Toxic People: 12 Things They Do and How to Deal with Them

The 12 Things Toxic People Do and How to Deal With Them

We have all had toxic people dust us with their poison. Sometimes it’s more like a drenching. Difficult people are drawn to the reasonable ones and all of us have likely had (or have) at least one person in our lives who have us bending around ourselves like barbed wire in endless attempts to please them – only to never really get there.

Their damage lies in their subtlety and the way they can engender that classic response, ‘It’s not them, it’s me.’ They can have you questioning your ‘over-reactiveness’, your ‘oversensitivity’, your ‘tendency to misinterpret’. If you’re the one who’s continually hurt, or the one who is constantly adjusting your own behaviour to avoid being hurt, then chances are that it’s not you and it’s very much them.

Being able to spot their harmful behaviour is the first step to minimising their impact. You might not be able to change what they do, but you can change what you do with it, and any idea that toxic somebody in your life might have that they can get away with it.

There are plenty of things toxic people do to manipulate people and situations to their advantage. Here are 12 of them. Knowing them will help you to avoid falling under the influence:

  1. They’ll keep you guessing about which version of them you’re getting.

    They’ll be completely lovely one day and the next you’ll be wondering what you’ve done to upset them. There often isn’t anything obvious that will explain the change of attitude – you just know something isn’t right. They might be prickly, sad, cold or cranky and when you ask if there’s something wrong, the answer will likely be ‘nothing’ – but they’ll give you just enough  to let you know that there’s something. The ‘just enough’ might be a heaving sigh, a raised eyebrow, a cold shoulder. When this happens, you might find yourself making excuses for them or doing everything you can to make them happy. See why it works for them?

    Stop trying to please them. Toxic people figured out a long time ago that decent people will go to extraordinary lengths to keep the people they care about happy. If your attempts to please aren’t working or aren’t lasting for very long, maybe it’s time to stop. Walk away and come back when the mood has shifted. You are not responsible for anybody else’s feelings. If you have done something unknowingly to hurt somebody, ask, talk about it and if need be, apologise. At any rate, you shouldn’t have to guess.

  1. They’ll manipulate.

    If you feel as though 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. This is particularly common in workplaces or relationships where the balance of power is out. ‘I’ve left that six months’ worth of filing for you. I thought you’d appreciate the experience and the opportunity to learn your way around the filing cabinets.’ Or, ‘I’m having a dinner party. Why don’t you bring dinner. For 10. It’ll give you a chance to show off those kitchen skills. K?’

    You don’t owe anybody anything. If it doesn’t feel like a favour, it’s not. 

  1. They won’t own their feelings.

    Rather than owning their own feelings, they’ll act as though the feelings are yours. It’s called projection, as in projecting their feelings and thoughts onto you. For example, someone who is angry but won’t take responsibility for it might accuse you of being angry with them. 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.’

    You’ll find yourself justifying and defending and often this will go around in circles – because it’s not about you. Be really clear on what’s yours and what’s theirs. If you feel as though you’re defending yourself too many times against accusations or questions that don’t fit, you might be being projected on to. You don’t have to explain, justify or defend yourself or deal with a misfired accusation. Remember that.

  1. They’ll make you prove yourself to them.

    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. Toxic people will wait until you have a commitment, then they’ll unfold the drama.  ‘If you really cared about me you’d skip your exercise class and spend time with me.’  The problem with this is that enough will never be enough. Few things are fatal – unless it’s life or death, chances are it can wait.

    [irp posts=”1195″ name=”Toxic People: 16 Practical, Powerful Ways to Deal With Them”]

     

  2. They never apologise. 

    They’ll lie before they ever apologise, so there’s no point arguing. They’ll twist the story, change the way it happened and retell it so convincingly that they’ll believe their own nonsense.

    People don’t have to apologise to be wrong. And you don’t need an apology to move forward. Just move forward – without them. Don’t surrender your truth but don’t keep the argument going. There’s just no point. Some people want to be right more than they want to be happy and you have better things to do than to provide fodder for the right-fighters.

