Signs of toxic people and how to deal with them

toxic people
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Nobody’s perfect, but toxic people can really hold you back and make you question yourself. They come in many forms, but here are four major red flags.

1. Toxic people act like they have it all together.

When you share your struggles, they’ll shut you down or attack and pull away from you. They make you the bad guy for having problems, which they portray as weak or shameful. 

These tell you not to dwell on your problems or quote Bible verses at you. This makes you believe there’s something wrong with you because you don’t have it all together like they do.

 2. Toxic people are narcissistic.

It’s all about them and their needs. When you bring up a problem, they turn it around and make it about them. They are incapable of listening and uninterested in supporting you or knowing your needs.

These types are controlling and have no respect for boundaries. They have trouble understanding where they end and others begin.

3. Toxic people are overly critical.

You can never live up to their ever shifting standards. They let you know you fall short, but never what you could do to meet their approval. 

Critical people look down on you, act superior to you, and erode your self-esteem with their complaints, criticisms, or back-handed “compliments”.

4. They demand unearned trust.

An example of this is an unfaithful spouse who believes an apology should be enough. He refuses to make the changes that will help win back your trust.

These toxic people make you feel guilty even though you’re the one who’s been hurt. They are very good at turning the tables to make themselves look like the victim.

Toxic people are good at turning the tables to make themselves look like the victim. Click To Tweet

How to deal with toxic people

1. Set boundaries

This might mean refusing to be at someone’s beck and call. Or leaving after 15 minutes if they constantly keep you waiting. It could mean telling someone how to speak to you.

The list is endless and depends on your particular circumstance. If things go well, they’ll respect the boundary and the relationship will change.

More often, however, toxic people won’t like your boundaries. They won’t accept they’ve done anything wrong or need to adjust their behavior.

That’s when you have to change your role in the relationship or even remove yourself from it altogether. We cannot force someone else to change; we can only control our part.

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2. Limit contact

It’s not always possible or advisable to cut someone out of your life. You may have to co-parent with an ex-spouse. Or you want children to have a relationship with their grandparent.

In these cases, consider limiting contacting with them rather than detaching altogether. Besides spending less time together, you will change the way you relate to the toxic person.

I discovered this method in a book about how to deal with emotionally abusive mothers. Similar to the gray rock method of dealing with a narcissist, it means you refuse to react or get hooked in by their drama.

You meet them on neutral ground like a restaurant or cafe and keep conversation surface level. It might feel phony but serves to protect you from the psychic and emotional harm you would otherwise face.

You also maintain a sense of control and agency in the relationship. You’re no longer reacting to the toxic person and leaving interactions bruised and beaten like a boxer exiting the ring.

You get to decide how you operate within this relationship. You no longer have to take punches from this emotional batterer.

You get to decide how you operate within this relationship. You no longer have to take punches from this emotional batterer. Click To Tweet

3. The no contact rule

You’ve done your part by making the brave move of setting boundaries with the toxic person. They’ve refused to respect them or acknowledge that things need to change.

In this case, you may decide you have no choice but to distance yourself from the person.

The no contact method is simple but not easy. It means exactly what it says, even when they reach out to you. Be prepared for guilt trips, phony emergencies, and other manipulation.

You’ll probably come up with all kinds of reasons to talk yourself out of this drastic measure. But it’s the toxic person’s actions that have brought you here, so don’t feel guilty.

Be careful who you enlist for support during this painful process. Some may try to convince you to maintain contact because the toxic person is a relative. These are not people who belong in your inner circle.

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