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The Unmistakable Creative Podcast

Toxic Charisma

Srinivas Rao

Bob Gower

Srinivas Rao · 6/21/21

Nobody ever thinks that charismatic leaders are toxic, but they can wreak havoc in our lives without us realizing it. So share your questions about toxic charisma with me and Bob.

The Medical Mixx · 6/24/21

Hey, guys, what do you think about leaders who are extremely overly positive? And then when someone else tries to give an idea about something, they'll just shut it down and keep smiling and pretend that everything is okay. But they'll just instantly shut down an idea and just try to make sure that their point is still heard while still trying to look all nice. And you have all this Christmas.

Bob Gower · 6/24/21

There are a couple of things you might look up. You don't give me enough information to really understand your situation, but it sounds like you might be talking about an example of what's called spiritual bypassing, which is where you use spiritual language to avoid a difficult topic to avoid truly engaging with a difficult topic. If you know people who are all love and light and peace and no negative energy around here, those people are frequently trying to shut down real inquiry and real engagement by using spiritual language. So you might look up spiritual bypassing and see if that applies. Another thing you might look up is something called a thought terminating cliche. And that really is where people will use phrases that shut down again, shut down inquiry, and they might be sort of a spiritual bypass kind of phrase. So it could be something like it is what it is. You know, when people use a cliche like that, they're often again trying to keep you from inquiry and trying to keep you from truly thinking. And these are both practices that are common in the I would call it the wellness influencer or the spiritual influencer space where people are really trying to gained followers, where they're trying to manipulate people, where they're trying to keep people from thinking too deeply and keeping people a little bit off balance. So I don't know if that's your situation, but I would look into those two things.

Bob Gower · 6/24/21

Hey, everybody, this is Bob. I would really love to hear your questions and love to engage with you on this topic. It's such a great and important and vital topic, and I really appreciate Trendy for inviting me on his podcast again to discuss it. I've already gotten one question and just left an answer for that person, so please, Let's keep it going. Let's keep the dialogue going. Thanks for being here.

Srinivas Rao · 6/24/21

Hey seen here. Thanks so much for the question. I'm really glad to see you drained airspace. We're really excited to make the podcast a more interactive experience for ever videos listening. So, you know, to Bob's point, I think that he brought up some really good points about thought combining cliches. Tomorrow you'll actually hear from Rick Allen Ross, who is the number one cult programming expert in the world. And he actually mentions that his work, this idea of tough, commanding cliches, where they basically shut off your sort of logical thinking by using that, just creating a whole new language. But I think that that's something that I'm always very skeptical of when people are pretty much discussed on Shine and Roses, because I think that to Bob's point, there's just something not real about it, because nobody is like that all the time. But the thing is when somebody is in front of a large audience or in front of a group, they're acting not as they necessarily do behind closed doors, because they might be a public figure. So that's something to think about is public figures are different in personal life than they are. I think when they're in front of an audience in particular. And that's just by necessity, I'm sure they're politicians who say things behind closed doors that are ridiculous. And even I think all of us do. So. Anyways, this is a great question. And thanks, Bob, for joining the conversation as well.

Matthew Cooke · 6/24/21

Hey, Bob, my name is Matthew Cook, and I'm just curious about what are the signs or symptoms that I could see within a particular leader who's potentially toxic? What are some of the things that I should be looking out for, but also perhaps even what should I be noticing about myself? Or maybe how I'm responding to a toxic leader is a leader who has toxic charisma. I'm just really curious to learn more about this because I feel like having been in self development now for probably close to a decade. At this point, it's almost harder to even spot those things because because I have been in the industry for so long. So I think there's just a lot of norms within the industry that I think it's difficult to pick up on some of these things. So I would love any feedback or thoughts that you have. Thanks.

Bob Gower · 6/24/21

Hi, Matthew. Thanks so much for your question. And it really is the core question, isn't it? I think it's what animates a lot of my work right now, or at least when I do discuss this topic. So there's a few things I think you need to look out for, and nothing is definitive. I'll say that one of these things could be present with somebody, and they could be fine. But a lot of it comes down to what are the outcomes that you're experiencing in your life by being under the influence of this person, by following their teachings, or is it helping you create the kind of life that you truly want? And I think we really have to ask ourselves that question on a relatively deep level and often asking ourselves that question with somebody we trust who is not a part of the group, that we have suspicions about, our concerns about maintaining a why network of people is really helpful. That's what I think. There's a couple of things that we can really ask ourselves first is is this person introducing urgency where it doesn't need to exist? Right. So is it like, sort of a buy now or miss out forever kind of situation? Because that's really never true. But it's a very common sales technique that's used in these sort of toxic environments. Right. Likewise. Are people telling you that they've cornered the market on a certain kind of truth, that they claim that their organization, their insight, is specifically unique, and it's very unique, and everyone else is full of shit. And this is what we actually call an Echo Chamber. This is a really this is a technical term, and it just means where we don't trust anybody else. We don't trust anybody outside of the group to have any corner on truth. So they've cornered the market on truth. If you're feeling compelled to seek the approval and really don't want to disappoint the person, that's often a hope that a lot of people use, especially to those of us who have been part of come from families of origin where that was, you know, where there's maybe a bit of some trauma and tragic and wounds that have not been healed, that they're asking them to step into the role of father or mother, and we're really trying to improve them. If I feel embarrassed or even afraid to say no to somebody, and especially because they might even shame me for selling myself out or not being spiritual enough, because I've decided that I want to spend my money or my time doing something else. So if I feeling free to say no is a real sign that you are not in a toxic environment, is the person moving too quickly, making me feel really special overnight? This is what manipulative and narcissistic partners and love matches do, but it's also what cult leaders do might be encouraged to spend money I don't have. And I think finally, have you been lied to, like, have you caught them in a lie and then made an excuse for it? And that could be a really big sign. Secondly, I'm going to highlight the work of Terry Cole, who's also been on this podcast, and she has three questions that might help you ask as you are trying to unwind your own attachment, ask yourself three questions. 1. Who does this person remind me of in my life? Two. Have I felt like this before at any point in my life? And three, how is this behavioral dynamic that I'm experiencing familiar? And often those three questions can begin to help us unwind our mind, especially if we're doing it with somebody who, again, is not under the thrall of that leader. So having a community of people around you that is diverse, I think, is really important. Thanks again for the question. I think it's so important, and I'm so glad you asked it.

