What Do Toxic People Do?
Posted On Mar 08, 2016
Difficult people have always vexed me. Mainly because they are everywhere. I feel like there are more unreasonable people out there than logical, grounded, and kind ones. All I can do is pick up and run like a banshee in the opposite direction in the event a toxic person invades my five-foot radius. But what happens if you can’t run? What happens if the toxic person you encounter is at work, a family member, or a loved one?
KNOW THE SIGNS! The sixteenth-century philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon wasn’t lying when he said, “knowledge is power.” The best part about toxic people is they are all the same – to varying degrees, of course. Some are super toxic to the point where you are moved to alcoholism before encountering them. Some are subtle; inducing a long, slow kill whereby five years down the road you end up depleted of energy with no self-esteem and symptoms of post-traumatic stress while watching Mean Girls or Horrible Bosses.
Either which way you manage to land a poisonous bite, it’s time to cut off the head of the snake. These toxic individuals steal the zest from our lives, and it’s not ok.
Being able to spot their harmful behavior is the first step to minimizing their impact. You will never be able to change them nor is their dysfunction your responsibility. But you can identify what toxic people do and change the outcome.
There are plenty of things toxic people do to manipulate you and situations to their advantage. Here are a few of them. Knowing them will help you to avoid catching a fatal bite from a toxic person:
It’s always your fault, never theirs
If you find yourself in constant defense mode, anxiety ridden, and feeling like you’re constantly climbing a mountain on roller-skates, you are probably under the spell of a toxic individual who can never be wrong. If they weren’t toxic, you’d be on top of the mountain because they flew the helicopter that took you there.
DO: Listen to their side with calm emotions. If you go basket case on them, they have taken your power and won the argument. Emotions are the fuel for their fire. Being calm and collected robs them of winning.
They use ninja mind tactics to avoid taking responsibility
You are sure, with 100% certainty that going into the meeting or conversation with this toxic person, you will come out on top. “I got this,” you say with the utmost confidence. Next thing you know, you come out thinking, “Well, maybe it really was my fault,” followed by a Starbucks binging shame spiral. If you’re the one who’s continually hurt, or the one who is constantly adjusting your own behavior to avoid being hurt, then chances are that it’s not you and it’s very much them.
DO: Listen. Nod your head. Walk away. This will protect your power.
They use the same ninja mind tactics to manipulate you
Toxic people have a way of sending out the vibe that you owe them something. They have a way of taking from you or doing something that hurts you, always keeping you on the bottom and them on the top. This is particularly common in workplaces or relationships where there is a balance of power. Nothing you do will ever be “right” or “good enough.” You can solve world hunger and they will never validate you.
DO: Stop trying to please them.
They never apologize
They’ll lie before they ever apologize, 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. It’s pathological and scary.
DO: Learn to swallow your pride. It takes courage to set aside always having to be right. This is why we call it being “the bigger person.”
They shrink you
They’ll find reasons your good news isn’t great news, undercut your successes, minimalize your achievements and beyond. They’ll do and say anything to make sure you know who the alpha dog is. “I just became Queen of the Universe,” you tell them. “Well the Universe isn’t really that big but congratulations anyways.”
DO: Continue to point out your successes with confidence. Be an example of what love and support really looks like.
They’ll use non-toxic words with a toxic tone
“I’m sure your day was better than mine. Mine was awful. Just awful. And you didn’t even notice enough to ask,” they say to you on a typical day. 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.
DO: Point out the tone in a manner that emphasizes the way it makes you feel. If they can’t respect your feelings then close it down and end the conversation amicably. Then run for the hills.
They’ll bring up irrelevant details
When you’re trying to resolve something important to you, toxic people will bring in irrelevant detail from five arguments ago. You end up 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.
DO: Set hard boundaries on the conversation, only entertaining the matters at hand. If they can’t respect your issues then shut it down and end the conversation calmly. Then run for the hills, similar to the aforementioned.
If you lose sleep thinking about your next encounter with someone, are constantly trying to please someone, feel powerless and afraid to speak up around someone, chances are you’ve encountered a toxic person. It’s time to use your toxic radar detector to shut them down for good.
It helps to wear a Superman tee-shirt, or if you can get your hands on an Elvish sword which glows blue when Orcs – demon creatures – come around, that would be ideal.
Photo Credit: Mean Girls/Paramount Pictures