The word "toxic" has been thrown around a lot recently, but "toxic" is not defined by any behavior we do not like. Toxic people carry out specific behaviors and strategies which are harmful to others. Here are seven signs of a toxic person to watch out for.
Toxic people might be a part of your family, workplace or friend group. Romantic partners can even be toxic for us. There are many different types of toxic people including narcissists, pathological liars and manipulators. In general, there are a few tell-tale signs for a toxic person.
If you feel the person you are spending time with is pessimistic, “fake,” and passive-aggressive, you may be dealing with a toxic person. Toxic individuals generally are surrounded by drama which leaves us feeling confused and drained of all our energy. The following list encompasses seven strong indicators of a toxic person that you should watch out for.
1. Hurtful Communication
A major sign of a toxic person is somebody who cannot communicate effectively, calmly and maturely. Every type of relationship needs healthy communication. Types of unhealthy communication include passive-aggression, yelling, and giving silent treatments. All of these are hurtful, ineffective ways of communicating that put the toxic person in a place of power.
2. Victimization and False Apologies
When people victimize themselves and refuse to give a true apology, they invalidate the feelings of others. This is a sign of a toxic person. For example, let’s say you tell your friend you are disappointed and upset that she showed up an hour late to your birthday dinner. If she responds by saying “well I’m sorry you are upset but I don’t see what the big deal is… you’re always getting mad at me for being late but that’s just who I am,” this is a classic turning of the tables.
Toxic people will not apologize for their actions, but rather blame you for having feelings. They then turn the situation around so that they themselves are the victim of the situation. This makes it difficult to communicate with toxic people as they do not take you seriously, and you often leave conversations with them feeling much worse than you did before.
3. Guilt and Manipulation
Guilt and manipulation tactics are often used by toxic people as methods to invalidate our feelings and experiences, and to get what they want. For example, your dad might call you in the middle of a meeting even though he knows you are at work. You reject his call and he texts you, “you never want to talk to me or spend time with me because all you care about is your job.” This is a way of guilting and manipulating you into leaving your meeting and calling him back.
Jumping to grandiose statements like “you never” statements are very dramatic and hurtful. In this case, your dad cannot accept the boundaries you have made clear regarding your work. He will not accept your call rejection and may continue to call and text you until you respond. This is a sign he is a toxic person.
Gaslighting is a definite sign of toxicity. Gaslighting is a very specific type of psychological manipulation in which a person invalidates one’s feelings and experiences to the point that the victim begins to question their perception of reality.
Gaslighters cause people to second-guess themselves and their mental sanity, become confused, and lose their confidence over time. Typical methods of gaslighting include telling others they are crazy or lying when they share their feelings.
Gaslighting may include feelings of shame, guilt, frustration and exhaustion. Because the serious effects of gaslighting are more gradual, it’s best to remove yourself from a gaslighting person at the first sign of the behavior.
5. Love Bombing
Love bombing is another type of manipulation used by toxic people. This is generally used in romantic relationships, but can also be a part of a friendship. Love bombing refers to the excessive showering of love at the start of a relationship. This may include excessive praise, attention, presents, grand gestures and time spent together.
The person may even say they love you or mention moving in together in the first week or two of the relationship. When you are in a relationship with a love bomber, you may perceive the relationship as moving too fast. Then it ends as quickly and suddenly as it began.
Love bombing is done to manipulate people into relationships, and once the perpetrator is comfortable in the relationship, they pull back all the love and they become seemingly dull and uninterested. This is confusing and draining for those who experience it, as they want that love back.
Love bombing can sometimes happen again, as a way of “winning back” the partner when they decide to leave. This is part of a cycle of abuse that is extremely unhealthy and can even be dangerous.
Lying is an obvious sign of a toxic person. If you continuously catch somebody in lies, especially in lies that are thought up for their own benefit and possibly at the expense of others, this person is toxic. Sometimes toxic people lie for seemingly no reason. It may be that they just want to stir the pot and cause drama. This is the type of person you should try to remove yourself from immediately.
Did you know that so-called flying monkeys could be helping a narcissistic person manipulate others — against their own will? Learn more: Are you a Narcissist’s Flying Monkey? 7 Signs to Watch Out For
7. Unnecessary and Hurtful Judgments
Judgmental and “fake” people are extremely toxic. There is a huge difference between judging somebody fairly and unfairly. For example, it’s okay to judge somebody as being a messy person if you know their car and home are extremely messy.
What is not okay, is judging people for things beyond their control. People who are needlessly judgmental and make comments on others’ bodies, clothing, families and parenting styles are typically toxic people. These people may seem to get joy out of talking behind people’s backs. They enjoy gossiping about their friends and neighbors and they are nice to them to their face.
This type of behavior is extremely disrespectful and toxic. You can bet if somebody is talking badly about all their friends to you, they are talking badly about you to all their other friends. They are not a true friend, and you may want to distance yourself from them.
How to Deal with a Toxic Person
In general, the best way to deal with a toxic person is to distance yourself from them. Sometimes, this is not possible, however. If the toxic person in your life is a family member or coworker, you have to figure out a way to deal with them. In friendships and romantic relationships, it is up to your discretion of how to deal with toxic people.
If you feel the issues are minimal and can be worked through, you may want to consider confronting them. Remember, not all toxic people are intentionally creating master plans of how to manipulate others.
However, toxic behavior has the same impacts regardless of intentions. If a person wants to change their toxic behavior, they should be encouraged to work on that themselves so as to have happier, more fulfilling relationships. Here are a few ways to deal with toxic people.
- Stay calm even as you get upset by the toxic person. Getting aggravated will only exacerbate the situation.
- End the conversation as soon as it becomes toxic. When you notice toxic behavior, note it out loud to the person and put an end to it. You can say things like “I don’t like where this conversation is going” or “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” It is your right not to engage in conversations that are hurtful to you.
- Point out the problems in their behavior. When ending a toxic conversation or behavior, feel free to tell the person what it is you are upset about if you feel comfortable doing so. You can say “I don’t appreciate you invalidating my feelings” or “I have caught you in a lie and it’s making me uncomfortable.”
- Put yourself first. It is not your job to fix a toxic person. You can point out what they are doing, but it is up to them to work on themselves and try and be better. Remember to prioritize yourself and stick to what you are comfortable with.
- Walk away if the behavior does not stop. This is you setting boundaries. If you are in a situation in which you can’t walk away, maybe you can put in headphones or take a bathroom break if you need to calm down a bit.
- Cut contact. If the toxic person in your life is not improving and you have the ability to cut contact with them, this may be the best decision. Remember, cutting contact is just another boundary. If somebody is consistently hurting you, you must put yourself first. This may be difficult as toxic people will make you feel that you are to blame. This is not true. If you are in an unhealthy relationship with a toxic person, you can consider limiting your time together or cutting them off altogether. You can even block them on social media to make sure you don’t have to be reminded of them anymore Depending on the context of the relationship and the toxic behavior, this is up to your discretion.
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