Toxic people go against everything you’ve ever been taught about being a good person. They defy logic.
There’s no point in trying to rationalise with them; they’re committed to their problems and whatever solution you provide will leave them declaring that they’ve been wronged. It’s how they are.
Narcissists, compulsive liars, gossipers, those who regularly host pity-parties are just a few examples of toxic people.
They will find a way to get under your skin; it’s their number one skill.
They will create drama and do their best to divide groups, families or clubs so that the community becomes less stable, otherwise they feel scared that they’ll be seen for what they are. It’s their way of becoming an essential part of a social group. Watch out for the person who whispers ‘did you hear about so and so?’ What they’ve just done is create an alliance between you two, and isolate a third. And how soon before you are the so and so they’re whispering about? When will you be the person they say stole from them, abandoned them, refused to co-operate with them? Be warned.
Initially they will appear nice, charming, successful, perhaps even a go-getter. This is how they draw you in. They’ll be quick to create a bond with you, perhaps by selling you a sob story of a failed relationship, being bullied, a battle with their weight, the child whose mother or father walked out on them and so on (note there are people who are genuinely sharing as part of their healing, and others who are using this to hoodwink you). They present themselves as vulnerable because then you won’t suspect they’re really the trouble-maker. Smart, right?
Who is your toxic person? A colleague, a family member, a friend you’re moving on from, or an ex-partner? Anyone who has been close to you in the past will know what gets your tail feathers up – and if they’re consciously toxic, they’ll use it.
To the trained eye toxic people are easy to spot.
If they’re still delivering their Oscar winning performance to the outside world there’s every chance they’re riddled with anxiety, insomnia and spend most of their time in victim mode sucking energy from anyone they can. Their inner self talk is intense and aggressive. They’ll swing between moods, and frequently crash and burn.
Like a poison the unchecked toxic person can seep through multiple layers of your life. Learn to cut off the power you’ve been giving them (Part two: How to deal with a toxic person is on its way).
First, here are 12 telltale signs of a toxic person:
They lie; and they excel at it. At times they lie so well they begin to believe their own story and bizarrely this increases their confidence and ability to lie. They’ll get you to do favours for them that are an inconvenience for you, and they’ll think nothing of lying about it in writing or in person. Lying has become an acceptable way of life to them. Their low standards accommodate their lack of integrity.
THEY ARE ALWAYS THE VICTIM
If they say they want black and you offer them black they will instantly say they wanted pink. The goal posts will be moved in every transaction, and life to a toxic person is a transaction. It’s all about what they can get and how fast. They do not consider the emotional or material cost to those around them. They’ll ask you to do something for them, then accuse you of taking something from them. They’re behaviour is juvenile, and lost.
THEY CREATE DRAMA
They’ll turn up where they’re not wanted (which let’s face it is most places) and be so nice and unassuming about it that for a second you chastise yourself for feeling put out. Do not be fooled. This is part of their sting. They’d mingle well in Hollywood with their finely honed acting skills.
THEY ACT LIKE THEY’RE UNTOUCHABLE
They’ll do or say things that to you are totally outrageous. They’ll overstep every boundary they can because it’s ‘poor them’, and the world owes them a living (and probably a cash handout). They’re smart and can be charming to you in front of others then drop the stink bomb later. They’re always trying to score points. They often have a strong dislike for authority.
YOU WANT TO BE THE ONE TO TEACH THEM A LESSON
It’s so easy to become embroiled in the chaos they create. At first they will make your blood boil (then you get wise). You will at times want to hit back, to send an angry reply because the way they speak to you is totally uncalled for. Stop feeding them; it’s giving them energy to re-create the same old pattern.
THEY WON’T LET GO
Even when one of the two of you has moved on (particularly if you were once a couple) they’ll still be there mud-slinging and acting like you wronged them. They’ll accuse you of all sorts, just because that’s who they are. They’ll hit below the belt and try to bring you down. Their new partner (pray for them) will most likely be told a lot of negative stories about you and will not be able to look you in the eye. He or she might also be toxic. In time the new partner will fall off his or her pedestal and be treated to the same toxicity.
THEY ALWAYS FIND A PROBLEM AND CRITICISE
Toxic people are programmed to find fault and be dissatisfied. There is no pleasing them. They present a problem, you offer a solution and still they are indignant. Trust that they do not actually know what they want or are not yet willing to be open or honest enough to ask for it, which is why you can never meet their needs. It’s not your fault. At times their behaviour will seem plain ridiculous.
