How To Spot and Deal With Toxic People
Have you ever dealt with a toxic person? If you have, you may agree that toxic people can be self-centered, mean, drama addicts, and narcissistic. Although not the norm, some toxic people suffer from mental illnesses that make them act out that way.
But, we all know that a mental illness or personal problems are no excuse for treating other people poorly. If you have dealt with a toxic person before you know how tough it is to deal with them.
You may also know that not all people labeled as “toxic” are actually toxic to the core but may exhibit toxic behaviors due to their own upbringing and experiences. Regardless of which type of a person it is, it is a difficult task to be around them.
Because toxic behaviors are not necessarily physical but mental, psychological, and emotional, it is hard to spot them. Especially when the toxic person manipulates you into thinking that their actions aren’t toxic at all and it’s all in your head.
Disclaimer: This article is not meant to diagnose or treat anything. This article is for entertainment and educational purposes only. If you are having difficulties with people in your life please seek professional help from mental health, health, and security experts.
If you feel like you are dealing with a toxic person but aren’t sure here are a few behaviors you might want to take note of, as well as ways to deal with these toxic people.
1. Erratic Behavior
Have you ever found yourself with a person with who you are not sure how they will react next? That might be a sign of toxic behavior. According to WebMD, erratic behavior can encompass things like keeping you guessing about anything especially the relationship; and inconsistency such as continuous broken promises, and commitments.
Hey Sigmund, a psychology website with the latest research and news about psychology, points that that erratic behavior can also manifest as hot-cold behavior.
“They’ll be completely lovely one day and the next you’ll be wondering what you’ve done to upset them”, states Hey Sigmund in their article about toxic people, “There often isn’t anything obvious that will explain the change of attitude – you just know something isn’t right”.
Erratic behavior creates confusion to the point where you start doubting yourself, and/or make excuses for them because they have successfully made you believe that they are innocent and you are in the wrong. Even if you feel you aren’t.
2. They don’t respect boundaries
When you are with a certain person, do you feel like they encroach too much on your space or don’t respect the things you aren’t comfortable with? They might be disrespecting your boundaries.
Maybe it’s a family member that always barges into your room or house announced. Or a friend who continuously keeps telling the same disrespectful jokes that they know to bother you or belittle you. On top of that, they don’t apologize. Instead, victimizing themselves and blaming you.
3. You feel bad around them
Do you feel anxious when you’re near a certain person? It might be because that person is toxic or has exhibited toxic behavior before.
You may get the feeling that you do not want to go home or to the office. You feel nervous or anxious when around them. Every move or word that comes out of them makes you jump unconsciously and automatically thinking what you did wrong this time or expecting the next outburst.
You just don’t want to see or interact with that person in any way, despite maybe having a “good” start to the relationship. You don’t feel safe or you don’t feel good about yourself around them. You’re never truly comfortable in their presence.
When it comes to manipulation, toxic people do this very subtly. One way of doing this is to leave you with all the responsibility but make you believe that it’s something that you needed or benefits you more than it does them.
“Toxic people have a way of sending out the vibe that you owe them something”, the psychology news site, Hey Sigmund states in an article about toxic people, “They also have a way of taking from you or doing something that hurts you, then maintaining they were doing it all for you”.
The article continues, “This is particularly common in workplaces or relationships where the balance of power is out”.
According to WebMD, abuse of substances can be a sign of toxic behavior. Some addictions and abuse of those addictions don’t necessarily come in the form of alcohol or drugs, so they may be hard to pinpoint.
“These behaviors become toxic when the person is continually harming other people”, states WebMD, “not to mention themselves”.
Have you ever seen someone who is followed by drama everywhere they go? WebMD says that this is probably not a coincidence. Toxic people love drama, and if they don’t have any drama around them, they will create the drama themselves.
“Toxic people thrive in dramatic situations”, WebMD states, “They inflame emotions and create conflict. They love stirring the pot to see what happens”.
