We all love shooting the breeze with our friends; we could all use that little bit of humour to lighten up the mood and make working life fun. However, even the most casual of banter can take a nasty turn. Imagine being made fun of when being in a state of vulnerability or getting embarrassed whilst self-conscious. These are definitely not nice feelings and are of ten the result of toxic actions. Granted that you're probably not toxic in terms of personality, but even the nicest of people can inadvertently act in a way that appears otherwise. Here are three important values which can act as weapons to help you stop those motions in their tracks before they get out of control.
Everything and everyone has a limit. If neglected, things can get overboard. It is important to be sensitive to your friend's feelings and to know when to stop pushing their buttons. If you sense that your friend is getting distressed or know that a certain topic is sensitive to him/ her, take the hint and don't tease them about it. Sure, the joke might bring about roaring laughter but might also cause some irreparable damage to your friend's psyche.
Humility is one of the hardest values to cultivate today, especially when everyone is competing to be a step ahead of their peers. However, humility is extremely valuable and is critical for relationship-building. A lack of humility might present itself as a front of passive-aggressiveness or a desire to find fault with everyone. Both attitudes make the other party feel bad and might even cause the person to distance themselves from you.
One way of showing empathy is letting someone know that you've been through a similar situation and then showing them the appropriate understanding and concern. However, telling someone that you've been through the same situation and then belittling her current circumstance is no longer empathy. Don't assume that you have the power to downplay someone's situation just because you've been (or are) going through something similar or worse. This is the furthest thing from empathy; it's unhealthy competition. Not only will this make your friend feel insignificant, it might also cause them to close up and stop talking about their feelings altigether. Instead, it is important to just learn to listen to your friend and recognise the distress or pain that he/she might be in.
We've talked about how to fight toxic behaviours with three key values, but building and maintaining relationships is something that requires conscious effort. After all, it's always the good things that you have to work for. The general rule of thumb is to follow that oft-repeated “golden rule”: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.