We all have people in our lives who give us a hard time sometimes. Whether it’s because you disagree, don’t get along, or simply dislike each other, it’s perfectly normal not to see eye-to-eye with everyone all the time. However, difficult people aren’t the same as toxic ones.
A toxic person is a negative influence in your life who exploits you and drains your energy with their needless drama, leaving you emotionally exhausted. They are manipulative, deceptive, egocentric, and domineering, but won’t show you their true colors until they’ve gotten close enough to exploit you. If you’re not careful, a toxic relationship can rob you of all your happiness, motivation, and self-esteem over time.
To help you figure out if there’s someone in your life who’s toxic for you, here are 6 telltale signs of a toxic person:
1. They Abuse You
Whether it’s physically or emotionally, abusing another person in any way is never acceptable. No matter how much you want to forgive them or how often they say they’ll change, it’s always best to cut ties with someone once abuse starts to happen, especially if it’s intentional. While not all toxic relationships are abusive, all abusive relationships are toxic. Abusers will often wreak havoc on their victims’ lives because the lower their self-esteem, the more suggestible and easier to exploit they become (Moore & Kirkham, 2001).
2. They Manipulate You
A toxic person will likely try to control you without you knowing it, so emotional manipulation can be hard to spot from the inside out. A good way to tell, however, is by looking at the consistency of someone’s behaviors. Often times, people like this will lie to you to get their way, and once they do, they are quick to turn on you and stop treating you with honesty and respect. They exploit your kindness and use your good nature against you, so when you show them compassion and sympathy, it makes you a prime target for them to latch on to (Grosz, Dufner, Beck, &Denissen, 2015).
3. They Exploit You
Toxic people only care about you when they can use you. They look out for themselves and only have their best interests in mind, but will often demand that you prioritize them and attend to their needs. While they may pretend to care about you sometimes, their actions don’t usually match their words. All they ever do is go on and on about themselves without giving you much time to speak, and may even talk over you when you do. They try to suck you into problems and will often coerce you into helping them and doing them favors, even if you don’t want to.
4. They Take Things Out On You
Another common characteristic of toxic people is that they often treat those around them like psychological punching bags. Whenever they are faced with a problem, they tend to deal with it by taking it out on others and projecting their negative feelings on someone else (Muller, 2011). They do this by getting angry at you or treating you with sarcasm and thinly-veiled judgment. A toxic person will prey on your insecurities and make you feel bad about yourself because, as the saying goes, misery loves company.
5. They Never Agree With You
When a person has an unhealthy need to be right all the time, it can be exhausting just to be around them. They may believe that they are right about everything, and thus, will often try to intimidate and control you into doing things their way. They disagree with you about almost everything and refuse to hear you out or see things from your point of view. They’re bad listeners who don’t care about what you have to say and get upset with you when you don’t follow their orders. This kind of toxic behavior can trap you in a vicious cycle of frustration and powerlessness against someone who simply can’t be reasoned with
6. They’re Always Negative
It’s hard to grow and find happiness in life when you have someone in your corner who always tries to drag you down. These kinds of toxic people are your classic Debbie Downers who can’t seem to find it in themselves to be positive about anything. They frequently complain to you about how unfair everything is and always seem to be criticizing those around them. They have a knack for finding the downside to everything and constantly look for reasons to be worried. While they may not be hurting you directly, their negativity and dour mood can be infectious and may start making you unhappy as well (University of Chicago Press, 2007).
In the end, while all of us can be problematic at times, there’s a difference between being flawed and being toxic for someone. If you have people like this in your life, remember that it’s not your job to try and save or change them, because in the end, it’s their choice to make. All you can do is care for yourself and your mental health as best as you can. You owe it to yourself to let go of the people who are bad for you and love yourself enough to spend your time on energy on what makes you happy.
- O’Moore, M., & Kirkham, C. (2001). Self-Esteem and its Relationship to Bullying Behaviour. Aggressive Behavior, 27 (4), p269-283.
- Grosz, M. P., Dufner, M., Beck, M. D., &Denissen, J. J. (2015). Who is Open to a Narcissistic Romantic Partner? The Roles of Sensation-Seeking, Trait Anxiety, and Similarity. Journal of Research in Personality, 58, 84-95.
- Muller, R. J. (2011). Failing Narcissistic Defenses Can Turn Love Toxic. The Humanistic Psychologist, 39 (4), 375-378.
- University of Chicago Press Journals. (2007 October 7). Negativity is Contagious, Study Finds. Science Daily. Retrieved November 15, 2019 from sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071004/135757.htm