  1. They’ll be there in a crisis but they’ll never ever share your joy.

    They’ll find reasons your good news isn’t great news. The classics: About a promotion – ‘The money isn’t that great for the amount of work you’ll be doing.’ About a holiday at the beach – ‘Well it’s going to be very hot. Are you sure you want to go?’ About being made Queen of the Universe – ‘Well the Universe isn’t that big you know and I’m pretty sure you won’t get tea breaks.’ Get the idea? Don’t let them dampen you or shrink you down to their size. You don’t need their approval anyway – or anyone else’s for that matter.

  2. They’ll leave a conversation unfinished – and then they’ll go offline.

    They won’t pick up their phone. They won’t answer texts or emails. And in between rounds of their voicemail message, you might find yourself playing the conversation or argument over and over in your head, guessing about the status of the relationship, wondering what you’ve done to upset them, or whether they’re dead, alive or just ignoring you – which can sometimes all feel the same. People who care about you won’t let you go on feeling rubbish without attempting to sort it out. That doesn’t mean you’ll sort it out of course, but at least they’ll try. Take it as a sign of their investment in the relationship if they leave you ‘out there’ for lengthy sessions.

  3. They’ll use non-toxic words with a toxic tone.

    The message might be innocent enough but the tone conveys so much more. Something like, ‘What did you do today?’ can mean different things 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 awful. Just awful. And you didn’t even notice enough to ask.’ When you question the tone, they’ll come back with, ‘All I said was what did you do today,’ which is true, kind of, not really.

  4. They’ll bring irrelevant detail into a conversation.

    When you’re trying to resolve something important to you, toxic people will bring in irrelevant detail from five arguments ago. The problem with this is that before you know it, you’re arguing about something you did six months ago, still defending yourself, rather than dealing with the issue at hand. Somehow, it just always seems to end up about what you’ve done to them. 

  5. 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 that was important to you and on to the manner in which you talked about it – whether there is any issue with your manner or not. You’ll find yourself 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, your initial need is well gone on the pile of unfinished conversations that seems to grow bigger by the day.

    [irp posts=”1762″ name=”When Someone You Love is Toxic: How to Let Go of Toxic People, Without Guilt”]

     

  6. They exaggerate.

    ‘You always …’ ‘You never …’ It’s hard to defend yourself against this form of manipulation. Toxic people have a way of drawing on the one time you didn’t or the one time you did as evidence of your shortcomings. Don’t buy into the argument. You won’t win. And you don’t need to.

  7. They are judgemental.

    We all get it wrong sometimes but toxic people will make sure you know it. They’ll judge you and take a swipe at your self-esteem suggesting that you’re less than because you made a mistake. We’re all allowed to get it wrong now and then, but unless we’ve done something that affects them nobody has the right to stand in judgement.

Knowing the favourite go-to’s for toxic people will sharpen your radar, making the manipulations easier to spot and easier to name. More importantly, if you know the characteristic signs of a toxic person, you’ll have a better chance of catching yourself before you tie yourself in double knots trying to please them.

Some people can’t be pleased and some people won’t be good for you – and many times that will have nothing to do with you. You can always say no to unnecessary crazy. Be confident and own your own faults, your quirks and the things that make you shine. You don’t need anyone’s approval but remember if someone is working hard to manipulate, it’s because probably because they need yours. You don’t always have to give it but if you do, don’t let the cost be too high. 

1,966 Comments

ethan

same tho I have a group of friends and one of them is kinda rude and toxic and yea just u know but yea they are rude

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Evan B

(all of this is complicated, so please bare with me):

My best friend of nearly 6 years, and I are both recovering from a mistake I made LAST YEAR. (Not yet a year ago, but pretty close). Last year, I got a boyfriend (I am gay), and ditched my best friend for my boyfriend. I would make plans with my best friend and cancel or even just plainly forget about those plans. I started dating my ex boyfriend December of 2019 into 2020. I made plans with my best friend way back November 2019 to spend New Years together, but I forgot and ended up spending $200 for a romantic plan for my ex and ditched my best friend New Years. I did a lot of things that I am not proud of, but eventually I began to attempt to fix my mistakes and make a mends.

