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

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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.

     

  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.

     

  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. 

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1,383 Comments

kimberley

I live with one of these toxic A holes. So sick
Of it. We are meant to be a ‘couple’ but there is no intimacy anymore. I’m at the point where I can’t stand him anymore and have fallen out of love.

He’s pure toxin. Constantly negative and moaning. Every time I say something that he doesn’t like, for instance, why haven’t you do this or that, he is straight away on the defensive. He never admits he’s wrong or that he should of done something he was meant to etc, instead he makes up a make belief story, twists it all, brings up something I’ve done from a week, month or even year before…. deflection. Things can easily start an argument. It’s like talking to a brick wall most of the time.

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sharon

okay, here’s my situation.
i know my partner is exactly like 90% of these points, i know he’s toxic. but i just can’t find it in my heart to get rid of him, he means way too much to me to throw it all way.

i think: damn i rlly need to get rid of him
then i think: but i love him, but also i can fix him it’s okay
then i think again: hah uhhh can i tho? probably not.
then i end with: who cares i love him

and that way of thinking is so toxic, i know. and so many of his friends are telling me to dump him. but because of the way he’s guilt tripped me, i still feel guilty for our relationship being the way it is. i also have recently discovered that he likes me so much less than i like him and that hurts a lot, but i feel guilty because he’s made me think i’m the one who made him feel so little towards me.
i also have the situation where i can’t just cut him out of my life completely because we’re in the same friendship group and have been for three years. i love that group way too much to cut them all out of my life. they’re also the ones who are telling me to cut him off and that he’s toxic.

i know what i should do, but i just can’t. i feel guilty no matter what situation were in and i’m sick of it!!
anyway, i don’t expect any reply from this but it was nice to get a chance to write it all down.

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Alex

When someone you are in a relationship with tell you to “Guard your heart delligently” what do you think it means and what he is thinking

Reply
art f

the best thing in life is your life. sobriety is equal to sanity. when I am sober I will allow other to take my inventory. because I don’t have time to take my own. today I am free becsue I have been sober for 38 years helping others without looking for something in return. god has blessed me because I believe that my life and yours is precious. each day is christmass. because you have just one day, today, which is clled the present. live your life well, phyciall, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. I have been blessed!

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Angie

I recently got dumped, and usually I dump the guy. It’s dumb I know. But I was looking for ways to feel better when I finally realized it. I’m a toxic disgusting person. I’m so sad that I lost my ex because of this but I am so happy that the break up made me open my eyes. I am now working to fix my toxic traits. It’s sad to admit that I’m toxic, but I am so happy that I can work on changing and making myself a better version of myself. Everyone may think that I deserve to die or something and that’s okay. I did some terrible things but I am happy to be able to realize my mistakes and fix them.

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todd

Have Tuesday dinner group people. They hug me on Tuesday dinners but NEVER invite me to any weekend get togethers…….TOXIC?

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Buzz

Oh my, my ex did all these all the time, except maybe 6, and 12 not all the time.
Number 7 was the worst and the reason i finally walked away. She would forever give silent treatments and dump then just relentlessly pursue until you’d finally cave in and talk and take her back. Even going as far as making a fake facebook pretending to be someone else to talk to me. I knew was her but she kept it up for 5 days before she said she knows i know its her.
The worst part of it is is that she’s a psycho-therapist. She’s a psycho alright, the therapist licesnse should be banned.

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Ronald

I have totally checked out emotionally from my marriage. We haven’t said a word to each other in 6 weeks. I totally relate to having her feelings projected on me, her narcissistic rage, walking on eggshells, her endless exaggerations of I always do this or this or never this. We go out somewhere and she asks why am I in a bad mood. She constantly needs approval. When we are going out somewhere she will ask me dozens of times how she looks while she makes faces in the mirror. And you know after the 20th time of being asked I can get irritated and then she says I’m in a bad mood, I don’t like how she looks and no matter how I try to defend it she “knows” because she can tell.
I don’t even care anymore, we have been married for 21 years and have three kids, I love our children dearly and recently took just them on a beach vacation, because when she is there, we will fight because she can’t get ready in less then 4 hours, I kid you not, she has high OCD too. So the kids want to go to the pool or the beach and I take them while she gets ready and then by the time she is ready I’m tired and then she says I don’t like how she looks, I’m in a bad mood etc. One time on the beach I looked in the vicinity of a bikini clad girl and I know how she is so I try to avoid looking at people altogether but she insisted I was looking at bikini girl when I was not.
I can remember early on in our marriage we would go to my sisters for a cookout or birthday party and when we left she would say she was mad, I ignored her, or that no one talked to her. A few times we were at her moms house for a holiday and she was mad at me for the same reasons! Its like Hello, I am your guest at your moms house. I feel like I was alienated from my family because she didn’t want to go and then if I went alone I had to make excuses for her. Recently I told people we don’t get along and she is not here.
2 months ago my mother passed away, family came in from out of town and two days after the funeral they wanted to get together at an amusement park with the kids since we have similar aged children, she starts going off that she is not going and I shouldn’t go during the day because I missed too much work and I was complaining about work, except I didn’t complain about work. It’s funny cause she asked me earlier how work was as I had to take time off for this and I said not bad. So fast forward 2 weeks after my mother passed and we are at a family cookout at a park mostly her side is there. It was hot and humid, miserable. She starts with comments like what’s wrong, I say nothing really, she starts looking at me and rolling her eyes. The moment we are alone she accuses me of not liking how she looks. I said you look great. All I said was it’s a bit warm out that’s all, and her go to line is yelling it, do you want to leave then! So then I give it back to her and then that was the last we spoke.
There are a lot of other things I can point out. Like the time she got mad at me on my birthday, the time she got mad at me on fathers day, and the previous fathers day. We were not talking on the last two anniversaries, last thanksgiving, mothers day two in a row, the kids birthdays, two in a row, almost Christmas, but we did fight the next day after Christmas, two Christmases in a row.
Did I mention I have anxiety and used to have panic attacks about 10 years ago (halfway through our marriage) I am on anti depress. Medication and that has helped.
I have nothing more to give to this relationship.

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