The 100 Years Club Installment #10: Dirty Dozen (I’ll Avoid These 12 People to Live Longer)Reading Time: 5 minutes
Last week, I wrote about taking care of your brain and body.
You can usually control those.
But how do you deal with the “dirty dozen?” They are the 12 behaviors that can suck you dry, stress you out, and mess you up even when you’re in the best of moods.
The behaviors may exist in your day-to-day life or on social media, where an innocent comment may result in harsh commentary from random strangers. (That just happened to me, so I left the Facebook group where it occurred. Just clicking that button gave me peace.)
Who’s in your circle is as (if not more) important than what’s in your head.
After 60+ years on this earth, I’m finally learning to spot the actions of others that kill my joy and drag me down.
Good People Can Do Bad Things
People are not inherently bad or good. But everyone is capable of doing things that trigger us. People respond differently to these behaviors; some days, they bother us more than others.
And behaviors can be one-off situational gaffes. We all go through stuff in our lives, sometimes resulting in glitches or misunderstandings.
But, when you see consistent patterns in those around you, you need to adjust your “people picker,” have tough conversations with people you care about, or just decide to walk away (which is easier at some times than others).
Your List May Be Different From Mine
I have come to realize that certain behaviors get under my skin. I really do like most people. But when they do any or all of these 12 things, I try to speak up, levitate, or walk away.
- Bullying and bloviating. Abusive language, mansplaining, talking over other people, and droning on all fall into this category. It usually stems from insecurity, but sometimes people just like feeling power and control. Here’s how to deal with a true bully, and here’s how to master the “polite interruption” skill.
- Narcissism. That word is often overused today. True narcissists are only 1 percent of the population. Oprah (who is wise about all things) defines the spectrum.
- Negativity and Dramatics. They spread like viruses and can be easily triggered by news, traumas (big and small), and other factors. We all know those people who can’t just say, “Good!” when you ask how they are. Here are some ways to deal with them.
- Micro-whining. I made this term up. I’m sometimes guilty of it myself. People who will always look for the dark lining of the silver cloud can be toxic. From complaining about how dark a moody restaurant is to look for that one missing comma in an otherwise wonderful blog, these folks will never allow you to just feel the joy.
- Playing small. Not everyone has big ambitions. But lots of people make excuses for not living their best lives or taking action to make changes. I prefer to hang around people who dream large AND get stuff done.
- Ostriching. These people come in many flavors. You may deny that AI will impact our work lives, or you don’t respond to problems until they are huge. Procrastinators may cause me to rush or stress.
- Judging and jurying. I’m always up for a passionate, fact-based discussion, and I try to keep an open mind. Friends and relatives sometimes begin sentences with, “You know what you should do?” and then give unsolicited advice. They are just trying to be helpful. Simply ask “Why do you think that?” so you don’t shut down every potentially helpful suggestion. But unless you wear black robes and own a gavel, you are not qualified to make blanket statements about any aspect of my life or freedoms. I do me. You do you. Psychology Today offers these polite ways to turn down unwanted input.
- Energy vampiring and using. This can be subtle. Some people repeatedly ask for business advice (but don’t offer to pay me as a consultant). Others only call when they need something. Like other creatures of the night, they can creep up on you. One day you realize you’ve been constantly giving and haven’t gotten anything in return. Walk away before your blood is all sucked out. Here’s how to hang a metaphorical garlic clove around your neck.
- Sugar babying. From work project scope creep to sticking others with the restaurant check (or ordering lots of food and then asking the bill be split evenly), these people target generous people and hope we won’t notice the imbalance in give and take (see #8). Do they know they’re doing it? Sometimes. How do you know people are using you for money? This article provides some insights.
- Lying and over-promising. People who don’t really mean what they say let me down. And ghosting? Don’t get me started.
- Over-wooing. This can apply to both work and personal relationships. Is someone sleeping with multiple people and denying it? Do they assign the same work projects to several agencies or individuals as an “insurance policy?” I get that monogamy is tough for many. Just own your behavior, please!
- Social media stalking and “borrowing.” Imitation is a form of flattery, I suppose. But so is collaboration. Do people REALLY think I won’t notice that you pirated my ideas as your own? But cryptomnesia (forgetting you stole an idea) is a real thing.
So, What Do We Do?
First, know we’re not alone. When I Googled sources for this article, I found insights on all 12 behaviors.
I love socializing and having friends. I cut slack for my loved ones and respected colleagues and clients.
But people who do some or all of this stuff will always exist.
What we CAN control is our reaction to it and how much we tolerate it in our lives.
My own life is finally pretty peaceful, happy, and healthy at the moment. I don’t want to be miserable (or mildly irritated) for the next 33 years.
Like the guest who drags mud through your newly-cleaned white carpet, people who (consciously or inadvertently) bust your mood should either take off their shoes, volunteer to get your house cleaned, or not be invited back.
Once you spend the time and effort spring cleaning yourself, look to your “houseguests” and scrub your people circle.