Why Toxic People Make Us Stupid

by Andrew Leigh on 12 November, 2012

What is it that makes so many otherwise intelligent people act and feel stupid when their toxic person is around?Why Toxic People make us Stupid. Image: Andy Leigh

You may be just everyday-intelligent – streetwise and getting on with a busy life. You may be highly educated-intelligent – a PhD, a professor, medical consultant, rocket scientist even. Or perhaps a sharp-brained millionaire entrepreneur.

It doesn’t matter, because when the toxic people in our lives are strutting their stuff we can leave all that aside and become (as the saying goes), as thick as two short planks.

How does this happen? Do our toxic people have special super powers that transform normally bright people into clueless dullards? Do our toxic people radiate invisible stupid rays at us?

Hmm… obviously I’m not going to sell that idea as objective fact. But there is definitely something going on.

Why Toxic People Make Us Dumb

Now I could shift at this point into some dense psychological explanations of why this happens (I’m lying here – I most definitely couldn’t) – but I work best using language that I actually understand. I think there are two main factors in play when our toxic people are around us:

  • Our churning negative emotions
  • Our disempowering negative inner voices and inner doubts

When these two combine, the result is often a nastily scrambled head – or to use a metaphor that fits with my cartoon – we get a bad attack of turnip brain. Now, I don’t know what the average IQ of a turnip is – but I’m betting it’s not very high – not even for the bright ones.

Once we accept that toxic people can have this effect on us, it’s no wonder they find it so easy to run rings around us. The trouble is that even when we recognize that we currently have all the addled brain power of a root vegetable we find that the presence of the toxic person (with their stupid rays) makes it difficult to act in a smart and intelligent manner.

But we can be smart around our toxic people.

How to be Smart around Toxic People

The answer is almost disappointingly simple: don’t leave it until you are bathed in stupid-rays to do your thinking and your planning. If you want to build an effective shield against the stupid rays, spend some time on it when you are feeling strong, able and a little more clear-headed. Focus on what makes this person toxic to you; on how other people deal with them, and on any recurring patterns that you feel sucked into repeating over and over. Then think about what you might do differently next time you’re together. Plan to try different things and see how they work out. Then with your new information, modify and try to improve things.

It’s the work you do away from them that will immunize you from those toxic people stupid-rays and allow you to use your brains.

And please remember that if you have trouble seeing new options and strategies you can read about them in my other blog posts. Or, of course, you can invest a small amount of money for a huge return of knowhow and techniques and buy Dealing with Toxic People.

You have nothing to lose but the turnip.Toxic Person Induced Turnip-brain


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