Category Archives: Personal Perspective

How Successful People Handle Toxic People

Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. Either way, they create unnecessary complexity, strife, and worst of all stress.

Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus—an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites (the small “arms” that brain cells use to communicate with each other), and months of stress can permanently destroy neurons. Stress is a formidable threat to your success—when stress gets out of control, your brain and your performance suffer.

Most sources of stress at work are easy to identify. If your non-profit is working to land a grant that your organization needs to function, you’re bound to feel stress and likely know how to manage it. It’s the unexpected sources of stress that take you by surprise and harm you the most.

Recent research from the Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany found that exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions—the same kind of exposure you get when dealing with toxic people—caused subjects’ brains to have a massive stress response. Whether it’s negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome, or just plain craziness, toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs.

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. One of their greatest gifts is the ability to neutralize toxic people. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ to keep toxic people at bay.

While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when dealing with toxic people, what follows are twelve of the best. To deal with toxic people effectively, you need an approach that enables you, across the board, to control what you can and eliminate what you can’t. The important thing to remember is that you are in control of far more than you realize.

They Set Limits (Especially with Complainers)

Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.

You can avoid this only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: if the complainer were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.

They Don’t Die in the Fight

Successful people know how important it is to live to fight another day, especially when your foe is a toxic individual. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.

They Rise Above

Toxic people drive you crazy because their behavior is so irrational. Make no mistake about it; their behavior truly goes against reason. Which begs the question, why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix?

The more irrational and off-base someone is, the easier it should be for you to remove yourself from their traps. Quit trying to beat them at their own game. Distance yourself from them emotionally and approach your interactions like they’re a science project (or you’re their shrink, if you prefer the analogy). You don’t need to respond to the emotional chaos—only the facts.

They Stay Aware of Their Emotions

Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine and you shouldn’t be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so.

Think of it this way—if a mentally unstable person approaches you on the street and tells you he’s John F. Kennedy, you’re unlikely to set him straight. When you find yourself with a coworker who is engaged in similarly derailed thinking, sometimes it’s best to just smile and nod. If you’re going to have to straighten them out, it’s better to give yourself some time to plan the best way to go about it.

They Establish Boundaries

This is the area where most people tend to sell themselves short. They feel like because they work or live with someone, they have no way to control the chaos. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you’ve found your way to Rise Above a person, you’ll begin to find their behavior more predictable and easier to understand. This will equip you to think rationally about when and where you have to put up with them and when you don’t. For example, even if you work with someone closely on a project team, that doesn’t mean that you need to have the same level of one-on-one interaction with them that you have with other team members.

You can establish a boundary, but you’ll have to do so consciously and proactively. If you let things happen naturally, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to encroach upon them, which they will.

They Won’t Let Anyone Limit Their Joy

When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from the opinions of other people, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or snide remarks take that away from them.

While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what toxic people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

They Don’t Focus on Problems—Only Solutions

Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress.

When it comes to toxic people, fixating on how crazy and difficult they are gives them power over you. Quit thinking about how troubling your difficult person is, and focus instead on how you’re going to go about handling them. This makes you more effective by putting you in control, and it will reduce the amount of stress you experience when interacting with them.

They Don’t Forget

Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Successful people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.

They Squash Negative Self-Talk

Sometimes you absorb the negativity of other people. There’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about how someone is treating you, but your self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can either intensify the negativity or help you move past it. Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary, and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral that is difficult to pull out of. You should avoid negative self-talk at all costs.

They Limit Their Caffeine Intake

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re surprised in the hallway by an angry coworker.

They Get Some Sleep

I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present.

A good night’s sleep makes you more positive, creative, and proactive in your approach to toxic people, giving you the perspective you need to deal effectively with them.

They Use Their Support System

It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To deal with toxic people, you need to recognize the weaknesses in your approach to them. This means tapping into your support system to gain perspective on a challenging person. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as explaining the situation can lead to a new perspective. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation.