THEY WILL CAUSE A DIVIDE IN YOUR FRIENDS OR FAMILY
Toxic people will criticise and go behind your back to try to control what’s going on. They might go to your mother or your sister and make a seemingly innocent comment that will let off a real stink bomb. OR, if they’ve got away with this behaviour all their life they will be more skillful in their attempt to get people on their side. They’ll do this by setting up secret meetings and presenting themselves as the victim who needs support and protection. Their attitude is holier than thou. If your family tends to look for the best in people they will temporarily fall for this farce. The toxic person is creating ructions wherever they can. It’s what they do. They’ll keep trying to drag you into the drama triangle and in a flash turn you from rescuer to persecutor.
THEY REPEAT PATTERNS LIKE A THEME TUNE
Part of the story of a toxic person is one of woe. The world owes them. They will try to get you to conform to one of the roles as their persecutor. If they were left out as a child you’ll be accused of ignoring or excluding them now. If they were undisciplined growing up you’ll be accused of trying to control them or not giving them enough support. It’s like trying to snuggle up to a cactus. If you can do anything better than them they’ll criticise you for showing off or making them look bad. They’re a muddled mess. If you must feel sorry for them make it brief before they reel you back in. Show compassion to yourself.
THEY ‘TAKE LOVE’ WHEREVER THEY CAN GET IT
Toxic people are lost. They are disconnected from themselves and others and believe that it’s anyone’s fault but their own. They crave significance and love and will take this from wherever they can. They’ll most likely be collecting certificates of excellence, rosettes, trophies, badges of honour etc and be very fast to show them off. They’ll be attention seeking from anyone still naïve to their manipulative actions (sometimes they can’t even see it themselves). Their behaviour is often promiscuous, unfaithful, or if they’re single they’ll think nothing of taking someone else’s partner (and still acting like the victim).
THEY’LL BE OBSESSED WITH SOMETHING
As you can imagine it’s hard to be happy as a toxic person so they need something to numb out the pain. Perhaps they’re obsessed with online dating, texting, sport, or they’ll throw themselves into complaining about everything from hotel rooms to an overstuffed bin in a public place. Expect to see posts on their social media feed to this effect that poke fun at someone’s weight, dress sense etc. To feel better about themselves they put everyone and everything else down. If they’re reading this now it’s so they can read it out loud and make fun of it to their unfortunate audience.
THEIR OWN FAMILY MIGHT BE RUPTURED
People in constant proximity to a toxic person will at some point call time on the relationship if they value their own sanity. There’s every chance that someone toxic to the core no longer talks to their siblings, their parents or to extended family members. If they do the relationships will be volatile. Of course there’s two sides to this coin – the non-toxic person may distance themselves from toxic family members and you’ll be able to spot the difference. One of them will be thriving, the other? Well, still taking chunks out of people around them in a bid to feel better about life. They won’t have progressed much in their life – they’re too busy looking back and feeling sorry for themselves whilst pointing the finger of blame.
So ‘I know who my toxic people are, what now?’
You can’t help a toxic person, at least not until they’re willing to help themselves. You’ll end up one of the many wounded casualties if you try. Some of them might seem blissfully unaware of the chaos they’re generating in the lives of people around them, whilst others derive immense satisfaction from spreading their poison.
Either way it doesn’t matter; keep progressing your own life no matter what. When you stop feeding them energy they’ll choose a new victim, or slope off and come up with plan B to push your buttons. You can’t save them from themselves. They will kick and scream because that’s their nature, but it’s unlikely they’ll risk being exposed for what they are.
Even the most amazing person in the world has a toxic person ready to sideswipe them – think of the unpopular kid who didn’t get to go on the school trip? They’re full of fear, jealousy, resentment and ultimately hurt. The toxic person is unlikely to do anything to grow emotionally or spiritually; they might even mock the idea of therapy or yoga. They won’t admit to their own pain, they’re too busy trying to release it through lashing out at others.
You don’t need to be one of them.
Sophia Lennox is the founder of Creating Confidence with Soul. As a professional coach and mentor she knows how to help you get unstuck in life and move on from unhelpful ways of thinking. Sign up here to join her community and receive a free five day programme Create Confidence Now.
Find this helpful? Enjoy part Two: How to deal with a toxic person.
One final telltale sign is this – if you feel emotionally unstable around them trust your intuition. They’re up to something!