Saturday, April 16, 2016

8 Toxic People to Avoid

It was a perfect day until she arrived. Within no time, my world became clouded with misery. I searched and yearned for a glimpse of happiness. She left after a while. By then, my emotional energy was at an all-time low. It felt as though I had faced a Dementor attack. All the joy had been sucked out.

Note for non-Potterheads: (Dementors are mythical creatures created by JK Rowling in Harry Potter’s world who suck out all joy from its victims)

Does this situation sound familiar? The ‘she’ I mentioned belongs to a category of people who are toxic to our emotional well-being.

Many of us don’t recognize them as we have been around them for long. They live among us. A friend, a colleague, a spouse, a sibling, a cousin they can be anyone. We accept their hurtful behavior and suffer in silence.

They come in many hues. Let me list eight such toxic people whom I have encountered.

1.     The Toxic temperamental

Do you know that one person who has a short fuse and hot temper? They are addicted to anger. Anything and everything might provoke them. The weather, a sneeze, a pet, a social media update… the list can be endless. They always have a justification for their anger. Their anger manifests as emotional, verbal or even physical abuse. We need to bend backward to please such a person.
It seems like walking on egg shells when this person is around.
Do you think they will change if you stoop and twist yourself into knots?
No, never.

Solution: Distance yourself as far from them as you can.

2.     The Toxic Victims

They are the perfect drama kings and queens. Always the victims of one or another sinister plot. The whole world is out to get them! The cruel mother, the Hitler boss, the bossy husband, the sick mother-in-law…
You are pleased initially that they are confiding their life problems to you. You spend hours on the phone, offering solutions. Do they listen? No. They will call the next day with a more serious and deadly problem. Sigh!
Will they change? Sadly, never.
Don’t invest a lot of time and energy on them. Every speed breaker in their path often appears like an insurmountable mountain for them.

The best dialogue to employ:”Oh, dear, I hope everything turns out well. I will keep you in my prayers. I think I hear another call coming. Speak to you later. Bye.”

3.     The Toxic Manipulators
These are professional guilt-trippers. They won’t take no for an answer. They employ a variety of methods to manipulate people to get what they want. Emotional blackmailing, threats, rosy prospects, they have all the tools to trap you. When you feel you are being pushed to act due to a feeling of guilt or implied obligation, beware, you are walking into the web of a manipulator.

The word they need to hear: ‘No.’ In fact, NO is a complete sentence. There isn’t any need to explain further.

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4.     The Toxic One-ups

You have this one ‘friend’ who always has done everything better than you. The moment you finish telling them of your latest achievement, they take a moment to jog their memory and vomit out a grandiose version of the same event. But this time, they are the stars in it. Your experience is nothing, you see! You feel disappointed that this person doesn’t congratulate you or share your excitement. Sadly, these people have no idea that they are annoying you. These lonely people crave attention and want to impress you with their accomplishments.

Solution: Tell them in kind but clear words to let you enjoy your time in the spotlight. If they don’t get it, remember to never share your happy moments with them the next time.

5.     The Toxic Unreliable

This person makes promises one after the other and never keep even one. They will miss get-togethers, appointments and never honor their commitments. They will promise to call on you and never turn up. They will make plans with you, promise they will be there for you and will slip away leaving you stuck.
Often such relationships leave you feeling unloved and worthless. Sometimes, seething with anger.

Solution: Set boundaries with the person ahead of time clearly stating that you value your time. Any delay means the deal is off.

6.     The Toxic Critic

The critics are experts at finding faults with you. They will correct your grammar, pronunciation, snigger at your dressing sense and ridicule you openly in front of others. When you protest, they will blame you for being sensitive. If you live with such a person, you are bound to develop a low self-esteem.

Solution: Tell them exactly how they make you feel. If you are lucky enough, it is an unconscious habit which they will try and change.

7.     The Toxic Controllers:
         These people need to be in charge at every point of time. They will make rules, others shall obey. If anyone steps out of the line, they are doomed. They turn on their unpleasant bossy behavior on everyone. They often turn abusive; verbally or physically.
Solution: Controllers are usually insecure persons and have deep-seated fears of abandonment. They think of everyone as a problem. It is a no-win situation with such people. Stay away from them and seek professional help if the situation goes out of control.

8.     The Toxic Gossip:
We all like to indulge in gossiping every now and then, don’t we? But do you know that one person who is always up-to-date with all the latest juicy gossips? Be aware of them. If they tell you tales about other people they are equally capable of talking about you to others. Never trust them. And gossiping spreads negativity. The whole aura of a chronic gossipmonger is always negative. Check how you are emotionally after a particular gossiper leaves you.

Solution: Stop encouraging them. It is the only possible way out.

Now friends, check this list. How many such people do you know? Are they always around you? Are they lurking around disguised as friends? If yes, cut them out of your life. Such people make us miserable. Recognize them and weed them out of your life.

Tell me about the other kinds of toxic people you have encountered.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Lesson 5: Health is wealth

Series: Lessons from my father ( A tribute to my late father, Dr. K. KunhiKannan)

Lesson 5: Health is wealth

My father with my son

Every evening, my father would do Yoga after he came from the clinic. It would include exercises and meditation. It was his routine from the time I remember. On Sundays, he worked half day and hence would sometimes join us for a game of badminton or go for a walk.

