There are some people who seem to have a special ability to drain our energy and bring us down. This could be because of the things they say to us, about us, or just their perception of the world in general.
Clarifying exactly what a toxic person is can be quite tricky. Because there isn’t a specific set of traits we can look at and come to the conclusion that someone’s overall personality is toxic to everyone. It is, therefore, better to focus on behaviors that hurt you and make you feel worse than you felt before you interacted with certain people.
Most of the time, it’s better to avoid these interactions, but sometimes there is no easy way out. We might want to understand how to deal with people who act toxic because, in some cases, they are our relatives or work colleagues whom we can’t easily cut off and stop talking to.
In this article, we explain the signs of people's toxic behavior and how you can deal with it and turn those toxic relationships around.
What Are the Signs of Toxic Behavior?
A person who acts toxic does not portray toxic behavior and traits to all the people they come across. It is therefore important for you not to judge one’s toxicity based on how they interact with other people. The best people to determine the level of toxicity in a relationship are the two people involved.
While narcissists and sociopaths are different, the two groups of people show signs of both impulsiveness and exploitation, which are indicators of toxic relationships. Both use fake apologies as a form of manipulation. Next time someone apologizes, observe how they act after the apology. If they continue making the same mistake over and over, that relationship could be toxic.
Narcissists will jump at every opportunity to make you feel less worthy. They will downplay all your success just so that you doubt yourself and your capabilities. On one interaction, they might be nice, and the next might be totally different. With them, you never know what to expect.
Here is a list of some toxic behaviors you need to look out for so you can recognize toxicity both in yourself and the people around you.
- Abusiveness (physical, emotional, psychological, etc.)
- Guilt trips/silent treatments
- Withdrawal of affection
- Violence and suicide threats
- Always a victim
- Love bombing
- Creating conflict with other colleagues/family members
How Toxic Behavior Impacts Others
One main determinant of a toxic relationship is when the bad outweighs the good that is derived from the relationship. Relationships that are laced with abuse, be it emotional, verbal, or physical, are definitely toxic to you.
Interacting with people who are always undermining and devaluing can negatively impact your self-confidence over time.
The disrespect and disregard of boundaries are another sign of a toxic relationship. If you find yourself constantly repeating your boundaries to someone, you might need to take a step back and reevaluate that relationship which might be toxic.
Moreover, people who act toxic try to ensure that you aren’t your best self when around them. You walk on eggshells to not be the target of their aggression. Remember to keep an eye on how you behave when around certain people. Interactions that bring out the worst in you might signal anger issues, but it can also mean that your boundaries are always tested. If that’s the case, you might need to minimize or entirely eliminate these interactions.
How to Deal With Toxicity
Do any of these signs seem familiar? Read on and find tips you can adapt, cope and deal with toxic relationships.
Stand your ground
Toxic relationships might stir doubts regarding who you are and what you believe in. They might make you feel ashamed of yourself, selfish, and inconsiderate. A firm understanding of who you are and your values will ensure that no one can manipulate you into doubting yourself and thinking otherwise.
Not playing into the toxic reality people try to create around you is also necessary. Try to always perceive the reality according to your perspective and not those around you, especially if they show signs of toxicity.
Remember to be assertive when expressing your needs and boundaries. If you evaluate a relationship and realize that someone is causing damage to your mental health and self-esteem, do the best you can to limit the time you spend with those toxic individuals. If you decide that you will not tolerate a set of behaviors, make sure that you do not tolerate those at all.
If your boundaries aren’t firm, they will likely be continuously pushed.
Focus on your needs
The best person to cater to your needs is you. As you try to manoeuver through a toxic relationship, remember to put your needs first and never compromise on that.
Your mental well-being should always be your priority. Whenever you have to choose between your needs and someone else’s, always put yours first. Focus on creating an environment that enriches your needs.
Keep in mind that healthy relationships are two-way. So if you find yourself being the only giver in the relationship, it is worth reevaluating, and it might be a toxic one.
Learn to say no
When was the last time you said no and remained firm with your response? For most people, that was probably a long time ago.
To effectively deal with people who seem toxic, it is important to learn how to say no and not feel bad about it. Toxic relationships thrive in environments where people do not say no.
