By Dr. Paula Fellingham
Let’s talk about “human porcupines” – the toxic personalities in our lives who challenge us on many fronts. Some are co-workers; some are relatives. How do you deal with these folks?
First, let’s define their common characteristics. They:
- Are critical, judgmental
- Have high, unrealistic expectations; perfectionists
- Manipulate others by guilt, ridicule
- Are easily offended
- Send the message to others that, “I am unhappy. If you would do this ‘certain thing’ or behave in this ‘certain way’ then I won’t be unhappy.”
How do you unplug the power of the difficult-to-love people in your life? Three things you can do:
- Let go of the expectation to please them. It isn’t possible to change toxic people, they can only change themselves. Your primary goal should be to develop a healthy self-concept and become your best self. Focus on that – not on the Toxic One.
- Assert your right to be treated with respect. Say: “I won’t tolerate disrespect. If you can talk to me kindly, I’ll listen. Otherwise, write down your concerns and I’ll read them…or we’ll wait until you’re in control. Until then I’m leaving the room…I’ll return when I’m ready.”
It is very important to excuse yourself the moment the behavior becomes unacceptable to you. This is one way you can teach toxic people that you will not be controlled or manipulated.
- Decide what is “enough” to give to the relationship…and explain it clearly. This includes how much time, money, and energy you’re willing to give. It won’t be enough for the toxic person, but it doesn’t matter. It’ll be enough for you. Living with your definition of “enough” is a key to coping with the unreasonable demands of toxic people.