‘Toxic’ is a word that’s used a lot now but what does it really mean? The dictionary definition of toxic is poisonous, unacceptable or unpleasant and associating with people like this can make you very unhappy and stressed over a period of time.
One problem is that it’s sometimes difficult to work out when someone in your life is toxic but this post aims to help you work out who they are and how you might deal with them (if you want to!).
Most of us have people in our lives that we endlessly try to please and if you question them, they’ll behave in a surprised manner and label you ‘over-sensitive’ or tell you that you’re ‘misinterpreting’ what they said. By spotting this behaviour, you can start minimising their impact on your life. You can’t change the way they are but you can change the way you deal with it.
Here’s how it works:
- They keep you guessing – they do this by being lovely one day and then the next day there’s a complete change. You never know where you are with them and that’s very unsettling. If you can accept that and recognize that they won’t change, you won’t get sucked into their behaviour patterns.
- They tend to sulk – there isn’t always anything obvious to explain why this is and if you ask them, they’ll probably answer “nothing”, but the sigh or raised eyebrow gives it away. You might find yourself doing everything you can to put things right. Once you stop trying to please them and recognize that because you’ll never achieve it, it can be a big release.
- They blame you for things that weren’t your fault – in other words, they project their own feelings and thoughts onto you because they won’t take responsibility for them. Walk away and return when it has passed. You’re not responsible for someone else’s feelings and unless you’ve done something wrong (in which case, it’s time to apologise), there’s no need to put up with this.
- They manipulate you – this can be a very clever tactic because often it’s disguised by their apparent helpfulness. They’ll push something onto you in some way and then turn it around so that it looks as if they were actually trying to help. For instance “I left that for you to do because I thought you’d appreciate the chance to show off your skills”.
- They often change arrangements to suit themselves and make it sound acceptable. What this really means is that they consider their life more important than yours! You don’t have to agree to the change(s) though and can state that the original plan was better for you and that you’re not going to change.
- They will say that it’s about the way you’re talking rather than what you’re actually talking about. By moving the issue away from the original issue, you’ll find that you’re defending the manner you talked about it, your gestures or choice of words. Try to get back to the original issue by saying “we can talk about that later – let’s keep to what we originally started speaking about”.
- They rarely apologise – in fact, they’d rather lie than do so and will twist the story, changing the way it happened very convincingly so that even they believe it! However, you don’t need an apology to move forward – without them.
- They are often there in a crisis but don’t share any joy when things go well for you, often by being negative about, say, a promotion that you’ve had. “The money won’tbe that great considering how much work you’ll have to do”. Another classic response is “very interesting” when talking about one of your achievements, making it sound as boring as paint drying. Don’t let them dampen your spirits – you don’t need them to approve of what you’ve achieved.
- They’re very judgmental – even though we’re all wrong at times, toxic people will make sure that you know about the mistakes that you’ve made. Unless you’ve done something that really affects other people adversely, no-one has the right to stand in judgement.
If you know the characteristics of a toxic person, you’ll find it much easier to stop tying yourself into knots trying to please them. You can avoid them altogether or, if that’s not possible, learn how to distance yourself and not keep trying to please them.