It has been over a year, my ex and I broke up, my best friend and I moved out of my parents house and are living with her mother in a different state. We made a new life with new friends together at the same job and everything. For the past year I have made a commitment to proving myself worthy of her trust again and fixing our relationship. She almost cut me out of her life while I was with my ex, multiple times, and I don’t blame her.

The issue at hand is, I’ve tried to fix everything, and I’ve tried proving myself trustworthy. But I have yet to date again since that incident. And that is the thing, I do change how I act and who I am when I am in a relationship, usually… but I know for a fact, since everything that happened, I would not change myself again and I would have my priorities straight if I began to date again.

Both my best friend and I are worried about me dating again, and truth be told, while my best friend said she’d be happy for me if I did start dating, she’s not ready to trust me being in a relationship yet, and she also said that she’d never let me change anything to suit her wants and needs, because she isn’t toxic in that way, but she has said that she, deep down, doesn’t want me dating… but only because she’s afraid to lose me again.

Two – three weeks ago, I started talking to someone (not to date, originally just to meet a new friend, but I ended up liking them) and I was extremely afraid to tell my best friend about them because I wouldn’t know how they’d react, and I was afraid of me losing everything that I had tried to fix because of me talking to someone. So, she had a feeling that I was talking to someone, and asked me about it, and I was so scared of her reaction, that I lied to her face for a whole week, saying I wasn’t talking to anyone… she found out, I forget how, but she did, and she was angry with me and extremely hurt, because that’s actually how I began dating my ex as well. I hid stuff from her back in December as well… and there were a lot of similarities between December and this past recent time. We argued, and this didn’t help my redemption plan… I was eventually going to tell her, but it didn’t help me in the long run. I ended up breaking things apart between me and this new guy because if I was going to date, I was going to go by doing it the right way… now, I am currently single still, for over a year.

Recently, some feelings have been brought up and realized that she’d hadn’t realized before, and now we are awkward when around each other… again. We are slowly getting out of that awkwardness. But she had told me (after asking myself) if I was on thin ice with her still from December, and she said yes, and that in the odd chance I start dating again, she is preparing herself to cut me out of her life…

To hear those words come from her mouth, it hurt me more than most things in my life have ever hurt me. I’d never admit that to her, but it did. I understand why she feels that way too. But the thing is, is that, if that is how she feels, then I don’t know why I am even still apart of her life in the first place. I want to be apart of her life, but if that is how she feels, then she really doesn’t seem to think we are even remotely close to being best friends anymore, let alone the siblings that we call each other. That also means that the hard work that I have been working on in the past year for redeeming myself, didn’t mean a single thing. It was pointless.

I had asked her at the end of that argument, that if I started dating again and was able to prove that I can be trusted and that I know my priorities and all that, then would that help us become stronger again. She said it was possible, but in order to prove to her that she can trust me, she needed to open up a little trust to me, which she doesn’t want to, nor is ready to do.

So until she is ready, I don’t feel like I can start dating… and I told her that, she told me in reply that I can start dating, but she can’t promise me that she’d be able to start trusting me enough for me to prove anything yet because she’s not ready to. She said “I’d force her hand” to trust me a little, which didn’t sound reassuring.

I know she means well, but I am really bothered and hurt by all of this. Some information on my best friend:

She is dating my other best friend, who I also work with. He is great. Both of them together are a power couple. She’s happy as can be with him, and because of her lack of trust in me, she is also happier with him (which is understandable because you’re naturally going to be happier with someone new because it is exciting.. fine.) I’d be a hypocrite for not understanding that. But, they are happy together, she doesn’t have a lot of time to spend with him, me, or her mother, and has little to no time to herself, so splitting time evenly is difficult. Well, we were suppose to hangout just her and I this past Saturday, which didn’t happen. We just spent the entire day in separate rooms of the house. But, usually the three of us are hanging out, or it is just me and my guy-friend, or it is my guy-friend and my best friend.

