By Van Moody
Difficult relationships are far more than a nuisance; they can cause anxiety, burnout, clinical depression and even physical illness. Healthy relationships at work can propel you to great heights of achievement; dysfunctional or toxic ones will tether you to mediocrity. When we mismanage relationships, the fall-out affects productivity and quite possibly our ability to advance. Your social and interpersonal success depends on your ability to set the kinds of boundaries that encourage mutual respect.
Every relationship you have influences you. There are no neutral relationships; each one lifts you up or weighs you down. They move you forward or hold you back. They help you or they hurt you. When you know how to handle relationships appropriately, it will make the difference between a fulfilling work life or one that is riddled with disappointment, failure, and regret.
Setting Boundaries with Toxic People
One of the best ways to deal with unhealthy people is to set boundaries. Healthy boundaries keep frustration and confusion low. Boundaries remind people of what is acceptable to you and what is reasonable to expect from you. Boundaries prevent unhealthy people from taking up too much of your time, energy, or resources – all precious commodities. Be warned, toxic people don’t like boundaries because they want to shift responsibilities according to their mood. They will not set the boundaries for you.
Here are 4 ways you can set boundaries:
- Manage Your Time. Set a limit on the amount of time you spend beyond the hours needed to be around the toxic individual. Rigidity douses the flames of collegiality but blurred lines lead to confusion and frustration. Express Yourself. Reveal aspects of your personality that will reinforce your values. Sometimes it’s a matter of letting people in a little bit to help keep your boundaries intact.
- Play Your Part. Everyone plays a role: the victim, the brown-noser, the star, the slacker, the go-to guy. Build your reputation, and do it carefully and consistently. It’s important that others know what you stand for and what to expect from you. Then, don’t waiver.
- Change the Conversation. Hanging out or working close quarters or for long periods of time sometimes blur the lines. Here are suggested words to say to help you stay focused and away from nonproductive behavior: “Let’s focus on finishing the task at hand instead of the latest gossip so we can get home.”
7 Tale-Tell Signs of a Toxic Relationship
How to know? You’re in a toxic relationship when they:
- Stifle your talent and limit your opportunities for advancement
- Twist circumstances and conversations to their benefit
- Chide or punish you for a mistake rather than help you correct it
- Remind you constantly or publicly of a disappointing experience or unmet expectation
- Take credit or withhold recognition for new ideas and extra effort
- Focus solely on meeting their goals and do so at your expense
- Fail to respect your need for personal space and time
Field expert Van Moody is the author of The People Factor (an upcoming release by publisher Thomas Nelson) and a motivational speaker who advises on matters related to relationships as they pertain to friends, family, significant others and the workplace. He is a “People Scholar” who helps others build their “Relational IQ” to achieve success at home, in their social circles, and in business. He may be reached online at www.vanmoody.com.
1 Association for Psychological Type International, APTI