Are you a ‘trash can’ for others toxic behaviors?

“My boss sent my wife a friend request on Facebook with a personal message and she didn’t take kindly to that behavior.  She blocked him promptly and wants me to confront him on this” said Sam (name changed) an employee in a client organization.  She’s been asking me everyday whether I did what she asked me to do i.e, confront my boss.  When I say that I will do it at an appropriate time, she gets angry and starts alleging that I am not showing enough concern and not able to protect her.  This is draining me emotionally and I am dreading the thought of facing her back home everyday.

toxic people

“Why don’t you just tell your boss about his unacceptable behavior?” I asked.  Don’t you think it is important to confront him immediately before your relationships starts to stink from accumulated trash from both ends?

I really want to confront him about it, but am afraid he will be upset and that will effect my work and relationship with him.  He is a nice guy and has been extending lot of support to me and helping me grow, said Sam.

Are you feeling good about this whole situation? I asked Sam. Isn’t it draining you emotionally when you have been accumulating this trash on a daily basis?  Don’t you think you must clear your emotional trash can before the stench of it starts to spread to all your relationships?

I really want to but do not know how? Said Sam.

Sam’s is not an isolated case.  We find that people are living, walking, talking “emotional trash cans” without even realizing that its filling up fast and would then start to affect the mental health as well as relationships.

I remember one such incident which taught me why it is important to shed your “emotional trash” before it becomes toxic for you.  It was at the airport and here was a guy who jumped the queue and went straight ahead to the front acting as if he has not seen people waiting their turn.  I was angry and instead of telling that guy to get back in line, I started to discuss with my partner who was with me about how even the educated do not have the civility to behave in public spaces.  I continued my internal dialogue “how do this people even get this far?”  “what’s happening to the world?”  “Why do people behave this way?” and many more.  It just spoilt my mood and the trash of this transaction carried forward for the entire flight as well.  I was getting irritated by the slightest of noise from a child who was 4 rows away and in a playful mood.  I was angry at the flight attendant not coming soon enough to serve me my pre-booked meal which I blamed on poor service attitude.  I was not happy with fact that a fellow passenger was snoring and some were talking loudly disturbing my peace.

I must say, by the time I landed, I was filled with a lot of emotional trash and it had started to emanate stench outside of me – in my transactions.  It was just a matter of telling the guy who cut the queue to get back in line.  It was my right and as much as the right of all others who were in queue.  I am sure if I had pointed that out to him, he would have complied, even if reluctantly or sheepishly so.  But I chose to keep the trash of that man’s toxic behavior inside me.

So many of us go about our day accumulating ‘trash’ from the toxic or negative behaviors of others and fail to clear and carry them to bed instead.  Garbage accumulated over many days starts to impact our transactions with the outside world.  That’s the reason why when relationships go bad we say “my relationship stinks”.

Sam was waiting for the opportune time and in the meanwhile building up his own stories about how his boss wouldn’t have had a bad intent, how his wife was over reacting, how it might effect his relationship with boss, how he could even lose his job for leveling allegations against his boss and so on….  It was already starting to effect his relationship both in office and at home.  In office, he started to see his boss’s overly friendly nature towards him with suspicion and with a hidden agenda.  At home he was fighting with his wife over not confronting his boss.

I told Sam “If you are really honest with yourself, you will find it’s worth it – that you are better off than being a trash can for others negative behaviors”.  It’s important that you clear ‘trash’ regularly as you would do to the physical garbage at home.

So many of us would have faced such behaviors.  Lewd comments, suggestive texts, crass jokes, sexist jibes, adding us to groups without prior approval and so on….

Many choose to let it pass without realizing that it is that little bit of garbage which will eventually pile up to become a toxic dump of negative emotions.

How do you think Sam should approach this?  How would you deal with this?  How should Sam articulate his ‘critical feedback’ to his boss?


Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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