Hello everybody, welcome to episode 88 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. I’m looking very forward to today’s episode. We’re going to be talking about toxic people and the exposition of them that has become regular practice on social media these days. The conversation might not go where you expect it to go, however. Let’s listen to today’s question…
QUESTION: “I don’t have a personal question so much as I’d like your thoughts on something, Greg. Finally, the world has started to expose toxic people for what they are! It is so nice to see more justice being served and watching those who mistreat others finally get punished every day. Yet still, there is a lot of work to be done! Do you think this is finally where the world starts to turn? Do you think this will be more than a trend?”
Let's Define this “Toxic Person” Movement
Good question. You’re right, the whole “toxic person” movement has taken off ten-fold and it seems like it’s highlighted every day.
I do, however, disagree with a lot of what you’re saying. I, personally, don’t think this “toxic people” thing is good and if anything, I can almost see it stopping progress. I think it can be more than a trend, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Here’s my take:
The term “toxic” has been thrown around more and more lately – obviously. And it has a new look. In 2020, it usually pertains not to chemical waste, but to people or environments (so, groups of people) that we deem as being bad for our personal growth. Fine.
In using the term “toxic”, like this, we tend to put ourselves up on our high horses whilst these other things are placed below us. We create a strong distinction between good and bad, right and wrong.
Associations with Toxic People
Toxic is what we don’t want to be, and can usually be summed up by qualities like: judgmental, unwilling to learn, unhealthy habits, too much drama.
Is that a fair description?
Sure, these are not qualities we necessarily want to surround ourselves with but this supreme avoidance of them is not necessarily something we want to make a lifestyle out of either.
On the one hand, avoiding that which we deem as “toxic” weakens our response to it. The less we expose ourselves to these types of undesirables, the stronger of a presence they have and the bigger a toll they take on us when they do muscle their way in. We become fearful of that which is toxic, because the less time we spend with it, the less we understand it.
How the Toxic Overpowers
This is how toxic anything truly overpowers us. In staying away from it, we become weak to it, and when we become weak, we adopt poor, defensive responses, sort of like the ones we associate with toxic people. How interesting is that?
What were those associations again? Judgmental, unwilling to learn, unhealthy habits, and too much drama – as a sample size? Sounds about right. We certainly pass judgment on those who we deem as toxic, as we deem them unfit to be apart of our lives. Their surface behavior is enough to draw us away from them, so we certainly aren’t willing to go beneath the surface and learn about them and the generation of that behavior.
We avoid them, which certainly seems like an unhealthy habit to me given that we just discussed the fragility and friction that comes with avoidance.
And as for the drama? Could this labeling not be any less polarizing than having a protagonist and an antagonist?
That’s too easy.
Toxic Responses to Toxic People
And where does it all stem from? It stems from threat. We create these toxic responses to toxic people, because we feel they threaten us and our purity. Toxic people are not safe for our development, so we unknowingly treat them the way we see them as treating the rest of the world – a treatment that we can’t bother to be around.
So it comes full circle. The biggest problem with toxic people is the fact that we label them as such. Yet even though we might take part in many of the same actions, we wouldn’t dare call ourselves toxic people.
My bet is that the people you find are toxic also wouldn’t define themselves that way, so it’s our word against theirs.
Something’s gotta give.
How to Break the Mold
To break the mold, then; to act in a way that is truly non-toxic, and confidently differentiate yourself from the people you feel are toxic, your actions must be the antitheses of theirs. You must seek to gain understanding and create compassion for them. You must find it in yourself to treat them right.
It doesn’t mean you have to force a friendship, but it does mean you can’t pretend to know their struggle and their triggers. I mean, how can you? Do you even know your own struggle and triggers – the triggers that are giving you a bad impression of these people in the first place? That’s really where this recovery starts.
Being mindful of why you treat them the way you do will at least give you a glimmer of why they might treat others the way that they do. No, you won’t understand their history exactly (though, you can always ask), but in getting to the bottom of your own detailed history, you start to understand that everyone has a detailed history which causes the manifestation of all the things we do, including the toxic behavior in question.
Be Fair with Yourself and Patient
In being fair with yourself and gaining patience with why you are the way that you are, you’re better equipped to apply that same fairness in patience when considering why others are the way that they are. And that’s massively important, because the main thing here is that people stick to their guns that much more when they’re being vilified.
This illusion a lot of us have about how we can change people by striking morality down upon them is so far from how things work 99% of the time. Very few people are willing enough to change their thinking patterns. It’s not worth betting on and it keeps you on Facebook way longer than you need to be.
Put yourself in this scenario. I’d bet that the vast majority of experiences that have moved you were experiences that made you feel listened to and supported rather than screamed at – especially as an adult. Our egos want to win, so the more our egos flare up like they do in arguments, the less of chance there is that we’ll budge. Same goes for everyone – even the quote unquote toxic.
Accountability and Actions
This process does require work, of course, but it will grant you a better ability to see things anew for what they are, and the chances are they barely have anything in common with the past experiences you’re associating them with – whether it’s a place, a time of year, a toxic person, or anything in between.
It’ll also help you stay accountable to your own actions, because let’s face it, a lot of the people who love telling others that they are toxic are taking no responsibility for behavior they might be engaging in that’s actually the culprit for making the relationship go south.
This was an important one, everybody. It’s just so crucial to remember that nothing we come in contact with has any value besides the value we choose to put on it – so our interpretations of things being problematic, are the biggest problems indeed.
So to the woman who sent this in, I respectfully agree to disagree with you. I’m glad you brought this to the table, though. It was good subject matter. And whether or not you agree with what I’ve said here, I hope you enjoyed the episode and at least took something from it.
You know the drill, everyone. You can email us your questions at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Yes, we usually do personal questions, but discussions like this are definitely not off the table, so whatever is on your mind is fine by me. I’m happy to hear from all of you, so don’t hesitate. That does it for this one, everyone, have a great day, and I look forward to talking to you next time.