His theory was that we should take good care of the body which is home to our soul. We don’t know whether there is an afterlife. But this life, which is a gift, we should live to the fullest. We should feed ourselves healthy food and do exercise so that our body functions properly.

My favorite time to study was always after everyone slept; when the world grew quiet. I could never make myself get up early in the morning to study. Sometimes I would study through the night during exams. He would come to check on me at intervals and would urge me to go and sleep. My eating habits were often very erratic. He would scold me whenever I skipped breakfast or any meal.

He once told us the story of how he never came to like alcohol.
When he was small, maybe ten or eleven, he was fascinated by what his father drank at night before going to bed. His father would retire to the store room and take a sip of liquor from a bottle well hidden. He was not addicted to it but this was a nightly routine. My father one day found the bottle in the darkness and took a sip. Immediately, he spat it out. Instead of the bottle of liquor, he had drunk from a bottle of kerosene. That ended his foray into the world of alcoholic beverages.

“Later on in life, whenever someone offered me a drink, the bitter taste of kerosene would creep into my mind and I would promptly refuse. It was a blessing. There is no bigger killer of humanity and health like alcohol. I have seen many lives reduced to ashes prematurely because of this monster,” he would often say.

Luckily, none of my family are addicted to alcohol or smoking. He walked the talk and led by example. Nor are there many in the extended family. Many feared my father’s wrath and never ventured towards such addictions.

He taught me Surya Namaskara and some basic yoga exercises which I still do. Whenever I sleep late, I remember him. I feel as though he is about to come and urge me to go back to sleep. Whenever I skip a meal, I feel I can hear his scolding.

Lesson 4: It is never too late to learn a new skill

Lessons from my father (A tribute to my late father)

Lesson 4: It is never too late to learn a new skill

My father believed in the power of knowledge. He never wasted an opportunity to learn a new skill or a new science. He encouraged us to do the same. Whenever I created anything new using some new craft I learned, I would show it to him first. Because he would appreciate it for what it was and won’t look for mistakes. Then if I asked for suggestions to improve it, he would say use your imagination, don’t ask others for help.

Once I had to go out during my summer vacation while I was in Class XI. I wanted to leave him a message about where I was going and at what time I would come home. I began my message in Malayalam. I addressed him as ‘Acha’ (Malayalam for father) and began the note. I studied in a Kendriya Vidyalaya from class IV where Malayalam was not taught as a second language. So my writing skills in Malayalam were very poor. Whatever way I wrote ‘Acha’, didn’t seem quite right. The words in Malayalam can be quite tricky. After three failed attempts, I turned the paper over and wrote the message in English and left it on the study table for him to find.

When he found the note, he understood exactly what had happened and asked me to write the word ‘Acha’ again. I failed to do it. He laughed but told me to start at the beginning. To write the vowels and consonants of Malayalam. To my horror, I found I did not remember many of the Malayalam vowels or Consonants. I promptly blamed it on the many years I had not touched a Malayalam textbook.

Next day, he brought a two line copy book and asked me to borrow the Malayalam textbook from my neighborhood kid who studied in class 1.
I protested. I was ashamed. I told him I was too old to begin learning it again.
“There is no age for learning,” he said.

So began my classes. I was made to write the vowels and consonants over and over again till I mastered it. After that, a Malayalam newspaper was subscribed to, which I had to read every day. Before that, we read just ‘Indian Express’.
Thankfully because of his efforts, I can still read and write Malayalam properly. It is because of that lesson he taught me that I joined for MA English literature during my sabbatical from my Civil Engineering job after my son was born. Ten years after I had left college!
Today I am proud to say that I hold an MA in English Literature. There indeed exists no age limit for learning.

Lesson 3: Nourish your creativity

Series: Lessons from my father (A tribute to my late father)

Lesson 3: Nourish your creativity

My father valued creativity in all its forms. He encouraged us kids to nourish our creative side from early on in life. I, being me, never completed any course that I was enrolled in; be it music, art or dancing. After attending six or seven classes I would become bored (or declare myself an expert in it) and go in search of new hobbies.

My father, on the other hand, was creative right from the time he was in school and often won prizes in poetry, story writing and also in elocution competitions. Despite his busy schedule, he would take time out to write articles on medicine for local newspapers, in their association magazine and also sometimes poems.

I remember he wrote a poem called ‘Agni’ when APJ Kalam sir fainted after project ‘Agni’ was canceled. A drama he wrote for their Annual association function about the rampant atrocities in the medical field was greatly appreciated. He also acted as an old man in the drama. There would be poems scribbled in his diaries. He would cut out and keep articles he liked from newspapers. Wherever he went, he would return with a book. He maintained a journal regularly.

They say kids become readers in the lap of their parents. I became a reader that way. I still remember the illustrated storybook of ‘the hunter and four friends’ which he must have read to me umpteen times. Whenever he was relaxing, he did so with a book. Mostly it will be medical books or politics. He introduced me to the world of books by taking me to the village library and would also buy me my favorite comics.

Yes, I firmly believe whatever little creativity I have inherited I got it from him. My mother swears she doesn’t have any such bad habit. When my first story was published in our college magazine, he was excited and proud.

Now that I have been part of many anthologies and have also published my debut novel, I often wish my father had seen them. Whenever I receive the author copy of any book that I am a part of, I thank him silently. For introducing me to the magical world of books and letters.

And I try to follow the way he nourished his creative side.