We live in a world full of all kinds of different people, and learning how to interact with them successfully is a foundational life skill. When we’re young, we often enter into relationships believing we will be able to change the other person. The sooner we realize nobody changes just because we want them to, the sooner we can get to work on resolving interpersonal issues.
A caring attitude, mutual respect and clear communication are usually enough to break through roadblocks between friends, lovers and co-workers. When we’re dealing with toxic people, however, the standard rules do not apply.
Toxic people can be extremely charismatic. We often find ourselves charmed and immersed in a relationship before we realize what’s happening. Because toxic people behave in ways that are damaging to others, it is important to recognize them early.
Here are 12 ways you can recognize a toxic person:
- Toxic people live lives of intense drama, and it’s easy to get sucked in.
- Toxic people are completely self-centered. They make sure all attention focuses on them.
- Toxic people often appear to need constant rescuing.
- They are mean. A toxic person may mistreat you over and over, if you allow it.
- Toxic people try to control you through emotional manipulation.
- You never know what behavior to expect. Toxic people can be alternately kind or hurtful, calm or enraged. They keep you off balance.
- Toxic people frequently test you, asking you to prove your love or friendship.
- Toxic people lie. You can’t believe anything they tell you.
- Toxic people may be around when you have a crisis, but they will rarely share a happy moment. They like it when you are struggling more than when you are succeeding.
- They take every chance to bring you down.
- Toxic people judge you.
- They manipulate conversations to keep you confused.
“Sometimes you have to accept the truth and stop wasting time on the wrong people.”
How can you protect yourself from a toxic person?
Once you have identified a toxic person, the best way to deal with that person is to keep your interactions at a minimum. When possible, detach from the relationship altogether. Of course, complete withdrawal is not always practical.
Sometimes the toxic person is someone you must see at work, or a person in your family. If you make the choice to continue interacting with the toxic person, it is vital that you determine in advance the form of your interaction. Make a decision in which you will approach every interaction feeling centered and clear.
See the toxic person when necessary, but keep them at arm’s length. Check in with your body, and note any inner tension or anxiety. Give yourself plenty of space.
Do not be drawn into unnecessary conversation with a toxic person, and never attempt to justify yourself. Toxic people approach conversations as a win/lose proposition, so don’t waste your valuable time. Keep your interactions brief, polite, but superficial.
Have a clear sense of your own boundaries. If you are in a position of working with a toxic person on a project, decide early on what you will do and what is not acceptable to you. Be courteous but consistent. Having a toxic person in the vicinity is a great opportunity for you to practice establishing and enforcing your personal boundaries.
“Because at some point you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart but not in your life.” – Sandi Lynn
Most of us will encounter at least one toxic person during our lifetime. When you are able to identify them and protect yourself, you can think of this as a gift. Toxic people provide a great opportunity to practice operating autonomously, from a position of your own personal power.