Some people are toxic. Maybe not as many as we think, but toxic people are out there. Unmistakably. In fact, we almost always know when we’ve encountered one because both our body and our mind react. That, too, is unmistakeable.
What often happens is denial. We simply can’t believe that what our body and our brain are telling us could be true. We make excuses. We have “reasons” and explanations for their behavior. I’ve been expert at that over the years. “Interpretations.”
Eventually, we have to accept what’s right in front of us. Let me save you some time,
Here’s how to recognize toxic people:
Their tone of voice.
If their tone is negative, nasty, sarcastic or unpleasant, pay attention.
Conversation must be about them, their concerns, their interests.
They do not ask about you or your interests. It’s “me, me, me” all the way. A self-centered person is often a toxic person.
It feels like you are walking on eggshells when you interact with them.
If you have to hold back what you say or even be more careful about how you interact, chances are they’re toxic. Or you wouldn’t have to be so careful around them.
They are defensive when they interact with you.
They say the best defense is a good offense, and that’s true with toxic people. But they can also be super-defensive.
They never have a nice thing to say about you. To you or to others.
I knew someone who could never compliment me, even when it would be more than appropriate to do so. I finally figured out that they didn’t want to make me feel good. Yep, toxic. Buh-bye.
You feel the arrow piercing in some of their remarks.
If your feelings are hurt, pay attention. You could be oversensitive. But THEY could be toxic.
They don’t seem to care if they hurt you. Or if you are hurt by others.
A lack of compassion or empathy is a red flag. Waving at you.
They do not comfort you when you need it.
Someone who can not hug you or offer a comforting word is pretty broken. Toxic.
You can tell they do not wish you well.
Sometimes you can actually FEEL the resentment. It’s visceral.
They are passive-aggressive.
This always makes me laugh. I particularly enjoyed it when a family member who does not wish me well left a nasty comment on my blog under a fake name. It was so obvious! Toxic. Capital “T”. I no longer take any shit. Nope. And don’t you, either.
It’s not uncommon to be blind to this. After all, if we care about someone, we want to think well of them. “Surely they don’t mean that as nastily as it came out,” we might think. Well, actually, they can. And do. It can be very purposeful. And personal. And it’s been my experience that we always know. ALWAYS. We just don’t want to believe it.
* If you don’t feel good after spending time with them, it’s a toxic situation.
Toxic people lash out because they are unhappy, themselves. But that doesn’t give them license to treat you badly. As a girlfriend once said to a guy who had mistreated her, “there is no excuse for being mean.” And there isn’t.
So here’s how to deal with toxic people:
If you feel zinged, take a hard look.
What is really going on? Try to evaluate the situation clearly.
Don’t make excuses.
There is never a reason to treat someone badly. It is never ok. Not if they are troubled, in pain, or for any other reason.
Decide if they must have a role in your life.
Sometimes, we’re forced to accept toxic people in our life due to circumstances, such as work. Or it’s an extended family member we see infrequently. If it’s a spouse, you have a bigger problem. Make every effort to get counseling.
If they must be in your life, minimize interactions.
Be cordial but keep your distance.
Remove them from your life.
This is a drastic step, but sometimes it is the only one. If it’s toxic, it has no place in your life. No big drama necessary, just a “See ya.”
I know, myself, how easy it is to excuse bad behavior. I don’t do it any more. I hope you won’t, either.