WebMD continues, “People are often toxic because they’re not interested in being stable and healthy in relationships.”
Attention seems to be something that toxic people strive for the most. “They have a heightened level of self-interest, a need to showcase their greatness to receive affirmation”, says WebMD.
Many toxic people, do not like themselves or have very low self-esteem, so they require attention and outside affirmation to make themselves feel relevant. This can take the form of people who talk too much and make everything about them; and people who are always after your emotional support but never truly follow the advice and just keep coming back for your energy and time (energy or spiritual vampires). They can also take the form of braggers and exaggerators.
No matter what form they take, you will notice that they will always seek attention one way or another.
8. Walking on eggshells
Have you ever found yourself hyperaware of everything you do or say to a specific person? Many people who interact with toxic people constantly, tend to do this. This is mostly to avoid setting off that toxic person.
When you are with that toxic person, you feel alert and anxious. You try to avoid anything that you already know bothers them, as well as try to anticipate what new thing might bother them in the near future. You don’t feel safe enough to voice your concerns or talk about specific topics.
You always filter your words and watch your movements. You are especially afraid of upsetting them so you tend to sugarcoat things or only say what you need to say before stepping away. It’s like walking through a minefield where you don’t know if your next step will be your last.
Projection is when someone else makes you think that their emotions are yours. It can be damaging for the other person as, eventually, they begin to doubt themselves. Hey Sigmund gives an example of projection:
“For example, someone who is angry but won’t take responsibility for it might accuse you of being angry with them”, says Hey Sigmund, “It might be as subtle as, ‘Are you okay with me?’ or a bit more pointed, ‘Why are you angry at me,’ or, ‘You’ve been in a bad mood all day.’”
Hey Sigmund continues, “You’ll find yourself justifying and defending, and often this will go around in circles – because it’s not about you.”
10. They’ll make you prove yourself
Hey Sigmund, a psychology news website, also explains how toxic people or people with toxic behaviors can put you in positions of having to prove yourself.
“They’ll regularly put you in a position where you have to choose between them and something else – and you’ll always feel obliged to choose them”, says Hey Sigmund, “Toxic people will wait until you commit, then they’ll unfold the drama. By saying something like: ‘If you cared about me you’d skip your exercise class and spend time with me.’”
Mostly for manipulation purposes, toxic people will either exaggerate something, tell you half the truth of a situation, or outright lie. They can create such elaborate stories that they end up believing it themselves.
Dishonesty is a deal-breaker in most relationships and they know this. So they will try everything to hide the lie and keep you where they want you.
How to deal with a Toxic Person
The toxic person or person with toxic traits mainly attacks people at the psychological, mental, and emotional level so it is often hard to identify the behavior and hard to combat it. So, what can you do to protect yourself and restore your peace of mind? Read on for a few tips on how to deal with toxic people.
We recommend you only do some of these if it is safe to do so. If you feel you are in any kind of danger please be careful and contact the authorities or someone you trust.
1. Respectfully disagree with them
If you are dealing with a person who often plays the victim card and tends to exaggerate when they talk or tell a story, Healthline suggests respectfully disagreeing with them instead of keeping quiet.
“Try respectful disagreement instead”, suggest the Healthline article on how to deal with toxic people, “You might say, ‘I had a different take on the situation, and describe what happened. Stick to the facts, without making accusations”.
“While your disagreement might upset them”, says the article, “it might also lower the chances they’ll try involving you again”.
2. Don’t get involved in their drama
Drama is constant in a toxic person’s life and they thrive on it. Whether this drama takes the form of constant complaining, accusing other people including you, or stories about unfair treatments towards them Healthline suggests keeping calm.
“Resist the urge to jump on the complaining train with them or defend yourself against accusations”, says Healthline, “Instead, respond with a simple, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way, and leave it at that”.
By doing this you are keeping your energy intact by not letting them feed off of it with your reaction. Which is what they essentially want to do, make you react.
