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How To Step Up To Difficult Conversations and Confront the …


If you search for Toxic People on Google you will find several million sites. That is a lot of toxicity! You may well be working and living with some of these toxic people right now. You can recognise them quite easily.

There is the victim; the one who blames and complains about everything he is unhappy with in his life; his job, his marriage, the suburb where he lives, his boss and everyone else around him. He shares his frustrations with anyone who will listen, and even with those who do not. But he takes no steps to resolve any of it. His favourite phrase, and one he uses constantly is, Yes – but.

There are the needy ones whose conversations centre entirely on themselves, draining energy and life out of everyone around them. They may tell you that they like your company because you are a positive person, unaware of the negative effect they personally have on others. How about the person who is always right, about everything, and loses no opportunity to tell you? A conversation with her is so exhausting that you give up any thought of arguing and nod, dumbly, until she has finished.

Maybe you have the boss who is very quick to criticize but has never been known to give praise. He tells you that his feedback is for your own good, even when it is given with accusation and sarcasm. Not surprisingly, your self esteem takes a nose dive each time each time he reprimands you and puts you down in front of your colleagues. Your job performance is dropping and you are wondering whether you can last out the year.

Our densely planned, highly pressurized workplaces and suburbs are breeding grounds for these kinds of toxic behaviours, but it is up to you to decide just how much pushing around you will tolerate. Listing the people around you and identifying what they do that gets to you, is a first step. You have to recognize your own boundaries. What is negotiable for you and what is not? What can you tolerate and what has to stop? It is not easy to confront toxic people, but the alternative is to allow them to make you miserable, frustrated, confused and angry. In the end you allow them to seriously damage your health.

Before you step up to a difficult conversation you need to plan it carefully. There are three main steps.

First, decide on the words you will use to describe exactly what has been said or done that causes you distress. If there has been a pattern of toxic behaviour give more than one example so the other person can also see the pattern.

Secondly, explain how you feel about the situation. Be direct. Be honest. Start with, I feel, so there is no chance you will accuse by saying, You made me feel.

Thirdly, invite the other person to respond to what you have said. This is the crux of the confrontation, when you ask them to be accountable for their behaviour.

At the point the conversation may move into dialogue and you may be able to discuss the problem openly. This is the outcome most likely to lead to a proper resolution of the issue. But even if this does not happen, you have sent the person a very strong signal that you are aware of the behaviour, that you find it distressful, and that you are not afraid to confront it.

People who have never received feedback like this before may have no idea of their negative impact on others. If they have some care for their relationship with you, behaviour change can be virtually immediate, with an occasional reminder as time goes on. With others, it may take a lot longer and you may have to revisit the conversation a number of times.

You have to weigh up each toxic situation in which you find yourself. What will its effect be on you if you say nothing, and how much will be at stake if you speak up? Toxic people can make your life unbearable. To tolerate or to confront: the choice is yours.

maureen collins has a b.sc. degree in psychology from edinburgh university and over 25 years of consulting experience. she specialises in communication skills in the business world. in straight talk, she trains people how to handle difficult conversations, on difficult topics, with difficult people.
get free straight talk tips.
http://www.straight-talk.co.za

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Listed: November 1, 2008 4:08 pm