5 Types of Toxic People that Happy People Avoid
“Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.” ~George Carlin
It’s getting harder to stay positive in a cynical world, wouldn’t you agree?
My career path often took me to “the dark side,” a term my creative friends use for the male-dominated fields I often stumbled into. Often, with these companies, my success was dependent on conducting myself with a great deal of stoicism and skepticism. They were a work culture in which sarcasm and snark were elevated to an art form.
Being perceived as a Pollyanna, an innocent, was seen as a sign of weakness. Too touchy-feely. And certainly not someone to be taken seriously as a leader.
One of the episodes of HBO’s Silicon Valley perfectly demonstrated this point. After having obtained funding for his startup, Richard is suddenly thrust into a leadership role and has to make a tough call regarding the fate of his close friend. He goes to Erlich. The advice he receives is, be an asshole.
In order to command respect and lead people, a number of today’s leaders hold the belief that strength comes from appearing tough. Then they become completely hardened.
The harden cynics, as George Carlin points out, are disappointed idealists.
Somewhere along the lines of being an asshole and a doormat, I believe there is a happy middle.
Choosing to remain positive does not make you unrealistic. It is actually being pragmatic.
Scientific studies on the benefits of what a positive attitude has on your physical health are too numerous to list here. This infographic offers up a good snapshot: You heal faster. You have less risk of heart diseases. You live longer.
We know, too, that a healthy mindset is required for those character-defining moments. A serious illness, the loss of a loved one, divorce, and losing your job - these major setbacks require us to pull out all the stops. They forced us to dig deep in the reservoir of our self-compassion, strength and determination. If you have been a reader and subscriber of TAOLOL, you learned a few of my own character-defining moments: homelessness, war and belonging.
But let’s not forget the everyday happiness destroyers – toxic people we come into contact with on a daily basis. While they may not bring us to our knees, the frequency of contact with them, if left unchecked, can cause a great deal of harm. Here are five to watch out for. Proceed with care.
PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE TART
How to Spot Them: The use of the term tart here does not imply someone’s sex, but a degree of toxicity of the person. A run-in with a tart is like tasting a lemon. Not too bitter but it still leaves a sour taste. Tarts are generally likeable but they don’t like to be bested by anyone. This may be that they are deeply insecure.
For example, when you show up looking smoking hot for a night on the town, you’ll hear them say things like:
“You look pretty, but are those shoes really comfortable?”
“Just lookin’ out for you ‘bro, but isn’t that shirt a size too small?” (while eyeing your impressive biceps in suspicion).
- Do laugh it off. “No, I’m comfortable. Thanks for your concern.”
- Don’t taunt them. “Jealous much?”
MURPHY’S BRIDE (GROOM)
How to Spot Them: A close kin of the Chronic Complainer, this person seems to court Murphy’s Law. Their life runs like a bad sitcom. Their hamster died the night before, and on their way to work, they were rear-ended by another car, got into a heated argument with the driver, and came into work with a black eye. When you see them, it’s easy to spot the hunched shoulders, the bowed head.
- This person genuinely deserves our compassion and understanding. Saying, “I’m sorry you are having a rough day,” goes a long way.
- Offer a sympathetic ear but set limits. They will tax your energy and spirit.
- Keep a bit of distance, especially if you’re someone who absorbs up other people’s energy like a Bounty paper towel.
How to Spot Them: Often this person is in your inner circle, and is either a close friend or a family member. This type believes they know you better than you know yourself. But their definition of you is limiting. They will often says things like:
“You went bungee jumping? But you’re afraid of heights! That doesn’t sound like something you would do.”
- Do set them straight but leave the emotions out. If they detect any trace of defensiveness, it would only serve to confirm their misguided belief.
- Keep in mind, it’s them and not you. Some people will persist on holding to their perception of you because it makes them feel either superior or safer to keep you there.
THE CHRONIC COMPLAINER
How to Spot Them: Their brows are often furrowed, lips drawn in grim lines. They roll their eyes a lot. When talking to someone, you often see them standing with hands on their hips, feet firmly planted for a solid hour of gripe fest.
- Never utter these phrases in their presence, lest you want to be branded their mortal enemy: “Cheer up!” “Let’s take a look at the bright side.” “Things happen for a reason.”
- Don’t let them corner you. Cut the conversation short. They are energy vampires.
- Don’t let them draw you in. While you may enjoy the temporary sense of solidarity, know that misery loves company. They will seek you out again and again.
How to Spot Them: You won’t have any trouble recognizing this type because they are always in your face. Growling, gnashing of teeth and yelling are their trademarks.
But beware of the Ninja Bully. They are more stealth and deadly. They will appear as allies but won’t blink once when they stab you in the back. They often have an overly bright smile and will abruptly stop in the middle of their conversation when you approach.
- Don’t get into a word fight with them. They will push all your buttons and bring you to their level, the gutters.
- Stand your ground. If their language turns abusive, tell them calmly that their behavior is unacceptable.
- Don’t let them see that they have ruffled your feathers. This is very gratifying to them.
- Earning your trust should be a hard-earned prize. Don’t confide in anyone who hasn’t’ earn it.
Inspire others. How have you personally handled these types of toxic people in your own life?