By Jennifer Richardson
We have all had experiences with people that make life harder in some way.
There is a full spectrum of folks who cause distress. At one end there are the mostly harmless but irritating people who simply function as roadblocks while others try to get things done. And at the other end there are damaged people who are literally toxic to their environment; a malignancy that eats away at a healthy organism.
Sometimes you find yourself in the lonely and frustrating position of living or working near a miserable person that others have not recognized yet, but mostly they are people with a long history of interpersonal issues who leave havoc in their wake.
Various kinds of people fall into this role, maybe it is an acquaintance that is generally tearing others down with their words. Maybe it is a co-worker who allows tiny amounts of power to go to his or her head. Maybe it is a family member who manipulates and pits one against the other.
But characteristics they all share are that their lives are small and focused inward, and nothing is their fault. Many times they have inherited their venom from being injured themselves, and they almost never recognize their own toxicity.
How should we handle these people with their finger of blame permanently extended toward others? And how do we manage around them without becoming injured or being consumed by their flammable nature?
When working with toxins, there are some tried and true safety rules we can use to minimize the risk to ourselves and those we love.
Know what you are working with. Many poisonous substances can only hurt us when we handle them incorrectly. Think of poisonous people as a walking laboratory and mentally document how they react with yourself and others.
Take note of special instructions and what to do in case of emergency. Know the warning signs. Have an exit plan ready for toxic situations that could result in harm if we stick around. There is always something better we could be doing.
Keep toxins distinct from other toxins. Avoid purposefully being in situations where damaging people are compounded by other destructive people. We learned as teenagers that people do things in herds they would never do alone.
You cannot fix a destructive chemical agent, but you can sometimes provide an additive that renders it inert. Good bacteria can convert a toxic substance into a harmless material. Be a force for good when we encounter a difficult person, sometimes a soft answer turns away wrath.
Periodically take stock of what we are labeling and storing. In our experiences with others we sometimes take on attitudes and actions that are a negative reflexive response. Know the explosive danger of what we may be carrying around.
Safely dispose of unnecessary chemicals immediately. When we recognize poison within ourselves, let it go. Nothing bottled up ever empties. Be sure our own hearts are not harboring impurities that make things worse; they will only burn us from the inside out.
Wear the proper gear. We may need a buffer between ourselves and the corrosive agents. Whatever your source of renewal and goodness, we should arm ourselves with it daily so we are ready to encounter the hazardous materials without coming back scarred.
Never work alone. Share the keys to the laboratory with someone trusted. There is safety in a multitude of counselors. Sometimes we need another perspective applied to our situation in order to keep our hearts safe, or we need to seek professional attention in the case of an injury.
No one can guarantee a life free of difficult people, but living with wise standard operating procedures can reduce injuries and downtime, and help us recover from the contamination that toxic people bring.