Why Eliminating Toxic People Can Lead to Success

Recently I had an experience that I haven’t had in many, many years. I was volunteering my time and money to a local organization when I got a call from the head of the program. Unhappy with the speed at which I was getting things done (I still had weeks before anything needed to be done), he called to yell and berate me for the way I was handling things, even going so far as to tell me there was no way I would be doing this for him next year. Now, keep in mind, I was on time, things were in the works, and everything was going smoothly. I still cannot tell you where this call came from or why, but I can tell you that I don’t know that anyone has ever spoken to me that way, nor will anyone speak to me that way again. I hung up and I’ll happily not volunteer next year.

That phone call harkened back to my first days at BookEnds. Desperate to make an income as an agent I would put up with people I would never even consider dealing with today. People who thought it was acceptable to scream at me for things I had no control over (low sales, missed deadlines, edits she didn’t agree with, etc). No matter what the perceived slight, these authors felt that it was acceptable to call screaming and cursing at me. And I listened, because I needed what I saw as potential income from a client.

I won’t put up with that today. People like that take up too much headspace. No matter how much we don’t want to let toxic people have an effect on us, they do. They get in our heads and we lose sleep second guessing everything we’ve said and done. We start to doubt our own abilities and our work suffers.

The irony of putting up with those toxic clients is that none of them ever really made me that much money. Hanging up the phone and refusing to put up with any more of their nonsense would not have hurt me in the long run. I guess that’s one of the lessons I needed to learn for myself though.

If you find yourself dealing with a toxic person; in a writing group, on message boards, in your critique group, or even in your own family, my best advice is to get out. You’re not going to win in a fight against that demon, but you will lose by spending too much time in the same room. If I’ve learned one thing in my many years at BookEnds, those who truly have the greatest success tend to also have the greatest attitudes. I’ll never lose by dumping a toxic person.

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11 comments

  1. Yelling at volunteers?!?!?!?!
    Oh wait…were you volunteering for something Donald Trump was involved with??

    🙂

  2. Oh, Goodness. I can’t even imagine how or why anyone would chew out a volunteer like that. I think that person is lucky you didn’t quit outright.

    I couldn’t agree more that toxic people can’t be appeased. The hardest thing is dealing with toxic family members because it’s often impossible to entirely eliminate them from our lives. The good thing about learning to deal with such relatives is discovering that you’re much stronger and resilient than you ever believed–certainly traits all writers can use.

  3. “Those who truly have the greatest success tend to also have the greatest attitudes.” So very true and honestly a happier way to live. I’m sorry you encountered such a negative force but you created something positive to put out into the world for others to benefit from. Thank you!!

  4. Something very similar happened to me a couple of weeks ago, except that it was a family member, someone I thought I was close to, and came completely out of the blue. Like your situation I was left reeling and I’m still not sure why it happened.
    I think in both cases an apology is in order, but I’m not sure it always follows. I’ve realised that people who yell and shout at others will always go for the soft target, the one who is measured and doesn’t show anger. On this occasion I knew I had to defend myself, and did…vociferously, because the other person’s behaviour was unacceptable. I can accept everyone’s right to an opinion, but it doesn’t give them the right to express those opinions aggressively and in anger.

  5. I’m sorry you had to deal with that. I’ve voluntered for years and even when I’ve got things wrong, I’ve never been shouted at.

    I’m not as strong as I was, now I’m more likely to back down and walk away. I still won’t accept any toxic hassles into my life. I’m just quieter at avoiding them.

  6. So, so true.

    I also think it’s important to look beyond those universal toxicities–anger, belittlement, bullying, that sort of thing–and take stock of the sorts of behaviors that may not be toxic to everyone, but could be toxic for you. My toxins are lateness, procrastination, people pleasing, insecurity and neediness, aggression, anxiety- and fear-mongering, obsession with social media/popularity/being the best, gossip. It’s not that I think people who practice one or more of these behaviors is a bad person and I can never talk to them again. But these are things that I’m susceptible to. They gut my productivity and suck away my joy and peace. So I have to limit my exposure.

    Basically, anything that subtracts more than it adds, I think, has the potential to be toxic.

  7. To quote Karl Marx: “Surround yourself with people who make you happy. People who make you laugh, who help you when you’re in need. People who genuinely care. They are the ones worth keeping in your life. Everyone else is just passing through.”

  8. Toxic is toxic.–one of the most insidious evils to penetrate our soul and destroy us from within. In my life it’s been mostly women and one horrible man–who to this day tries to get at me but can’t, which makes him even more furious. His rants are infamous! I run when one of these people start in on me–why I’m not on the bestseller list if I think I’m so good, why have they never heard of me. how much money do I make, wouldn’t I be better off cleaning houses? I’ve been through them all. I’ve learned to smile. Sometimes i (very maturely) I stick out my tongue. Or I just run, sometimes cry, sometimes swear every swearword I know. But never, never give in!!!

  9. This post is my birthday present today. I can’t even tell you how timely it is. I needed to hear it. Thank you ♥

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