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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.


  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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Thanks for the great tips and advice. It really clears up a lot of unanswered questions.


Hello its Jeffrey I just wanted to ask you something like how do you tell someone that you have had enough of them and these people follow you around,they come around to the next door neighbours and pretend they are there for a reason .
These people actually stalk me where ever I go including overseas,i have tried to tell them on many occasions that I want nothing to do with them and one of them come around to try and listen to my conversations no matter where I go and then try to use this for there pleasure and to try and use this information for gossip and then try to use it against you.
it has got to the stage that I am thinking of calling the police because they break the law and don’t care what you say but still continue to do what they like.
do you have any information that will help out here please


To numb……I too had a narrasistic family member. My mother. I was an only child and got all the hurt directed to me alone. It sucked. Still hurts at 38 years old. But let that make you loving to others and strong against the aggressors. DO NOT take that out on your sister like u are done too and hurt. Band together in strength and loving behavior. Do not hurt her and become the traits that your brother has hurt u with or you are re creating the monster as yourself to her. She might not be so strong one day and carry out the actions that you held back with the suicidle thoughts . Sending love and healing your way .. I know the pain and hurt first hand. I will never get the love I craved and still do. Even Acceptence for being born But I will not let that make me nasty soul sucker like my narcissistic parent. Peace and love. Rose up and together with love and sister


Thank you. Same situation here. I am 57 yrs old and it still hurts. I am letting go if my toxic family. There is nothing I can do to change them. Very sad but working on myself and to find meaningful relationships eleswhere.


I agree with you, particularly about being manipulative. Toxic people are master manipulators and very good at purposefully confusing others. A good way to tell you are dealing with a toxic person is that anytime you hang out with them, you’re likely to feel exhausted, negative, anxious, angry, and emotionally drained. Detached contact or occasional interactions is a great way of dealing with a manipulative person. Great article.


Most women nowadays are toxic altogether since they’re so very stuck up with a very bad attitude problem as well. Very risky now for many of us single men just to say good morning or hello to a woman that we would very much like to meet unfortunately.


That is unfortunate as there are many nice men out there (I married one of them), but I would not put this in the same category as being toxic. Some women really are nasty and stuck up (this I also know), but many just have a natural defense built up from past relationships or the negative reputation of men in general. So sometimes all you can do is continue to be nice…a gentleman…and demonstrate your intentions with patience and courtesy.


And there are many of us good single men out there that really wanted to get married and have a family instead of being single and alone all the time which isn’t fun at all. If women today had been just like the old days which it never would’ve been a problem at all meeting a good one since most of the women back then were Real Ladies at that time, and the very complete opposite of today altogether along with very good manners and personality too. Feminists men hating lesbian women are everywhere nowadays unfortunately adding to the problem why many of us men really can’t find a good woman at all nowadays which certainly has a lot to do with it as well. Since there are many of us men out there that never expected this to happen to us at all which it makes it a real shame for us since looking for love has certainly become so very impossible now. And for the women that have their careers today which makes it even much worse for us too since the great majority of these very pathetic women today are so very high maintenance, independent, since they don’t really need us men anymore, very selfish, spoiled, greedy, picky, narcissists, think they’re all that, and very money hungry as well. It is these kind of women that will only want the very best of all, and will never ever settle for less either. So i would really have to say that these women are very toxic, especially the ones that will Curse at us for no reason at all when we will try to start a conversation with the one that we would really like to meet. Very obvious why our family members were very blessed and lucky when they found love with one another back in the old days since it definitely was a very good time back then for them when they met. Quite a change today in the women unfortunately today which even God has no control at all over them now. Many of us men were just never meant to find love no matter how hard we try, and many of us have a very excellent reason to hate the holidays when they come around as you can see.


I feel the same way and I am a woman and it is a shame . My feelings to you are mutual. I hope hope you do find a real lady that has morals and ethics. That is definitely descent. The kind of woman you would be proud to bring home to your parents. Good luck sincerely Cindy


Paul, instead of blaming everyone else for you not finding a girlfriend cut that judgemental attitude and start acting like a gentleman instead.
Being respectful to women is the key, trust me I know.


It is very hard to have respect for women when many of us men get Cursed at by them. Don’t you think?


you really have a bad attitude. Thank god women are working now so we don’t have to put up with men that want to be superior and control us.


Not all women are like that. I am not like that. It us wrong to assume all women are all as you described. I have met men and women who do not have the same values and beliefs as mine. I just move on and try to join a group I am interested in and look for like minded people. No one will ever have exacttly the same standards as anyone eles. I learn from different people but keep my own individuality. That is what helps me.


I feel your pain in not finding someone, but you may be luckier than you think. I married a woman with 2 entitled children that rule the house with no boundaries. As I’m not allowed to say anything as mama bear explodes, I have to keep taking it. I’m close to my last straw, as I was asked to leave my bedroom where I was about to relax after a long day, because my step daughter was exercising in the hall out side of the door and she felt awkward. As my stepson was laying on the couch downstairs and the basement is entirely his bedroom, there was nowhere for me to go. I left, will go for a drink and simmer in disbelief to the bs I’m enduring. I pay the mortgage, and am not allowed to even be comfortable in my own house. The way they are, ive never been comfortable there and this has just added to it.


You speak so much sense! Thank you. I’ve been treated for depression recently just starting to get better loved reading everything xx


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