When it is the three of us (almost all of the time) it hurts me to be around them because my best friend never did anything wrong to me to make me hate her being with someone, but here I am feeling hurt because she’s able to have a perfect relationship and I am here feeling so guilty from December that even with her full trust and happiness, I wouldn’t be able to date again because I’d have PTSD from it. (I have undiagnosed ptsd, but I have diagnosed anxiety and bipolar depression). Anyway, so I am hurting because I really want to date, and I want my best friend and I to finally be in a great place and for us to be on the same mental page of our friendship status together. Neither of which seems possible anymore. And I am breaking so bad, and the only person that I know i can talk to, is the problem… so I feel stuck. I can’t talk to anyone, nobody can help me, nobody will help me, even online… and I don’t really know what to do.

I’d never cut her out of my life. EVER. I don’t care how bad things get between us, I’d never actually leave her. But she would. Everyone would leave me, they always have.

I just want to date someone and feel that romantic love that everyone around me gets to feel. My co-workers, my only two friends, my best friend’s mother, everyone I know is in a relationship… and it hurts knowing that it is going to be impossible to date again without being in a worse, untrusting place with my best friend… and it hurts so bad I’ve actually been suicidal a lot more frequently than normal.

Part of me finds it fair, because I hurt her so bad with my ex… (I have left a few things out to keep the story shorter than it could be) but even to my standard they were such bad things, I hate myself for it every day. — But another part of me also finds it unfair because, while I am really happy with my best friend and everyone I have, and i am extremely grateful to have them in my life (which was one of the problems with my ex), I really want the love and affection that everyone else gets to have with their romantic partner… its not like I’d have that kind of affection with a friend or best friend, that is just weird… and… well, nuff said… but you get what I mean… It hurts a lot. A lot more than I have opened myself up to feeling and thinking about. I don’t know what to do… I need to talk to someone about it, and I need advice… I’ve asked my best friend and her mother and just about everyone I know what I can do… and none of their answers were remotely helpful because it just contradicted what everyone else said and the truth of the matter is… I don’t think there IS any coming back from December’s mistake…

Reply
Molly H

My husband has been watching porn lately and has been doing it for months hiding it and lying about it. I finally had a talk with him about it or tried to atleast and he kept lying acting confused as if he didn’t know what I was talking about when I had the evidence right in front of me. He made it seem like I was lying to him. Then after lying over and over he said ok maybe a long time ago I watched porn then more and more lies then it got down to maybe last week then maybe two weeks ago. Anyways I don’t even know anymore I can’t trust him. Then I told him to leave because he didn’t seem to even care. And he kept saying he told me the truth when he did not he lied to me. Not once but over and over. And the thing is I was gonna try and help him with his addiction or whatever I wasn’t yelling or being rude. He was and making me feel worthless like I couldn’t do nothing. Anyways back to my point he then started to change the subject bringing up something I had done, nothing to do with porn or anything sexual, just something that happened in our apartment. So then I was like we are talking about you and your porn. And he was all like well what about you? You do stuff too why are the fingers always pointed at me?? Let me put it this way I am so loyal to my husband I’ve done everything he’s asked of me without question. I just don’t know what to do anymore. Is this him being toxic and how can I somehow tell him how he’s being towards me. Because he just doesn’t seem to care and is trying to point fingers at me now.

