Many people come to psychotherapy due to frustrations in dealing with “difficult people” in their day-to-day lives – family and extended family members, colleagues, fellow TTC passengers, etc. On this topic of dealing with difficult people, I recently listened to Louisa Jewell, President of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association, interview David J. Pollay, MAPP and author of “The Law of the Garbage Truck: How to Stop People from Dumping on You”(1). Some of the content of that interview is shared here.
Mr. Pollay explains that while we sometimes allow other people to “dump their emotional garbage” on us, allowing this – taking it personally, giving meaning to what they say, absorbing the words – can weigh us down and make us unhappy. He points out that even seemingly small/insignificant garbage – everyday “hassles” such as criticisms and complaints – can have a negative impact on our health, and lure us away from focusing on what is truly meaningful to us in our lives.
Mr. Pollay was inspired to write this book when he encountered a New York City Taxi driver who, having been cut off and then yelled at by the very driver who cut him off, just smiled and waved at this other driver, and moved on. In turn, Mr. Pollay now suggests that people remind themselves that, “I am not a garbage truck. I do not accept negative emotional garbage I can’t control and dump it on others.”
Of course choosing not to engage in others’ garbage offloads is not as easy as 1-2-3! But with practice, and in time, it can potentially save a lot of energy.
Other strategies provided by Mr. Pollay for this sort of challenge include: Asking the person dumping his garbage on you if he would like a chance to vent, as this question tends to slow the person down; reducing your interactions with this person; and/or, when you catch someone who often dumps her garbage on you acting kindly towards you, notice it, point it out, and mention how much you appreciate this behaviour over when she’s picking on you.
Trudi Wyatt, MA, RP, CCC is a Registered Psychotherapist and Canadian Certified Counsellor in Private Practice in downtown Toronto. She has been practising for six years and currently works with individual adults on a variety of life challenges such as depression, anger management, post-traumatic stress disorder, relationships, and career direction.
1. 14 May 2015 Louisa Jewell interview with David J. Pollay: Dealing with Difficult People.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA