to leave those feelings at work, it would have taken away her control.
The second is, you lose your temper frequently. Years ago, I had a co-worker that I would carpool to work with. From the time I piccked her up until the moment we got to work, all she talked about was the problems at work. By the time we got there, I was so worked up that I was ready to pop, and the least little issue would cause my temper to flare. And...eventually I just told her that we couldn't carpool any more because it wasn't good for my emotional health.
Third, These people can cause your self esteem to diminish. Its like the old saying goes, surround yourself with positive people, and positive things will happen, its the same with toxic people. If they are in your life and dominating your thoughts and conversation, only negative things will come from it.
Now,another negative effect they can have is causing you to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. It could be drugs, alcohol, food, or any other vice that we may over indulge in just to try and forget this person, or break their control for just a moment. I'm more than guilty of this one. Often, I have turned to comfort food. I will eat until I am sick to my stomach at times, and its because its something I can control, and I think its the same for a lot of people.
Lastly, Toxic people can affect your relationships. By causing you to lose your temper, or lash out at your children or spouse because you came home in a bad mood, it has a negative impact, and can tear some relationships apart.
So, the big question is, how do we deal with these people.
Well,one way is to set boundaries, You decide when and where you will deal with a toxic person. Often, people with toxic personalities become predictable in their actions, so you can control and limit your interaction with them. You have to make the conscious decision to set these boundaries and stick to them
Another way is to pick and choose your battles. Often times, these people are just looking to cause chaos and disrupt your life, don't be sucked in to every argument or bit of drama they try to pull you into. Know when to take a stand and when to just shake your head and dismiss them.
That leads to my next solution. Rise above them. its often easy to get drawn into an abyss with these people, but don't be willing to play their game. Its often more difficult to take the high road, but... in the end, you will be better for it.
Now, another way to eliminate a toxic person's effect is to focus on solutions, not problems. When toxic people come to you and try to bring you down by only discussing problems, ask them what the solution is to their issues. It will either cause them to quiet down and go somewhere else or focus on coming up with solutions, which inherently turns the conversation into something more positive.
Lastly, if all else fails, sometimes the only solution is to cut them completely out of our lives. Its a harsh choice, and one I would never make lightly. If its someone you love, it can be even more difficult, but sometimes we have to say, I still love you, but I have to love you from a distance until you can change your ways.
Big D is a writer and host of The Mailman's Survival Guide Podcast. His goal is to raise awareness for the mental health community through writing, pod casting, and public speaking.