Reply
Meg

I grew up with both parents being physically and mentally unstable, this wasn’t “toxic”. My parents did the very best they could but also displayed ALL of these characteristics, I had to attempt to navigate this with little to no help, support or resources and found very quickly this was impossible on my own. I now engage in these familiar behaviours and a huge part of that is my BPD, I experienced A LOT of trauma, I couldn’t register how to treat people in all of that and as a twenty five year old I still struggle to find and keep jobs and maintain relationships. This is a negative and maybe “toxic” cycle, but it’s the only thing I know and I’m getting all the professional help I can but I still feel like everyday is a uphill battle. It’s been 11 years of talking therapy and I still feel worthless! But I WILL keep trying to change my mindset but things like this make me think not only am I wrong for being and thinking the way I do (which although very true), makes my recovery so much harder, I know my parents didn’t set out in life to hurt anyone, they just didn’t know any better after all of there traumas, and neither do I, but please don’t label us as toxic. We’re just living with invisible illnesses. I hope anyone that relates to this is ok.. We are not bad people trying to be good, we are sick people trying to get better.

Reply
Sesaya

So i was in this one relationship just the other day but i left him. He stopped talking to me all of a sudden because i stopped showing him my body, he said that he was always busy with video games and Anime, but i think he was mad that i stopped showing him my body. I believe that it was toxic, but i´m not quit sure, could you help me clarify?

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When things feel hard or the world feels big, children will be looking to their important adults for signs of safety. They will be asking, ‘Do you think I'm safe?' 'Do you think I can do this?' With everything in us, we have to send the message, ‘Yes! Yes love, this is hard and you are safe. You can do hard things.'

Even if we believe they are up to the challenge, it can be difficult to communicate this with absolute confidence. We love them, and when they're distressed, we're going to feel it. Inadvertently, we can align with their fear and send signals of danger, especially through nonverbals. 

What they need is for us to align with their 'brave' - that part of them that wants to do hard things and has the courage to do them. It might be small but it will be there. Like a muscle, courage strengthens with use - little by little, but the potential is always there.

First, let them feel you inside their world, not outside of it. This lets their anxious brain know that support is here - that you see what they see and you get it. This happens through validation. It doesn't mean you agree. It means that you see what they see, and feel what they feel. Meet the intensity of their emotion, so they can feel you with them. It can come off as insincere if your nonverbals are overly calm in the face of their distress. (Think a zen-like low, monotone voice and neutral face - both can be read as threat by an anxious brain). Try:

'This is big for you isn't it!' 
'It's awful having to do things you haven't done before. What you are feeling makes so much sense. I'd feel the same!

Once they really feel you there with them, then they can trust what comes next, which is your felt belief that they will be safe, and that they can do hard things. 

Even if things don't go to plan, you know they will cope. This can be hard, especially because it is so easy to 'catch' their anxiety. When it feels like anxiety is drawing you both in, take a moment, breathe, and ask, 'Do I believe in them, or their anxiety?' Let your answer guide you, because you know your young one was built for big, beautiful things. It's in them. Anxiety is part of their move towards brave, not the end of it.
Sometimes we all just need space to talk to someone who will listen without giving advice, or problem solving, or lecturing. Someone who will let us talk, and who can handle our experiences and words and feelings without having to smooth out the wrinkles or tidy the frayed edges. 

Our kids need this too, but as their important adults, it can be hard to hush without needing to fix things, or gather up their experience and bundle it into a learning that will grow them. We do this because we love them, but it can also mean that they choose not to let us in for the wrong reasons. 

We can’t help them if we don’t know what’s happening in their world, and entry will be on their terms - even more as they get older. As they grow, they won’t trust us with the big things if we don’t give them the opportunity to learn that we can handle the little things (which might feel seismic to them). They won’t let us in to their world unless we make it safe for them to.

When my own kids were small, we had a rule that when I picked them up from school they could tell me anything, and when we drove into the driveway, the conversation would be finished if they wanted it to be. They only put this rule into play a few times, but it was enough for them to learn that it was safe to talk about anything, and for me to hear what was happening in that part of their world that happened without me. My gosh though, there were times that the end of the conversation would be jarring and breathtaking and so unfinished for me, but every time they would come back when they were ready and we would finish the chat. As it turned out, I had to trust them as much as I wanted them to trust me. But that’s how parenting is really isn’t it.