Andrea ‘Angie’ Palmer · 6/24/21

Hello, Bob. My name is Andrea. And I really appreciate those last three questions that are going to take us to places of really reflecting on who we are relating to. But also, what about when it's you that you identify as the toxic, charismatic person and what does it look like to compassionately and intentionally detach yourself from that and reframe it.

Srinivas Rao · 6/24/21

Hey, Andrea, screening here for Bub will have probably more insightful answer than I do to this question, but I think you bring up a really important point. As people basically rise in status, their ego tends to get in their way, and they don't even realize often that they are becoming sort of toxic, charismatic people. And I think the thing that I have realized just sort of after 10 years of understandable, creative and being in the public eye to some degree, I think it comes down to awareness and the willingness to be honest with yourself, but also the willingness to allow other people to be honest with you, even if they're telling you things you don't want to hear. So you might have heard some of news by mentor Greg Hartle had a reputation for being very, very hard on me when we worked together, but he didn't tell me what I wanted to hear. He told me what I needed to hear, and as hard as it was at the time, that ended up being very invaluable later on. So that's just my personal thought on this. But I think that that's a starting point is to cultivate selfawareness.

Bob Gower · 6/25/21

Hi, Andrea. This is Bob. I wish I had a really good answer for you. And one of the things I noticed is I think since my cult experience, I actually kind of avoid leadership positions, and maybe it's partially beat out of caution for myself. And I know that's not really a a satisfactory answer to your question, which I think is a really good one. Harry A Sari in one of other Stones podcasts here in the series, she said something about I wish I could recall it exactly, but it was something about how if, you know, if you're selling, like, the don't let your purpose overwhelm the humanity of the other people or something like that. And I see this in a lot of organizations where the purpose of the organization. I work with nonprofits now, I work with a lot of purpose driven organizations. And one of the things I notice is that people, leaders, especially, will use the purpose almost as a manipulation tool, like, well, if you believe in this more, you would work harder. You would stay later, you would take less money, those kinds of things. And I think it's an example of this where we let the service if the purpose overwhelm the sensitivity, the humanity, the connection, the empathy that we have for the people who are working for us and working on that purpose, I think that's maybe just one piece of caution or something to kind of keep in, keep in our heads. I also did hear a podcast. I can't remember who it was on the Con Spirituality podcast. And it was somebody who described herself as charismatic and also had been a cult member herself. And she said that she has a therapist that she meets with regularly to keep her from starting a cult or joining one. And I thought that was really sort of valuable insight that other people are thinking about this. I do believe that it's ultimately community. It's a community that keeps us out of cults. We have a community full of diverse people from different backgrounds, who we remain close to, who we trust, who we listen to. And when I work with leaders, the more toxic leaders that I've worked with are ones who have let go of or perhaps even never had the contrarian around them and never thought to have a humility to check. Hey, how am I really doing? How are you really experiencing me getting feedback, and I have a good portion now. I'm working with actually a leader who I admire a great deal who constantly check in. She checks in with me. She checks in with other people on her staff, you know, like, what was that meaning? Like, for you, what did you notice? Is there any advice you would have for me about how I could show up differently? And I think, you know, really, it comes down to, frankly, three things. And much of my life comes down to this I think, too, which is my happiness, which is humility admitting that we might be able to get things wrong, reminding ourselves that everybody does empathy, which is the ability to kind of feel or connect with or step in the shoes of the other people around us. And the third piece is vulnerability. And I don't think there's really the leaders that I've seen who go the most wrong are the ones who lack one, if not all three of those things, because life is, really, I believe, an inherently vulnerable position. And a lot of the times what I notice charismatic or influential people do is they begin to insulate themselves, and they insulate themselves and become less vulnerable to the people to because I want to feel less vulnerable. They want to feel more impervious. They want to feel right all the time. And anyway, I know this is kind of long winded. I hope it's a helpful answer, and I hope it threads into your question. I hope you get this. Anyway, thanks so much for the question. It was really great.