There are going to be people in your life who are going to challenge you. As an attorney, I can fully buy into the idea of toxic work environments and all the challenges that go along with them. But today, I want to back up the conversation one step and examine what it means for someone or some place to be “toxic”? What I have found is that this idea of “toxicity” is filled with more drama than fact.
Typically, when we identify something or someone as toxic, we are the only ones who show up ugly and toxic.
I focus my coaching on recognizing our own innate power to create our reality and our own happiness. My clients will tell you that I have helped them see the role they are playing in their own struggles. However, as a reiki master, I can also agree that our lives are filled with energy–our energy and the energy of those around us. When we characterize an environment or a person as “toxic” there is so much work to be done on that conclusion. Through coaching, I help my clients more closely examine that conclusion and challenge it BUT we are not doing that today.
Today, I want to allow space for this concept of toxic people and toxic environments. I want to go along with the idea that people and things can be toxic and ask:
When we characterize a person or an environment as toxic, what is the impact that has on YOU?
Our brains are not capable of processing all the information at our disposal in every moment. Rather, we give our brains direction and focus with our thoughts. We tell our brains where to focus its energy and our brain will buzz along compiling evidence to support that thought-directive. Evidence from both our past and present experience.
This is critical awareness because when we believe that someone or something is toxic, we become the victim of our own confirmation bias. Our brain is only going to gather data to support that directive and it is going to disregard data to the contrary. We essentially put on information blinders.
We all like to believe that we are open-minded and willing to see things from someone else’s point of view. But it is not possible to be open-minded when we are running around with these types of beliefs in our minds. It is not possible for us to see the opposing evidence when we allow ourselves to draw these types of conclusions!
A belief, any belief, will inevitably overlook contradictory facts and opposing evidence.
Furthermore, when we characterize those around us as toxic, this can be a subconscious green light to show up like a total asshole. Our negative characterization of the other person will impact how we show up and, let’s be honest, it’s not often our best. We see these toxic people as not worth the energy to be polite or kind to: we give ourselves a pass to show up as so much less than our best.
This robs us of the opportunity to grow. “Toxic” people are your perfect opportunity to show up as your best self. You don’t have to be affected by what they say or do. Practice disconnecting your emotions and thoughts from their actions. Practice allowing other people to be whomever they want to be — it only has to affect you if you let it. It only affects you if you allow their actions to shift your own energy.
It’s easy to label people or circumstances as toxic. The hard work comes from honing our ability to show up as the best version of ourselves. There will always be difficult people — practice dealing with them and stop practicing running away from them.
When you find yourself challenged with a “difficult” person or situation, be cautious not to place a negative label on it. That label will cloud your judgment and prevent you from being the open-minded person you strive to be. You will be blinded by your own confirmation bias and you inhibit your ability to show up as the best version of yourself.
So what do you do when you find yourself pulling your hair out and frustrated about a person or situation? Get curious. Stop investing and participating in the drama and become an observer. Watch the scenario as if it were a movie — a movie staring you and your boss the chauvinist! Whatever it takes, make efforts to disconnect from the drama and your judgments. Examine the experience from outside of yourself. Ask yourself what the situation has to teach you. Get curious about why people act the way that they do and try to foster some compassion. Be open to seeing the good in the other person — what might they be struggling with?
It’s hard work but no one ever said that being the best version of yourself would be easy. Look around at the people in your life you have labeled negatively and start using them as your greatest teachers. How much better would your life be if you could transform those relationships? Get started transforming those relationships today.
“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.”― Mahatma Gandhi