Leaders, do you have a team member that you struggle to even bear the presence of, let alone productively work with? Do you feel frustrated and anxious about other team members who just never seem to follow what you are asking them to do? Are you dealing with team members who are negative, passive-aggressive or just flat out unpleasant to work with? How many times people in our lives, both in the workplace and in our personal lives, become a source of stress for us because we just cannot handle the interactions with them?
I have been asking myself this question over and over again- is the real problem in most of these instances toxic people- or toxic dynamics between us and them?
I dug deep into this because it really bothered me. If the problem is toxic people- then we are just in the wrong company, and in many instances that may very well be the case. If someone is jealous of you and makes every effort to make you feel bad about yourself- there is nothing else to do but to stay away, and no distance is too big for that. But are there some instances where we blame others for being ‘toxic’ or ‘impossible to deal with’ where in fact what is actually toxic and actually impossible to deal with is not them, but the interaction dynamics that we have with them. The differences between a toxic person in our lives and toxic dynamics are night and day. The reason for that is that we cannot control toxic people, and we absolutely cannot change them- but we can absolutely change the toxic dynamics that we have with other people.
Here is why. We have a 50% share in every interaction that we have with another person. If you look around you for a minute, you’ll realize that in the interactions you have with people in your lives, both in the workplace and in your personal life, everybody plays a role. It is not necessarily who they are in all of their interactions in every dimension of their lives, but in the context of their relationship with you, or in the context of how they function within the team, there is a role that they play, whether consciously, semi-consciously, or subconsciously.
The truth of the matter is that interpersonal dynamics are not set in stone. They are, as they are called, dynamic, and within each dynamic, everyone has a role that they play. Can you change people? Absolutely not. There is, however, something that you can change, and it is 50% within your control. You can significantly change the dynamics. Let me show you how in three simple steps, anyone can take charge and completely transform the dynamics.
Identify your role in the context of your interaction with your family, with your spouse or with your team in the workplace. You can easily do that by asking yourself this one simple question:
What role am I playing in this relationship?
Ask yourself this: how do I respond to others in that role?
Actively think: what can I do differently?
It is as simple as that. We operate on autopilot playing certain roles in certain dynamics that we have with other people and then get frustrated with them because in the loop of our relationship we always end up in the same place. Well, we can’t control their reactions, but we most certainly can change our behavior and our choices and by that, I guarantee to you that you will not be changing the other person, but you will definitely be changing the dynamics of your relationship.
Let’s say that you have a team member that does not do what they are expected to and then it all falls on your shoulders.
Step 1: What role am I playing in this relationship?
Answer: I am the rescuer. When they don’t do what they are supposed to, I step in and do it myself.
Step 2: How do I respond to this person as a result?
Answer: I am passive-aggressive to them and dismiss everything they say because I don’t even want to hear them at this point.
Step 3: What can I do differently?
Answer: I can stop picking up the slack after them and let them deal with the consequences of not getting things done.
Isn’t that liberating?
The question then becomes not ‘how to deal with toxic people’ but ‘how to become aware of my role in toxic or unproductive interactions’.
Looking for something to do differently in the latter part of this year? Here is something that will go a long way in solving a lot of the problems that give you so much stress with certain people. Become aware. Become mindful of your role in that dynamics and make a conscious decision to follow the three steps to taking charge and changing not the person, but the dynamics. By doing that, you will be able to have less stress, less toxicity in your dynamics with others, and you will improve your sense of control over your interactions with others and your day to day life as a result, at work, and in your personal life.