Toxic AvengerToxic people, they live among us. I’m no saint, trust me, I have been that toxic friend. Maybe on occasion I still am to some of my fellows. Let’s face it, it’s fun and easy to be negative and gossip sometimes. Especially when discussing things your ultimately powerless over (which is basically everything in life). Do you have a toxic boss or co-worker? Awareness is the first step, open communication is the second step. Finding a new job should be the last resort.

Nobody wants to put up with abuse, but you want to try to give it all you have first. Don’t go quit your job without finding a new one first! What if your family is toxic to you? Do you excommunicate them from your life? I should hope not! Family can be tricky. We don’t get to choose them, they’re these humans we’re stuck with and forced to love. It’s weird if you think about it. It’s more wonderful then weird. The instant bond you have with family is like no other. Remember that. No one knows your situation better than you.

Punching Bag

Maybe professional help is an option to assess your situation. Research on the Internet? Perhaps. The point here is simple, just identify toxic people in your life and make a choice to let them bother you. I know it’s easier said than done. I still have a few toxic people in my life I choose to keep around for one reason or another. I try my best to learn lessons from their antics. I suggest you do the same. The more positive you can be, the less toxic people will want to be around you.

Why am I writing about this? Glad you asked. Toxic people can kill creativity. They can also jumpstart it. I happen to think they cause more harm than good though. My only caution is to not mistake constructive criticism for toxicity. We creative types can be sensitive. I know, I know. If your best friend doesn’t get your latest poem or painting (and they happen to love all your other work), don’t go off and get a restraining order. Constructive criticism can be good for us. Check your ego at the door and accept the feedback. Look at this as an opportunity to tweak it so your greater audience can enjoy it more. Don’t use constructive criticism as a form of resistance  to your art!

I have found toxic people to be extremely consistent with their venomous feedback. Many are crafty enough to pepper in praise here and there (passive-aggressive), so their poison isn’t too obvious. This is where writing can come in handy. No need to get too crazy “documenting” each and every conversation. Here’s a simple assignment that may help you:

Assignment:

  1. Identify toxic people in your life (remember, these can be people you don’t even know, maybe a public figure you can’t seem to tune out or it can even be yourself).
  2. List how these relationships serve you.
  3. List how these relationships do NOT serve you.
  4. List three steps you plan to take action (healthy conversation, write a letter, end relationship, search for new job, etc.)

Hopefully this assignment can give you a bit of perspective. Many people think of crisis and “spinning a story” or burying a scandal when they think of PR. Sure, there is an element of that in this line of work. Awareness of a potential crisis, whether you’re a celebrity, brand or charitable campaign, is essential. Many times PR people (and lawyers) are paid to worry to think of the worst-case-scenario. If a crisis irrupts, honesty is the key. You want to sway perception versus outright lie to cover something up. What does this have to do with toxic people? Glad you asked. Toxic people can be your own personal crisis. Identification is the first step in dealing with it in a responsible and healthy way.

Awareness is key

Knowledge is power. You can practice the beautiful art of communication and tell your toxic buddy you don’t appreciate the negativity. See what happens. Maybe they’ll be shocked and embarrassed (yes, many toxics are oblivious to their own poison, shocking, I know). Perhaps you’ll get an entirely new friend out of this? You never know stranger things have happened. What if you learn YOU are the toxic person in your life? Well, reward yourself for identifying and accepting this ugly truth. Then make a plan to take positive action to end the negativity.   There are many online resources for ending negative thoughts and actions, just Google it. From my experience, the less toxic you are, the more room you have in your life for good things to happen. Try it.

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