Personal Leadership 101: Avoid Toxic Personalities

Personal Leadership 101: Avoid Toxic Personalities (Present Company Included)

Us & Them

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, and notice that he (or she) starts to draw a line between the two of you and the rest of the world? He starts finding fault in all these other people that you both know, and builds a case about how the two of you are different. He talks about how you’re not like “Them.” I call this an “Us & Them” conversation (it’s a Pink Floyd reference too). If someone is trying to drag you into an “Us & Them” conversation, beware that it’s only a matter of time until you will be a part of “Them” as well. When I find myself in this situation, I try to be “Them” right away.

Ever notice how these people know how to push your buttons? They know how to activate you as if they were working you with controls. They can get you to respond and react just like they want you to.

Depending on the day of the week, this person can be us too.

The Pizza Oven of Life

People are struggling. They are hurt. They are up against the world, and up against huge disappointments in life. They have been wronged. They have been abused. Injustice has been done to them. And the hard part, the only way, is to walk through that hurt – like walking through a room-sized pizza oven. This is h-a-r-d. You need h-e-l-p.

But many times people (myself included) think we can “hack” this. We think we can engineer a shortcut to circumvent this walk through fire. And we can’t don’t it alone. We feed off of other people, not unlike the human crops in the Matrix, to get the energy we need to keep on this lifestyle.

This behavior poisons our lives, our families, our communities, and our workplaces.

There was a time in my life when I finally reached the conclusion to disassociate with toxic people. I have some old, dear friends who are toxic personalities. And sometimes I’ll run into them on the street or at an event. I experience a deep longing for their friendship. But whenever we start talking, I get an icky feeling. It’s as if our conversation is being used by them as a platform to air opinions that they themselves know are wrong. So in essence, they’re just looking for some validation of their wrong opinions: did I mention the word toxic?

Are you a toxic personality? A personal leadership test.

When there is a toxic person in your life, it usually gets found out in one of two ways:

  1. Someone makes contact with you and shows signs of being a toxic personality (ahem, Twitter).
  2. You discover that an existing friend is a toxic personality (ahem, Facebook).

The first instance is easier to handle, because you can be polite and avoid them. But in the second instance, we have to face our friends – they can often be old friends – and relate to them differently. Putting boundaries and the like.

But there is a third instance of discovering a toxic personality. This happens when you discover that your own behavior is toxic (ahem, LinkedIn – that one’s a bit of a stretch, but it can apply).

Ah yes, now you are the villain in your own story. Ever notice that people get kinda weirded out when they are around you? Shuffling their feet, looking down, and the like? Are you not getting invited to social events – or even to meetings in your own workplace?

Would you like to check if you qualify as a toxic personality?

Have you publicly (privately is not much better) resorted to:

  • profanity
  • raising your voice (for any reason other than volume in a loud environment)
  • throwing things
  • pulling your hair
  • hitting yourself or other objects (or people)
  • whining out loud and in the open
  • dramatic expressions of desperation

And also:

  • Have you been pursuing an “Us & Them” agenda with people?
  • Have you been using social media to stir people up to grant you opportunities that are a distraction to the hard work set before you? (ouch)

Congratulations, if you can answer yes to any of these, then you are or at some time have been a toxic personality – like me. Well, the good news is that there is hope for us.

And here’s my call to action: Shake off this behavior, and do not tolerate it in others.

Because you can’t fix them, only God can – best to leave Him to it.

* Image courtesy of Wikipedia.