Bringing It All Together

Before you get this system to work brilliantly, you’re going to have to pass some tests. Most of the time, you will find yourself tested by touchy interactions with problem people. Thankfully, the plasticity of the brain allows it to mold and change as you practice new behaviors, even when you fail. Implementing these healthy, stress-relieving techniques for dealing with difficult people will train your brain to handle stress more effectively and decrease the likelihood of ill effects.

I always love to hear new strategies for dealing with toxic people, so please feel free to share yours in the comments section below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book,Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests, emotional intelligence training, andemotional intelligence certification, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

How Successful People Handle Toxic People

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Leading or leaning?

Think of those immediately surrounding you in supervisory positions.

Now filter out your natural biases, jealousies or negative comments. Just look around. How did they get to where they are? Okay, now you’re free to flood the responses with whatever your perception is of how they arrived at that level. Some of your suspicions are probably true.

This article isn’t as much for those being led, as those doing the leading.

Ask yourselves how’d you get where you are? Was it because you exhibited leadership ability along the path of your career? Was it because you leaned against the wall longer than the next person?

Ever heard these pearls of wisdom from your superiors? Don’t rock the boat. Being first around here don’t mean squat. Slow down, you’ll make us look bad. If you screw up, I gotta take the heat. If you wanna fit in, you’ll do as i say.

Supervisors, ever mutter those words to an eager, idealistic employee? Most have. Why? Because it threatens their accumulation of time.

From our earliest days, we’ve endured years of hearing the “Seniority” alibi. Time – I got time – He got time – They got time. Ask yourselves just what did you do with that “time” you so proudly rest your laurels upon? Have you been a progressive leader of others, or have you learned to milk the system and the clock?

I’m months away from my 25 years in law enforcement. In no way am I against experiences and seasoning gained over years on the job. Although, to gain experience requires making an effort. To gain time just requires showing up without too much screwing up.

I cringe when I hear officers battling over promotions, assignments, vehicles or the last scoop of alligator sauce piquante and default to TIME.

As a supervisor, that’s usually the factor weighing most heavily against that employee gaining benefits where my discretion is involved. Tell me what you’ve accomplished in that time. We all can accumulate time – just sit there.

Don’t be that guy – you know the one who’s afraid to chance becoming amazing. The one who’d rather wait in the shadows because of fear of making an honest mistake. The one who will never accomplish anything significant, other than meaningless seniority promotions.

Take that chance, ignite a revolution. Be the one to earn benefits based on merit, no matter how many or few years you’ve accumulated. You’re going to spend years there anyway, you might as well make the most of it. Please, don’t be that guy.

 

Leading or leaning

 

 

 

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Are you pregnant?

Are you pregnant?

I thought what a crazy question to ask a man.

Are you pregnant with greatness?

Oh, not that kinda pregnant.

With greatness? I never thought about it. How many of us are actually pregnant with greatness? Unfortunately, we fear change. Therefore, we do anything we can to avoid giving birth to this potential. An odd analogy? Not really.

Change is often accompanied by uncomfort, if even for a brief season. The transition into motherhood requires many changes leading up to and after giving birth. Some dread the pains of labor and opt for epidural to mask the suffering.

Often we fear the pains of labor that increase the potential for achieving greatness. Whether its education, exercise, learning a new job skill required for promotion, or reaching out to a new social circle to find a more positive pool of friends – we fear change.

The greatness within languishes in our spirits, in our bodies and in our minds because we want more than anything to avoid the process standing in-between who we are and what we have the ability to become.

Ask yourself; are you pregnant with greatness? The answer is simple. Yes you are. A great parent, spouse, co-worker, community volunteer, or fellow human being is waiting for you to claim it. Stop being afraid of what might happen if you try for that promotion, or tell your spouse you’re sorry, or your child you love them.

Yes, the process is stressful and the unknown expanse between who you are and who you want to be is unnerving, but no more so than refusing to try. Don’t carry that potential around unbirthed until it’s too late to make a solid push.

Give birth to your greatness. Celebrate the miracle of life – YOURS.

Are you pregnant?