Of course there will always be lessons in their experiences we will want to hear straight up, but we also need them to learn that we are safe to come to.  We need them to know that there isn’t anything about them or their life we can’t handle, and when the world feels hard or uncertain, it’s safe here. By building safety, we build our connection and influence. It’s just how it seems to work.♥️
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#parenting #parenthood #mindfulparenting
Words can be hard sometimes. The right words can be orbital and unconquerable and hard to grab hold of. Feelings though - they’ll always make themselves known, with or without the ‘why’. 

Kids and teens are no different to the rest of us. Their feelings can feel bigger than words - unfathomable and messy and too much to be lassoed into language. If we tap into our own experience, we can sometimes (not all the time) get an idea of what they might need. 

It’s completely understandable that new things or hard things (such as going back to school) might drive thoughts of falls and fails and missteps. When this happens, it’s not so much the hard thing or the new thing that drives avoidance, but thoughts of failing or not being good enough. The more meaningful the ‘thing’ is, the more this is likely to happen. If you can look behind the words, and through to the intention - to avoid failure more than the new or difficult experience, it can be easier to give them what they need. 

Often, ‘I can’t’ means, ‘What if I can’t?’ or, ‘Do you think I can?’, or, ‘Will you still think I’m brave, strong, and capable of I fail?’ They need to know that the outcome won’t make any difference at all to how much you adore them, and how capable and exceptional you think they are. By focusing on process, (the courage to give it a go), we clear the runway so they can feel safer to crawl, then walk, then run, then fly. 

It takes time to reach full flight in anything, but in the meantime the stumbling can make even the strongest of hearts feel vulnerable. The more we focus on process over outcome (their courage to try over the result), and who they are over what they do (their courage, tenacity, curiosity over the outcome), the safer they will feel to try new things or hard things. We know they can do hard things, and the beauty and expansion comes first in the willingness to try. 
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparent
Never in the history of forever has there been such a  lavish opportunity for a year to be better than the last. Not to be grabby, but you know what I’d love this year? Less opportunities that come in the name of ‘resilience’. I’m ready for joy, or adventure, or connection, or gratitude, or courage - anything else but resilience really. Opportunities for resilience have a place, but 2020 has been relentless with its servings, and it’s time for an out breath. Here’s hoping 2021 will be a year that wraps its loving arms around us. I’m ready for that. x
The holidays are a wonderland of everything that can lead to hyped up, exhausted, cranky, excited, happy kids (and adults). Sometimes they’ll cycle through all of these within ten minutes. Sugar will constantly pry their little mouths wide open and jump inside, routines will laugh at you from a distance, there will be gatherings and parties, and everything will feel a little bit different to usual. And a bit like magic. 

Know that whatever happens, it’s all part of what the holidays are meant to look like. They aren’t meant to be pristine and orderly and exactly as planned. They were never meant to be that. Christmas is about people, your favourite ones, not tasks. If focusing on the people means some of the tasks fall down, let that be okay, because that’s what Christmas is. It’s about you and your people. It’s not about proving your parenting stamina, or that you’ve raised perfectly well-behaved humans, or that your family can polish up like the catalog ones any day of the week, or that you can create restaurant quality meals and decorate the table like you were born doing it. Christmas is messy and ridiculous and exhausting and there will be plenty of frayed edges. And plenty of magic. The magic will happen the way it always happens. Not with the decorations or the trimmings or the food or the polish, but by being with the ones you love, and the ones who love you right back.

When it all starts to feel too important, too necessary and too ‘un-let-go-able’, be guided by the bigger truth, which is that more than anything, you will all remember how you all felt – as in how happy they felt, how loved they felt were, how noticed they felt. They won’t care about the instagram-worthy meals on the table, the cleanliness of the floors, how many relatives they visited, or how impressed other grown-ups were with their clean faces and darling smiles. It’s easy to forget sometimes, that what matters most at Christmas isn’t the tasks, but the people – the ones who would give up pretty much anything just to have the day with you.

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