3. Notice how they make you feel
It’s easy to excuse someone’s behavior due to love, attachments, beliefs, etc. By living behind a veil we can easily miss toxic behaviors to the point where it gets as bad as physical mistreatment.
This is why, if you think that something is up, you should take some time to notice how they make you feel. If you feel off like you’re walking on eggshells, like your relationship is one-sided, drained, or don’t want to be around them know that those red flags.
Notice them so you can better look into how you can deal with this situation.
4. Confront them/Talk to them
If it is safe to do, WebMD suggests that you confront that person about their specific behaviors. Explain to them what they did and how that made you feel. Use “I” statements instead of “You” statements as that would make them feel threatened.
“Call them out on any lies or inconsistencies”, says WebMD, “Tell them you don’t appreciate how they behave. This shows them that you’re paying attention — and you’re giving them a chance to explain themselves or apologize”.
5. Take care of yourself
You cannot be everything to everybody and you shouldn’t either, especially to a toxic person. Put yourself first and do what you want to do. If that toxic person calls you again to help them do something or tries to guilt you into going somewhere tell them that you have other plans.
Take the time to do your own thing, away from them. Replenish the energy that they so easily suck out of you and concentrate on you and your problems for once instead of giving your all to them and their problems.
Realize that they are taking and not giving. That is detrimental for you and your life, as you don’t have the energy that you need for your problems, your goals, your family, etc.
6. You can’t fix them
Realize that, unlike in the movies, you can’t fix or change someone. They need to decide and then take the action to change themselves.
You can offer them kindness and compassion but you can’t do more than that unless they are willing to make the change. You can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved and keeps exhibiting negative behaviors that go against what they say they want.
Trust behaviors and actions, they sometimes speak louder than words and always speak the truth.
7. Remove yourself from the situation
If it’s something that you can do, remove yourself from the situation. Leave a party early, say no, say a neutral statement, and walk away.
You do not have to stay there and be participate in their drama. It is their responsibility, not yours. It is hard to say no and reject someone but it keeps your peace of mind intact. It also protects you from being the scapegoat that the toxic person chooses to blame for whatever is that they did.
8. Make yourself unavailable
Healthline suggests that, when appropriate, making yourself unavailable to toxic people will cut off their access to you and may move on from you.
“If you’re never available, they might eventually stop trying to engage”, suggests Healthline, “This strategy can be particularly helpful at work, where you’re bound to have plenty of honest excuses, like: ‘Sorry, I have too much work to chat.’ or ‘Got to prep for that meeting, so I can’t talk!’”
“You might face some passive-aggressive remarks or outright accusations when you make your excuses”, the Healthline article says, “Try not to respond, even if you feel upset. Remember: It’s not about you”.
9. Change your routine
Toxic people are observant and they will target you when they feel you are the most receptive or vulnerable. Changing your routine, if you notice that they are coming to you at specific times, will get them off track.
It will also limit your time around them so they will be forced to move on or do something else.
10. Limit your time with them
If possible, try to limit the time you spend with this toxic person. Whether it is by changing your routine, taking some classes, doing hobbies, or keeping busy in general.
Eventually, the toxic person and you will become distant and you won’t have to deal with them anymore.
11. Cut them out
The very last option you have to deal with toxic people is to cut them out completely. Go no contact (NC). Especially if this person is being abusive towards you or has tried to ruin your life in various ways.
If none of the strategies above work cut them off. There’s nothing else you can do anymore.
Do you recognize any of these traits in people you know? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below. As well as how you deal with them. Don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel for more and thanks for reading.
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Raypole, C. (2019, November 21). How to deal with toxic people: 17 tips. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-deal-with-toxic-people.
WebMD Editorial. (2020, December 2). Toxic person: Signs to look for. WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/signs-toxic-person.
Young, K. (2021, May 23). Toxic people: 12 things they do and how to deal with them. Hey Sigmund. Retrieved from https://www.heysigmund.com/toxic-people/.