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Always Faithful | America’s Night Before

911 pledge

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September 10, 2014 · 23:51

Capturing the Moment \ Christie Pepper / Part 2

CPepper face

Christie Pepper Photography©

http://christiepepperphotography.smugmug.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ChristiePepperPhotography

Welcome back to the second half of my interview with Christie Pepper. In addition to having first met Christie while working at the same Sheriff’s Office, she’s a trusted honest eye for my upcoming crime thriller and current A Cajun Murder Mystery Series.

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I’m excited to continue this conversation with Christie because one answer blew me away. I’ve asked this same question to others, and yet her reply was so unique, I’ve thought about nothing since. You’ll know it when you read it.

Scott – Getting right to it, what do you enjoy most about photographing south Louisiana?

Christie – South Louisiana is absolutely beautiful. As a child, I had huge dreams and couldn’t wait to become a powerful successful woman, move away to a big city, and live in a loft apartment overlooking the hectic streets and bright lights.

Today, I look back and laugh. I never appreciated the true beauty and history that surrounds us. The prominent old oaks, perfect cypress trees, elegant “gro-beck” cranes, vicious gators and other wildlife should be appreciated.

In today’s time, everyone is busy, life is frantic at times and we all have to work just make ends meet, but we also have to take some time to sit back and appreciate what God has surrounded us with.

Just driving down Hwy 308, we can see old plantation homes, wildlife, vibrant plants and trees, but how many of us truly notice it?

We all have a destination in mind and get there as fast as we can, foregoing any admiration and gratitude for what physically encompasses us. For those who can’t see these images, I hope that my captures bring the beauty to them.

Scott – I know it’s cliché, but it fascinates me – If you could photograph anyone from any period of time – who would it be? Why, and how would you set the shot?

Christie – That’s an easy one, I would love to be able to photograph my mom with my children. She passed away when my youngest was only two years old. He wasn’t even speaking yet.

I know that she would be very proud of all of grandchildren and I try to keep her memory and spirit alive by speaking of her often. I don’t necessarily think I’d want a posed picture though.

I’d love to just capture some candid shots of her and my children enjoying each other, laughing, playing, and any other things that were taken from them when she was called home.

She loved New Orleans and would spend time in the French Market and Riverwalk every chance she had so it would definitely have to be shot somewhere in that area.

Scott – Lots of smart phone picture snappers to professional enthusiasts out there. What wisdom would you share with aspiring artists?

Christie – Capture everything that you see is beautiful. The way you see something is truly different from the way others see things. The one statement that I hear over and over is “you have the eye for beauty”.

I have taken pictures of light fixtures, buildings, and natural habitats that people see on a daily basis, but have been told “I have never seen it that way before.”  Don’t ever give up on anything that means something to you.

Art is always open to interpretation, something that may be beautiful to one, may not be to another. It is your way of expressing your views and emotions to others without words. Also when taking portraits, the venue should be the choice of the person being photographed.

I like to get to know the people I am photographing before doing it, in an effort to bring out their personality and charm. I’m not a huge fan of over editing faces, everyone’s natural beauty deserves to come through. This of course is just my opinion, and I have found that my clients feel the same; editing is always discussed before anything is done to photos.

Christie – thank you again for gracing us with you passion and talent. Stay safe on the job and best of success capturing the moment.

Stop by Christie Pepper’s Facebook page and hit the LIKE button. You’ll be glad you did.

Making the Picture Count \ Christie Pepper / Part 1

Capturing the Moment \ Christie Pepper / Part 2

 

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B&W – What’s it good for? | Shannon Atkinson

Shannon Atkinson Photographer

Fortunate to live in south Louisiana’s Cajun Country, I’ve come to know many amazing people from every walk of life. A long time cycling friend and all-around Renaissance man, Shannon Atkinson is one of those people.

I was captivated by his photography during this year’s Mardi Gras. Growing up with the annual carnivals, I’d seen the sights and images over a lifetime. His eye-view and imagery exposed a side of the season I’d never known—or imagined.

