Chapter 21. The Toxic Paradox

Everyone is an adjustment. When you’re interacting with anyone, you leave the core you and become slightly them. This is not a betrayal of who you are; this is the middle ground we define between any two people. It’s a place of compromise so we can communicate.

There are those people with whom this is an easy, natural place to reach. It’s that friend you haven’t seen or heard from in six months, and how you know it will take 12 for both of you to get back into a familiar place where the six months vanish. It’s the easy now.

Then there are those people who are more work. They require a protocol of context setting, translation, and cautious check-ins. Hi, I said this, is this what you heard? OK, good. This set of abilities, of communication skills, is more work and is a skill you refine over the years. It is a requirement of seasoned managers who are constantly thrown into meetings with strangers where they need to move quickly and efficiently past the “getting to know you” phase and into the “we’ve got work to do” portion of the meeting.

My guess is the majority of our relationships fall into either the natural or slightly-more-work buckets. The majority of the folks you surround yourself with both inside and outside of work are manageable. Not all are natural, so they are work, but you can live with them and are willing to do the work to maintain the relationships.

Then, there are those you can’t handle. These are the folks who, for reasons you may never ...

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