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Toxic People

Question:

I’m not sure this an area you deal with, but I have a question regarding “toxic people”. I have a VERY HARD time dealing with toxic personalities to the point that it makes me physically ill. I have left several jobs (that I liked) just because of people who are toxic, jealous of me (for reasons I don’t understand), highly insecure people who only feel better if they make others feel worse, “catty” women. My question is what is the best way to deal with these kinds of people? I get angry because I’m not as mean as them and I have a tendancy to try to avoid them, avoid interacting with because I’m not comfortable with them — in return, they become even worse. I stay away (or avoid frequently as possible if they are at my work place) and this seems to only make things worse. They are ruining my life and I’m tired of having to leave jobs, etc just because of them. It also makes me mad because they are getting the results they want when they are the ones who are the problem (especially women who are jealous, meanspirted, catty, petty, gossipy and want you to join and be like them — which I can’t because it’s not me). HELP. I need to stop letting this ruin my life and find an effective way to deal with it instead of running away all the time. PLEASE HELP. Thank you.

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Answer:

First of all – running away isn’t so bad. When you are being attacked it is sometimes your best option. If you are in the midst of being attacked and you want to get away from that person to regroup yourself and refrain from losing control, running away seems like a perfectly acceptable thing to do. The idea is that you are in it for the long term and accept that you won’t win all battles. The army that retreats lives to fight another day. My thinking here is that you might want to look into learning more about Assertiveness skills. Most people don’t understand what the word Assertiveness really means. We know all about being passive (letting the catty women walk all over you and not saying anything). We also know all about being aggressive and yelling at or in some way harming or belittling persons who have attacked us. This is what the catty women seem to be doing to you. What is assertiveness? Draw a line in your mind. You are on one side of that line and a catty woman is on the other. That line is a border between you and the catty woman. Your stuff in on your side of the line and hers is on her side. When a catty woman comes after you she crosses over that line and tries to harm your stuff. Based on what you are saying you understand yourself to have two options: 1) to passively allow the catty woman to rip you up, or 2) to attack the woman back (cross over the line and rip up her stuff). You don’t like option 2 at all (it’s not you), and option 1 hurts you too much. There is a third option you may not have considered and that is to learn how to be assertive. When you are assertive you stand guard at the boundary line between you and the catty woman. You learn skills that help you to keep the catty woman from invading you. But – you don’t attack her back either. Learning to become assertive is a great skill to have and I think will help you to cope better with what you are experiencing. The best way to learn about assertiveness is to work with a therapist (usually a psychologist) who can teach you assertiveness skills). You can also read one of the many books on the subject. An oldie but goody is called “Your Perfect Right” by Robert E. Alberti and Michael L. Emmons. You can purchase this book or others like it (search under the word “assertiveness”)at an online bookstore if you wanted to. Good Luck! Dr. Dombeck

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