Updated: Jun 11
Toxic people are everywhere – they’re hiding at work, in cafes, within friendship groups even in your own family – just waiting to cause chaos in your life.
We’ve all encountered them at one point or another in our lives. The colleague who always seems to be having a dig at you, the friend whose life is a constant drama they want to involve you in, the difficult neighbour, or the family member who drains you of energy every time you see or speak to them.
What all these people have in common is their toxicity – they are unpleasant, energy sapping and just difficult to spend time with. Like a poison, they do nothing to enhance your life or career.
But how can you spot a toxic person? Let's look at 10 ways they can show themselves:
1 - They won’t own their feelings.
They’ll act as though their feelings are yours by projecting their feelings and thoughts onto you. For example, if they’re angry but won’t take responsibility for it they’ll accuse you of being angry with them instead. Or it could be more subtle such as, ‘Are you okay with me?’ or, ‘You’ve been in a bad mood all day.’
You’ll find yourself justifying and defending yourself against nothing and it’ll go around in circles – because it’s not about you.
If you’re defending yourself too many times against accusations or questions that don’t fit, you might be being projected on to.
2 - They’ll make you prove yourself to them.
You’ll regularly be put into a position where you’ll be expected to choose between them and something else – and of course you’ll always feel obliged to choose them. Toxic people will wait until you have a commitment, then a drama will arise.
You’ll hear things like ‘If you really cared about me you’d skip blah blah and spend time with me.’ The problem with this is that once you start there will be no end and let’s face it few things are that important – unless it’s life or death, stand your ground.
3 - They’ll manipulate you.
If you think you’re the only one contributing to the relationship, you’re probably right. Toxic people have a way of sending out the vibe that you owe them something.
They also have a way of taking from you or doing something that hurts you, then maintaining they were doing it all for you. You don’t owe anybody anything. If it doesn’t feel like a favour, it’s not.
4 - They’ll never apologise.
It’s never going to happen – seriously, they’ll lie before they apologise to you, so don’t bother arguing. They’ll twist the story; change the way it happened and retell it so credibly that they’ll actually believe their own claptrap – all so there is no need for an apology.
Don’t bend to their will but don’t keep the argument going either. There’s just no point. Some people want to be right more than they want to be happy and you’ve better things to do.
Remember – they don’t have to apologise to still be wrong, so don’t let the absence of an apology stop you from moving forward. Just move forward – without them.
5 - They’ll never ever share your joy.
They’ll always be a reason why your good news isn’t great news. Things such as the news on your promotion ‘The money isn’t that great for the amount of work you’ll be doing.’ That amazing tropical holiday “It’s really humid and full of mosquitos. Are you sure that’s the best choice?’ Don’t let them dampen your joy or bring you down to their jealous level. Who needs the approval of a toxic person anyway - or anyone else’s for that matter?
6 - They’ll keep you guessing about which version of them you’re getting.
They’ll be lovely one day and off the next, leaving you slightly paranoid wondering what you’ve done to upset them.
They might be grumpy, cold or crabby and when you ask if there’s something wrong, the answer will likely be ‘nothing’ (in a cold tone to let you know that there is something wrong)
When this happens, you might find yourself making excuses or doing all you can to make them happy. See why it works for them? Attention seeking!!!
Toxic people figured out a long time ago that decent people will go to extraordinary lengths to keep the people they care about happy. Stop trying to please them.
Walk away and come back when the mood has shifted. You’re not responsible for anybody else’s feelings.
7 - They’ll use non-toxic words with a toxic tone.
The message will be innocent, but the tone says otherwise. Things like ‘What did you do today?’ has different meanings depending on the way it’s said. It could mean anything from ‘So I bet you did nothing – as usual,’ to ‘I’m sure your day was better than mine. Mine was terrible. And you didn’t even notice enough to care.’
Then when you question their tone, they’ll come back with, ‘All I said was what did you do today,’ which is true, kind of, not really.
8 - They exaggerate.
‘You always …’ ‘You never …’ It’s hard to defend yourself against this form of manipulation. Toxic people have a way of focussing on the one time you did or didn’t do something as evidence of your alleged failings.
Sometimes I’m naughty and like to play with people when they do this, I ask them to name 3 or 5 times when this happened – as we know they can’t, so fail. But I’m here to be sensible and I recommend not buying into the argument – because you don’t need to.
9 - They are judgemental.
We all make mistakes, but toxic people love to point this out to you – and probably make sure everyone else knows it too. They’ll judge you and take a swipe at your self-esteem suggesting that you’re less than because you made a mistake.
10- They’ll make it about the way you’re talking, rather than what you’re talking about.
You might be trying to resolve an issue or get clarification and before you know it, the conversation / argument has moved away from the issue with their behaviour on to the way you talked about it. Now you’re defending your tone, your gestures, your choice of words or the way you belly moves when you breathe – it doesn’t even need to make sense. Meanwhile, the real issue – their toxicity has gone on the pile of unfinished conversations that seems to grow bigger by the day.
Some people can’t ever be pleased it’s of no benefit to them, they’re not getting any attention that way, and some people just won’t be good for you – and many times that’ll have nothing to do with you.
If you recognise any of the above traits in people in your life and you’re having trouble knowing how best to handle them then I’ve something that’ll be perfect for you.
It’s my comprehensive guide called Tackling Toxic People. It’s packed full of strategies that are adaptable to use in different situations along with exercises to help you crystalise your thinking in what to do next. Plus, there is a really thorough “Are They Really Toxic?” questionnaire so you can establish whether they really are toxic of just annoying 😊
I hope this has helped you in understanding whether you do have people with toxic traits in your life. Awareness is the key, once you know what you're dealing with you can take the appropriate action and save your peace and energy.
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Until next time, sending love your way.