Congressman Tip O’Neal said, “All politics is local.” If you work with people, you’re in politics. If you have in-laws, you have politics. If you own a small dog with a Napoleon complex—you got it. Constructive politics uses influence to serve. Destructive politics leverages power to control. Political manipulation can be a very subtle toxin, robbing you of life through a thousand tiny sips.
Below are two antacids which can help you thrive in politically toxic environments. The first pill below may taste bitter, but it works.
1) Respond well. Controlling personalities may provoke and then fault you for your emotional reaction. Reacting to bad behavior is like two skunks fighting—no one can tell who first caused the stink. Outwardly, responding well exposes the source of the problem. Inwardly it is like an antivenin which dilutes the toxin. Harboring anger is like sipping poison thinking your enemy will die.
2) Know when to say when. When people feel politically unsafe, they re-double their efforts and stop taking care of themselves. They skip exercise to make up for time lost on all the distraction. They get up too early or stay up too late questioning everything–especially themselves. It’s draining to connect the dots, ruminating over non-verbal cues or silence. Eventually, toxic environments can blur your vision. During seasons of tension and paranoia, eat well, exercise, avoid TV and hit the sack.
A sci-fi film starring Dustin Hoffman illustrates the consequences of ignoring the symptoms. Deep below the ocean, scientists find a ship they learn is from the future, not the past. Inside is a golden, translucent sphere. They discuss looking inside the sphere, but cautiously seem to resist. Soon, strange things happen. Large jellyfish attack divers, and eels appear to have personalities. One by one, the crew disappears. Surviving members of the team suggest someone among them must have looked inside the sphere and were taken over by an evil power. But, who?
[Spoiler alert] Ultimately it’s revealed that each one of them had looked inside the sphere, but the sphere itself was not evil. It only gave them power to make their own imagination come alive. Evil came into the mix through their own fear and suspicion.
When has a toxic environment brought out your best or worst?
“…Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” – Matt. 10:16b