Last week, I wrote about the five people you need in your life–the support network that makes all things possible. This week, I’m going to spend some time helping you identify the five people in your life who are most likely working against your success.
Before I do, though, let me say one thing: cutting people out of your life altogether is nearly always impossible. That’s doubly true if those people are part of your family. A refusal to be in the same room with someone often ends up costing you relationships with people you do care about. There are times when that sort of blanket rejection is appropriate–if someone has assaulted you in the past, for instance. But most of the time, you can minimize your exposure to people who don’t benefit your life and call it good.
And there’s no need to feel guilty about doing this–some relationships last only one season of your life. When you’ve called someone’s attention to troubling behavior and they refuse to change, downsizing that relationship is your healthiest move.
With all that said, let’s get down to identifying the people without whom you might have more time (and energy) to devote to considering the possibilities your life presents.
I mentioned this person in last week’s post, because the saboteur often masquerades as a truth-teller (someone we all need in our lives.) But there are two big and very important differences:
- The saboteur will apologize for telling the purported truth, beginning statements with phrases like “I’m sorry to have to say this, but . . .” or “I really hate to be the one to tell you . . .”
- The saboteur will offer this information without prompting. The saboteur often feels compelled to speak up for no apparent reason at all.
Don’t be fooled. What you’re getting from saboteurs is not the truth: it’s an attempt to cut you down and make you feel less confident. If you find yourself their target, let them know that you see what they’re up to: Actually, you didn’t have to tell me that. I’m not sure why you felt it necessary. Brought into the light, most saboteurs won’t continue their destructive work. They function best in the shadow of their own self-loathing.
I’m confident you know this person–we all do, sadly. Negators are there to remind us that the world is a cruel and unfair place. Or that, no matter what you hope to accomplish, you might as well give it up before you face disappointment. They sometimes pretend to be uncertain–I don’t know about that–but they’re always sure you’re going to fail.
Negators come in many different varieties: those of few words (identifiable by their derisive scoff), those who provide a constant stream of negativity, and those who speak up only when you share your plans. The best way to deal with them is to keep your interactions brief, focused, and superficial. I’ve made sure the negators in my Facebook circle can’t see my posts, for instance, and I’ve taken them out of my feed as well, so I’m not exposed to their pessimism.
Whether or not the judge has rendered an opinion on your life, you’ve heard them say plenty of things about others. I can’t believe she’s wearing that dress. My kids would never behave like that. I could stand to lose a few pounds, but at least I’m not as big as her. Judges observe no line between the things that concern them and the things that are none of their business.
Here’s the thing to remember about judges: if they’re talking to you about other people, they’re also talking to others about you. You can’t do much to make them stop, but you can limit the exposure they have to your life, making it more difficult for the judge to find fault with anything you’re doing (or wearing, or eating.)
If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone that left you thinking I have done nothing but listen to them talk for the last hour, you’ve probably dealt with a self-promoter. They’re always right. Their lives may not be perfect, but they know the best way to deal with whatever comes at them. (Even the bad stuff is completely expected. They knew exactly what they were getting into, of course.) They never admit fault–they just move on. Which offers another easy way to identify self-promoters: they make the same mistakes over and over again.
The friends who fall into this category pop into my life once in a while, when they have some news to share. I listen politely–but I don’t initiate contact. I just wait until it crosses their minds to think of me. The less visible I am in their lives, the less frequently that happens.
Do you find yourself going out for coffee you don’t want, or engaging in some activity you don’t really enjoy, at the urging of someone in your life? If so, you’re probably dealing with a manipulator. Hurt feelings, guilt trips, perceived debts–all of these are tricks manipulators keep close at hand. If you have a soft heart for wounded people, you probably attract manipulators.
But there’s a difference between being kind and letting someone take advantage of you. Remind yourself of this whenever a manipulator starts angling for your time and attention. If you don’t want to go out for coffee, say so–then add something like What’s up? Is there something you need to talk about? I can call you back this evening. Now the conversation is happening on your terms. Manipulators are mostly interested in maintaining control of the relationship, so you may find yourself hearing from them less often simply by insisting that they respect your time.