by Steve Adubato, PhD
Toxic People. Negative people. People that don’t listen. And what about those who harp on the same point over and over again?
I’ve been thinking a lot these days about people who are nearly impossible to communicate and connect with. This was triggered by a recent conversation with a business executive who I’ve had a peripheral relationship with over the years. His communication style us pitiful. He is nasty and never lets you finish your sentence. I had been debating reaching out to him because there was a particular business issue I wanted closure on, and he, unfortunately, was in the way. Yet, predictably, within moments of talking to him over the phone in a respectful fashion, he was raising his voice, making accusations, and saying; “I don’t owe you any explanation”. Ultimately, he got so agitated that he hung up.
I asked myself, “Why did I even call this guy?” In this particular case, I didn’t have to talk to him, but he was hard to avoid. This got me thinking about the wasteful and counterproductive communication we have with people both in our professional and personal lives that not only doesn’t go anywhere, but worse, has a negative impact on our mood, attitude and overall demeanor.
I made a quick list of the people I’ve simply stopped talking to. Some of them are family members. Some are people in business. But all of them are folks who communicate in such an impossible fashion that they are just not worth talking to any more.
One CEO of an organization was a client for over a year. Not only did he get everything he wanted (which he acknowledged), but his employee’s evaluations were off the charts for the seminars my company conducted. Yet, without any explanation, he indicated that he didn’t want to renew our contract. That was his right, but he didn’t say why and simply shut down. That doesn’t make him a bad person, but it makes him hard to communicate with. When I spoke to others in his firm, I learned it had everything to do with the difficult financial circumstances his company was facing. Some people are hard to communicate with because they won’t tell you the truth. They hide behind excuses, but never get to the real reason for their decision. After several attempts to communicate candidly with him, I realized I had to let it go.
One particular family member continues to bring up the past. No matter what issue is on the table, she brings up an incident that happened 10 or 15 years ago that she never let go. She blames you for everything wrong in her life. Even if she had a legitimate point and you acknowledge that you made a mistake in the past, she won’t let it go. It’s the same communication pattern. Bottom line? I just don’t talk to her any more.
I used to think that if you used the right communication approach you could effectively communicate with anyone. Now I believe that there are certain outliers—people you just can’t communicate with. My advice? Do an honest assessment of who those people are and what impact they have on you. This kind of toxic communication will take you away from more meaningful dialogue with others. Once you determine who these people are, STOP communicating with them. STOP thinking that you can change them. You can’t. It’s just the way it is. Again, it doesn’t make them bad people. It just means that for you, communicating with them is a real downer.