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Tuesday, June 13, 2017


(Psychology Today) The surest way to shield yourself from toxic behavior is to severely limit or cut off entirely contact with people who regularly spew it. But that is hardly ever possible or practical. Better to arm yourself with a few basic skills. They all fall squarely in the zone of self-management:

Control your exposure

  • The single most important thing you can do is minimize contact. If you work near a toxic person, ask for a rearrangement of desks. Never sit next to a toxic person. It's catching, says Dylan Minor of the Kellogg School of Management. 
  • If you work on a team with a toxic person, ask for reassignment to another project. If that's not possible, ask your boss to consider having the toxic teammate work more often from home, or to at least require fewer group meetings. 
  • If your boss is the toxic person, limit the time you spend with him or her and identify others in your organization who can offer an ear. If nothing at all can be done, start looking for another job. 
  • If you have hiring power, learn how to question candidate for signs of emotional competence and lay out norms for behavior at the beginning, says Georgetown's Christine Porath. 
  • If the toxic person is your spouse, or an ex-spouse with whom you share children you likely need the help of a mental health professional for navigating the relationship, says psychologist Rhonda Freeman. 

Manage your reactivity

Here's where you have the most leverage. Most essentially, says Yale's Robin Stern, set firm boundaries. Assertively say no to demands that feel unreasonable without justifying yourself. Have on hand a few good mantras for the moment a toxic individual blames or bullies you: "I'm not going to continue this conversation if you're calling me names," or "I'm happy to discuss this with you when you're calm." Maintain clarity about toxic encounters by taking notes about how you felt before, during, and after any such interaction, as well as what was said and done by all, Stern advices. Doing so can help you make a case for managerial intervention. Strengthen ties with friends and others you trust. Especially if the toxic person is a spouse, relationships with people who treat you with respect can buffer you from stress and help balance your perspective. Having your point of view validated can also boost your self-esteem and counteract isolation.

Don't explain

Avoid even trying to explain yourself; by definition a toxic person is one who refuses to hear your perspective. Attempts will only frustrate you. Offer no explanation, no matter how much ranting and raving the other does.

Immunize yourself

Spot those with toxic potential and avoid them before there are any outbursts. Recognize the personality traits that feed toxicity. The drama queens. Those who are suspicious or notably aggressive. And those who consistently display little regard for the feelings of others.

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