When you feel like a request will not serve you or it will compromise your well-being, do not be shy to say no. Kaela Scott, a therapist, talks about the art of saying no. She states that we should not lie, make excuses, or over-explain ourselves. We should be comfortable with simply declining.
People who act toxic will likely try to manipulate you to change your response. This should not shake your ground and force you to take back your initial response.
Refusing to do something does not make you a bad person. At first, saying no might seem difficult and result in you feeling bad. But it gets better with time.
End unwanted conversations
Have you ever found yourself stuck in a conversation that you know will do you no good, but you can’t seem to get yourself out of it?
This can often happen at work, with your coworkers and colleagues whom you cannot avoid. As they have access to you, they will likely come and start initiating conversations that might evolve into being toxic relationships.
Before the conversation becomes too draining for you, you can always politely leave it. Statements such as “I would love to continue talking, but I have an urgent email to send/call to make” will make it easier for you to end the conversation.
Try not to get involved in the drama
People who engage in toxic behavior are almost always followed by drama. There is always something negative happening in their lives and guess what? It is never their fault!
As humans, we are curious to know about people’s drama and troubles. However, when the person in question is toxic, it is advisable to separate yourself from their drama and problems. Involvement might lead to over-involvement and chaos.
Although you might have the urge to get hooked on the drama, resist the urge and ignore your curiosity.
Speak to them about It
Sometimes, the person with toxic traits is blissfully unaware of the negative implications of their behavior.
In such cases, create an environment that makes it easy to talk about these toxic relationships. Ensure that focus is on the toxic behavior and not on the person. This reduces conflict. Expressing yourself as “I feel…” will come across as less confrontational than saying “You…”
Confrontational conversations are often met with resistance, so it becomes difficult to address and change the toxic traits.
Remember that you can’t fix them
When in a toxic relationship, you might find yourself overwhelmed with the need to change or fix the people around you because of how their behavior gets in your way. Sadly, you cannot fix them.
People who act toxic probably know that others will try to fix them, and this often leads to outbursts and anger. Therefore, when you are in a situation where they show behavior you do not tolerate, walk away and have the discussion once the dust has settled.
Remember that you should stop trying to please them and be aware of your emotions so that you do your best to protect your emotional state.
Limit your time with them
When in a toxic relationship, spend as little time as possible with that person. This way, their problematic traits do not affect you as much.
Toxic relationships often stir up feelings of anxiousness and foster low self-esteem. No one needs any of these. Come up with several excuses to ensure that you limit your time with them.
If you find the relationship constantly draining you, it’s worth reevaluating and deciding whether it’s worth maintaining the contact. Being around people that bring the best out of you and having relationships that cheer you up and allow you to grow is one great way to sail through life.
Sometimes, all you need to do when trying to grasp how to deal with a toxic person is talk to someone.
Toxic relationships are exhausting, and getting mental support is very important, especially in cases where it’s impossible to leave the relationship. A therapist is equipped to help you deal with these relationships without jeopardizing your mental health.
When you are uncertain about a relationship, therapists will help you clearly understand if a relationship is causing you good or bad.
However, not all may find in-person therapy convenient. Online therapy offers the desired comfort, convenience, and privacy. It can be done from anywhere, and it allows you and your online counselor to come up with a schedule that works the best for both of you.
During therapy, you will get a chance to share your experiences regarding toxic relationships in a non-judgemental environment. Online therapy will help you define boundaries and methods that you can use to deal with toxic people.
In addition, you can also encourage people with toxic behaviors to get help in the form of therapy. This will help both you and them understand why they act the way they do. This explanation of behavior can be a good starting point for altering those toxic patterns.
As mentioned earlier, when experiencing a toxic relationship, you can not change people, and their behavior does not reflect yours.
After interacting with someone who acts in toxic ways, you might find yourself experiencing negative emotions such as feeling guilty and having anxiety. You might blame yourself for how the other person reacted to a situation.
Remember, you aren’t always to blame. Everyone is responsible for how they react, and you cannot do much to change that.
The Bottom Line
Almost all of us have had at least one toxic interaction. In some cases, we can easily cut people off, but in some, it can be difficult. Do your best to avoid interactions that leave you feeling worse than you did before you had them.
If you are finding it difficult to implement the provided tips or you can’t seem to see the results, consider trying any form of therapy. Due to the benefits of online therapy, many people are drawn to it. You can learn more about it here.