Dumping Toxic People vs. Loser Management

Dumping all the so-called “toxic” people in your life is an excuse.

TOXIC PEOPLE_THE FINAL SOLUTION_Where Excuses Go to DieIn line for coffee the other day I overheard a woman urging her two companions to rid themselves of all the “toxic” people in their lives. It sounded like a New Year’s resolution conversation had collided with an annoying friend story, but who knows and who cares?

She was off and running, listing relatively intimate evidence that proved a certain friend was a “guilt trip assassin.” This person had to go, she reasoned. And the relief and freedom she’d soon be experiencing by taking action would no doubt be something her two companions would want to get in on. Of this she sounded sure, if vulnerably so.

Now, maybe it was the hand gestures, the loud-talking, or the sequined fedora, but this young lady sounded like a mosquito in my ear canal. Following a life-coach testimonial with gossip as your example of why Friend X should be dismissed only demonstrates your poor coping skills.

Get rid of the toxic people in your life? What, you have a list? And you’re gonna push the button on all of ’em? Have any idea how much demented resolve that takes? I’ve seen it done on prison yards, but never in coffee shops.

Besides, what monsters are we talking about? Psychic hostages? Emotional cripples? Abusers? Followers? Manipulators? Martyrs? Excluders? Stalkers? Downers? Demanders?

DRUMS OF TOXIC PALS_Where Excuses Go to DieAnd with what Rays of Final Solution Sunshine will you and your Authentic Self replace these lepers? Is there a magical land that only A-1 positive people come from?

Me, I’m suspicious of schmucks who push mantras made of across-the-board labels. People aren’t “toxic” — behaviors and choices are. Simply terminating contact with the so-called toxic people in our lives is an excuse for not examining our own actions to see whether or not we enabled, mishandled, or helped damage the relationship in the first place. (Oh, ‘scuse me: relationships, plural. I forgot that this a clean-up.)

It’s easy to declare a wish to be free from toxic people because it’s lazy, so lazy you probably won’t follow through on it. If you did, that would be representative of how you deal with other challenges, hence the aforementioned reference to poor coping skills.
 I can’t say I have any acquaintances or relationships that are so demonically frothy that I’d refer to them as toxic, but I’ll admit to knowing a “drainer” or three, people needing a cosigner, a sounding board, or a sucker to hear themselves verbally map out their good intentions. The dead giveaway to the lack of follow-through to come are the conditions (“…but if it doesn’t pay $17 an hour, I’ll stay here in bed).

WHEN I SAY I NEED TO GO_Where Excuses Go to DieSometimes the screen on my phone will catch my eye and read something like 39:17. Sheesh! 39 straight minutes of listening to someone bellyache about their miserable life.

CRYBABY_Where Excuses Go to DieSome people aren’t looking for solutions: they’d rather be acknowledged and know that they matter enough to listen to. Every now and then, that’s fine. My problem is that it’s been happening so often lately, I figure it’s a sign I should stop accommodating those in my life who cling to the familiar rather than rise to the occasion. We all know people who are sitting in a mud puddle, but rather than stand up and get out of it, decorate and stay put. I wouldn’t call these people poisonous or toxic — they’re far too normal and human for that.

And although some are repeat offenders, I’m to blame for continuing to listen to their bullshit. I guess it’s a desire to be of assistance; these are generally people I care for. But when I start to feel like the line between being helpful and being a chump is being crossed, I get insulted and angry.

Still, tolerating 39 minutes of sulking or self-justification isn’t their problem; it’s mine. And what does it say about me if I enable someone like that, only to turn around and label them toxic and push the button on the ol’ heave ho? Don’t they possess other traits I once admired? No doubt.

REGISTERED SULKER_Where Excuses Go to DieNAZIS HATE 2009 CARS_Where Excuses Go to DieSo if some Toxic Avenger tells you to detach from all the wrong and awful humans keeping you down, consider for a second how well that person negotiates personalities and cultures different than their own (or, for that matter, any challenge to their comfort zone). Think about where else in their lives they might exhibit the behavior of a control freak or a finger-pointer.

Finally, ask them to cite specific examples of having swept through the plains of their life, eliminating people like a Level-5 prison yard Sharknado. How did that work out for them?

Refusing to squirm through other people’s wishy-washy rationalizations is at the top of my list of things to do this year, but nowhere on my list is turning my back on someone. Instead, I’ll practice what I always have: Loser Management.



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