Not Me; it’s You:
Toxic People and What to do About
and hobby attracts toxic people (people who are harmful to
those around them) but sometimes Belly dance, from my point
of view, seems to have more than its share.
is, sometimes it’s hard for a reasonable person to tell if
or he is under attack by a toxic person who intends harm.
people ask themselves if they are being fair to others. They
may bend over backward to accommodate the other person. For
the most part, they take the high road and don’t return the
hostility they think that they perceive. In the meantime, they
are leaving themselves exposed to negativity that drains their
energy and motivation, which, at times, can physically make
If you are
one of the people asking yourself, “Am I the one at fault?”
Ask no more! Here are two ways to identify toxic people.
If the person
with whom you are dealing shows any of the following characteristics,
she is probably toxic. It may be that you are dealing with
a personality that affects you adversely:
Victim- This person has a knack for making you feel
sorry for him or her. There will be some drama going on
in the victim’s life at all times, such as a divorce, a
tragic childhood, or financial problems that are nothing
more than a call for pity.
Example: “Samra” sets the performance schedule for
a restaurant. She has left “Nadira” off of the schedule for three weeks.
Nadira asks Samra if there is some reason for the oversight. Samra tells
her that she will put her on the schedule, but for whatever excuse, she
does not follow through with her promise. When Nadira decides to go work
for another restaurant, Samra complains to others that she taught Nadira
everything she knows and now Nadira is abandoning her, not saying directly,
but implying that Nadira is ungrateful and disloyal.
Helper- A helper may put herself in the spotlight
by creating situations from which she “rescues” you or
may take advantage of naturally occurring problems in order
to have her actions seen as helpful to you. She uses such
situations to create feelings of indebtedness
Example: “Leila” books gigs for her group. She gets
two calls in the same night for gigs that are 35 miles apart. “Khaleela”
agrees to take them both since no one else is available, but afterward,
Khaleela complains that Leila has taken advantage of her and asks Leila
for excessive or unwarranted favors—while reminding Leila of how she
“bailed her out.”
Distorter- A person who distorts will twist stories
just enough to make it look confusing so that she/he can
do what she/he wants, look good, be liked, and always have
Example: Your troupe has a set dress code, but “Zeina” wears clothing
that does not follow the guidelines. When troupe members call her on this,
she says that she “just misunderstood.” However, at the next performance,
she either does the same thing or violates the troupe’s rules in another
Another example: “Jamilla” speaks with positive words. She says
she believes Belly dance empowers women and is a sisterhood. Nonetheless,
she advises her students to avoid “Bahia” because Bahia is not a nice person,
dances in a style that they aren’t interested in learning, is motivated
only by personal profit, and her events are not worth the price of the
a toxic person by these characteristics can give you some peace
of mind though the realization that it is the other person,
not you, who is creating the problem! However, always remember
that it takes two to Tango; you must ask yourself how you feed
into the toxic person’s scenario and perhaps, become an enabler
for such behavior. Probably the most important way to single
them out is by asking yourself how you feel when you are around
- Do you feel
like they are sapping all of your energy?
- Do you give
more to them than you get back?
- Is everything
- Are you always
trying to be specific so that you are not misunderstood?
- Do you spend
a lot of time reality checking with others?
- Do you find
yourself defending or explaining your actions to avoid misinterpretations?
Do you find yourself doing things that you didn’t want to do?
- Does your
mood change from good to bad when you are around this person?
- Do you wonder
if what you heard was a compliment or insult?
If you believe
that you have a toxic person in your life, what do you do about
it? First, be certain that you are, in fact, dealing with a
toxic person, and not a misunderstanding, by trying the reasonable
approach. Point out what you perceive as negative, hurtful
actions or and how you feel about them. Listen to the response
you receive. Offer a solution and see if the other person agrees
and follows through.
“Sohier. You showed up for the show wearing costuming that is
not a part of our dress code. We’ve talked about it before, but
I am beginning to feel like you don’t care about being a team
listen to the response because it will help you form your next
suggestion. You may want to say, “Since we’re having
trouble communicating what the dress code is, would a written
If the person
listened, and participated in the discussion—even if it was
done in a demanding or whiny way—and followed through with
your suggestion, you are probably dealing with a difficult
person. Difficult people find
it easy or expedient to complain. Sometimes, they seem to see
everything as either black or white; however, one can reason
If you have
attempted to go through some reasoning process without positive
results, you might justify concluding that you’re dealing with
a toxic person.
to do next:
- Let go
of the desire to change this person. You can’t change anyone,
especially someone who doesn’t want to change.
- Set boundaries
and limits. While it’s good to be flexible in most cases,
this is not one of them. Toxic people take advantage of flexibility.
- Be specific.
Toxic people can easily manipulate ambiguity.
- Put it
in writing if you can. Spoken words are easier to manipulate
than written ones.
argue or debate because you will lose. They are better at
this game than you are.
- If you
find yourself losing your cool, leave the situation for another
- Look for
some sort of win/win solution.
them when they do well. It may entice them to repeat positive
drag others into the conflict. It just fuels the fire.
- Vent and
reality check with supportive, reasonable people or with
someone who does not have a relationship with the other party.
This will not help resolve anything, but it will help you
keep your sanity.
your time with them. If you don’t have to deal with them,
don’t. This includes cutting them out of your life completely.
good dancers and teachers leave Belly dance because of toxic
people. Such a choice is understandable, but the information
and suggestions above may keep others from unnecessarily abandoning
our beautiful field of dance.
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