We’ve all been taught to avoid toxic poisons in the environment, but when was the last time someone taught you how to avoid toxic people? Exactly!
Like the environment, humanity also has certain toxins we need to be aware of in the form of actions and behaviors that are better left alone.
It may sound harsh, but toxic people don’t make a lot of sense when you really analyze their words and actions. Some seem to gain great satisfaction from putting other people down, while others seem to go to great lengths to push other people’s buttons.
Being able to recognize and sidestep toxic individuals is just as important to our mental health as is avoiding toxins that harm our physical health.
Psychologists have studied the ways in which harmful words and actions can poison our well-being as well as the types of individuals likely to engage in such behavior.
Over time researchers have described several different personality types that are more likely than not to be toxic to our psyche and soul. Here are a few of those types—do you see anyone you know in these examples?
Most of us are hard-wired to respond with sympathy when we hear someone is going through hard times. But have you ever come to realize that certain individuals seem to be in constant crisis, 24/7, each time you talk to them?
It’s true that many people simply have difficult lives, or problems that seem to linger. But you can discern a victim who is engaging in toxic behavior because they will usually push away any helpful input and/or deflect personal responsibility for actively trying to solve their issues.
If you get the sense that an individual would rather grouse about their problems rather than do something to diminish them, you may be dealing with the toxic behavior of a victim, and this constant stream of negativity can be toxic to your own mood and life.
Judgmental people can spread toxicity by making you question your thoughts and inhibit your actions when you’re around them. That’s because those who are quick to criticize others feel compelled to tell others what is and isn’t cool or acceptable. They don’t appreciate differences, they disparage them, and they will put you down if you don’t conform to their template of what’s right and what’s wrong, whether it’s what you’re wearing, eating, or who you’re dating.
Instead of sharing your enthusiasm with a judgmental person you’re likely to check yourself at every turn, editing your words or actions so that you’re not critiqued or called out. Stifling your true self is not cool—don’t do it.
Drama can be fun and enthralling—it’s what drives most of the movies, books and entertainment that we seek out. Chances are you know a drama-filled personality who excels at making everyone laugh, can charm the pants off anyone and could be described as the life of the party.
But, the fun and games stop when the dramatic action becomes the only emotion displayed, and the person doesn’t seem to stop attention-seeking long enough to ask about or care about how you’re doing.
It’s easy to feel fatigue or burnout around these types because they are more focused on eliciting rapid, superficial attention that serves to mask feelings of insecurity. As a result, these individuals tend to cycle through acquaintances quickly, except for those who don’t know how to disengage from the toxicity—don’t be one of those people.
Passive-aggressive behavior is just that—aggressive but in a passive rather than a direct way. In other words, these individuals don’t say what they really mean, rather they mask it in subtly confusing language. Here’s an example: “I like your shoes, I remember when those were popular.”
If you’ve ever had an experience in which you think you just heard a compliment, but it felt like a put-down it’s highly likely it came from a person expressing their aggression in a sneaky way. Life is too short to bathe in this kind of toxicity!
These are just a few examples of the kind of interpersonal toxicity that you may have experienced, and if so may be wondering what to do about it. While toxic people often leave us feeling at our wit’s end, three are strategies to minimize the negative effect they have on us.
First off, distance yourself emotionally. You can do this by responding to the facts of what they’re saying, and not to the emotional chaos they’re trying to create.
Second, establish boundaries by limiting the amount of time you spend with a toxic person, if at all. Remember that truly toxic people are not worth your precious time and energy. Most of the time they will leave you feeling down, not up, and some toxic people delight in causing chaos and stress. Life is stressful enough, we really don’t have to seek it out or invite it into our orbit!
Third, remember that friendship is based upon kindness, loyalty and respect. The way in which someone talks to you about another person is how they will likely talk about you to others. If the manner in which they do so is belittling, rude or demeaning, is that how you want them to talk about you?
It’s often said that we’re known by the company we keep. Keep that in mind the next time you feel yourself in the company of a toxic person!
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