My crime fiction episodes, A Cajun Murder Mystery Series are set in the deep South’s bayou land. Shannon’s art captures the raw, gritty genre of the classic noir mystery thrillers. It was a perfect match.

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A giant big bayou favor – go to Shannon’s Facebook and mash the LIKE button.

Scott: Shannon, thanks for your time. How about sharing a bit about yourself?

Shannon: I’m Shannon Atkinson, and a Louisiana based photographer focusing primarily on concert and street photography. I’ve photographed live promotional images for artists including Plain White T’s, Percy Sledge, Louis Prima Jr., and Marco Palos in addition to other international acts.

My work has been published in regional magazines and websites as well as Yahoo Sports. Although I continue to develop a diverse catalog, my true passion is street photography, “I have always gravitated to Environmental Portraiture. It is not uncommon for me to shoot other genres, but the streets are where I feel most at home with a camera in my hands.”

I’ve photographed throughout the United States as well as Central America. Currently, I’m working on a photographic series documenting the decline of Louisiana’s indigenous population and loss of culture. My work can be viewed at  www.shannonatkinsonphoto.com

Scott: Your passion is obvious in your art. What ignited your flame for photography?

Shannon: My dad was the family photographer when I was a kid.  He had this wonderful, shiny, 35mm that I used to secretly sneak out of the house and experiment with when he was away on business.

Eventually he gave in and allowed me to borrow it when I wanted.  I fell in love with the ability to take a subject and capture it in a way unique to my vision.  I’m still in love with this.

 

Scott: I love the black and white urban-scape photography featured on each A Cajun Murder Mystery Series’ cover art – what drove you to focus on that motif?

Shannon: Black and white resonates with me, it has soul.   I started in the days of film and spent a lot of time in the dark room working in B&W.  Removing color from the image allows me to focus on shadow and form which is what I’m very much drawn to.

I do shoot color, but the color has to be a major part of the reason I’m making the photograph in the first place.  As for the Street photography genre, I’ve always been an observer of people.  Human beings are bizarre and interesting creatures… especially when they have no idea they are being observed.

Some people give off a certain something that can’t be put into words.  I’m drawn to these people and interested in seeing how this translates into a photograph.  The same goes for certain places, they just have soul.

Scott: Kinda of cliché, but I’ll go for it. If you could photograph anyone from any period of time – who would it be? Why, and how would you set the shot?

Shannon: This is a tough one.  The tendency is to choose someone that would be a bit obvious.  I could pick JFK or Marilyn Monroe or maybe Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Theresa.

The problem with these choices, although tremendous subjects, is that they are not that personal to me.  So if I have to choose a subject just for me, then it’s simple… I’d choose jazz great Miles Davis.  From the late 1950’s, the Kinda Blue era.

He had an ultra-cool vibe that I’d love to explore and capture.  I’m thinking in a dark jazz club with a cigarette and lots of backlit cigarette smoke.  Real harsh and grainy with lots of his coolness.

Scott: Miles Davis sounds a lot like you. You’re also an excellent musician and cyclist – what other acts of awesomeness do you regularly demonstrate? 

Shannon: I involuntarily wake up 1 minute before my alarm goes off… every day.  Other than that, I’ve got nothing.

Another chance to do yourself a favor – go to Shannon’s Facebook – mash the LIKE button. 

B&W – What’s it good for? | Shannon Atkinson

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BIG News & Thank Yous

A Cajun Murder Mystery Series – By the Numbers just launched its first “0.99” monthly episode in June.

By-the-Numbers-Scene-1.jpgResearch for this series only requires walking out the front door and into the unique and mysterious flavors of south Louisiana.

Part of the culture includes local photographers / artists whose work I’ve admired and shared with friends across the planet.

 

They’ve been gracious to allow the inclusion of their work into every episode of the Cajun Murder Mystery Series with scheduled releases the first Thursday of each month. Check out their sites and share the love.

Big Bayou Thanks:

Cajun Captures Photography 

       

 

 

 

 

 

Shannon Atkinson Photographer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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