Toxic people: 10 things they do and how to deal with them

Image credit: Shutterstock - By Dmytro Zinkevych

Nothing ruins a perfectly good day faster than someone who is dripping with negativity and toxicity.

Toxic people are everywhere, and the worst part is, most of them don’t even realize they are the problem.

Most toxic people think that everyone else is the problem when it comes to negativity.

If you find yourself wondering whether or not someone is negative, consider these 10 warning signs that can help you identify if you are surrounded by toxic people.

It’s important to come face to face with these demons because you don’t need to be dealing with those kinds of people – you need to get the hell away from them as they can leave you emotionally drained.

Here are some signs of a toxic person and after that, we’ll go over 8 ways on how to deal with these difficult people.

1) They Only Pay Attention to You When it Serves Them

Everyone has that one “friend” who only calls them when they need a favor. Or, perhaps it’s a family member that you feel obliged to help out.

Whatever they are to you, if they are only calling on you when they need something from you, they are a toxic person.

Recognize it and start making plans to rid yourself of that relationship. Someone who only takes and never gives back is not someone you need in your life.

2) They Hold Grudges

Toxic people love to drum up drama, and one of the best ways to do that is to bring up something stupid you did in the past.

Maybe they are teasing you in front of friends, or maybe they are throwing it in your face in a mean way, and you are feeling bad about it all over again.

It’s like they have a Peter Pan syndrome and can’t let anything go.

If someone spends too much time drudging up the past and not working to get over themselves, you need to move on.

3) They Make You Feel Stuck

Someone who suffers from a toxic attitude will do their very best to make you feel shitty about your life because as much as they put on a good show, they feel shitty about their life.

They will bring out their best passive aggressive nature and make it very clear that you can’t escape your job, or whatever situation you find yourself in.

Mostly, they are incapable of moving forward in their lives, and they need people to stay in that place with them.

4) They Crap on Your Hopes and Dreams

You’ll know you are in the presence of negative and toxic people if every time you announce something, they crap all over it and tell you a million reasons why you can’t do the thing you want to do.

Whether you want to buy a new car or find a new job, look for new love or move to a new city, their negativity has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you, so just ignore it.

They’ll give it a good hook though, so watch out.

5) They Lie to You

Toxic people can’t help themselves when it comes to lying. It’s like they need to stoke the fires of drama and chaos in order to be happy.

If someone isn’t fighting, they aren’t living. They’ll lie to people about you, for you, to you, and do the same in your circle of acquaintances in order to satisfy their own needs.

If you ever wondered what getting “thrown under a bus” felt like, stick with someone who is toxic, and you’ll find out soon enough.

6) You Feel Negative When You Are Around Them

Toxic people are like crabs in a bucket. Have you ever seen crabs in a bucket?

They all try to escape at once and just end up pulling each other down. They don’t want to see any one of their kind succeed and so they grab hold, yank, and voila! Nobody gets out.

Wow, talk about a tough crowd.

If you’ve got toxic people in your life, it probably feels a little like you are in a bucket full of crabs. They don’t want to be helped, they won’t help themselves, yet they want everyone around them to feel just as shitty as they do about life, love, work, money, and happiness.

Basically, they want everyone to feel as terrible as they do.

If you walk away from a negative conversation and find yourself wearing that feeling for some time, or making negative comments to others afterward, it’s a good indication that you’ve just spent time with a toxic person.

Toxic people have a way of permeating into our lives and making an impression that is not wanted but finds its way in any way. And it stays with us sometimes. Shake it off and go back to being you.

7) They Want What You Have

Toxic people cannot be happy for you no matter how much you have or accomplished in your life. So much so that they are willing to push you out of the way to get it.

They’ll beg, borrow, and steal their way into that part of your life to get a piece of the pie, and then claim it all as their own.

Keep a close eye on them at work because if they hate your happiness, they’ll try to take it away.

8) They Encourage You to Hate on Others

The interesting thing about toxic people is that they require a lot of social interaction to maintain their toxicity. Afterall, you can’t be negative if you are all by yourself.

You need to spread that shit around. They’ll try to get you to agree with their toxic assessments of a situation or a person, and then they’ll tell everyone what you said. Steer clear of them. They are bad news.

9) They Expect You to Be Someone You Are Not

Negative people will hate you no matter what you do or act like so you might as well just be yourself.

They’ll want you to be everything or everyone else, and nothing will be good enough until you are as negative as them. Just ignore their comments trying to bring you down. They’ll find rock bottom soon enough.

10) They Won’t Hesitate to Manipulate You At All Costs

When it comes to toxic people, there’s no such thing as kindness or integrity.

If they want something from you, they’ll do anything they can to get it.

If you’re in their way, they won’t care about your emotions or your needs. They’ll say what they need, make up lies and compliment you so you’ll act in service of them.

Now that we’ve spoken about how to spot a toxic person, let’s go over 8 ways to deal with them.

How to deal with toxic people: 8 things to do according to a psychologist

Image credit: Shutterstock – By Roman Kosolapov

Whether it’s an old friend who’s turned sour, a competitive co-worker or a family member that just won’t go away, toxic people can be tough to deal with.

Should you fight fire with fire? Or should you simply accept them the way they are? These are difficult questions that aren’t easy to answer.

Fortunately on Psychology Today, a professional psychologist has revealed 8 strategies for dealing with toxic people. I’ve summarized the excellent tips below.

1) Recognize the traits that make you easy prey

To begin with, you need to figure out why they’re targeting you.

Do you have a need to please or do you fear to cause even the slightest conflict?

Take a step back and consider the interactions you have had by focusing on what you did, but not what you felt – and see if you can find a pattern.

Once you find a pattern, you can be more aware of what behaviors cause that person to take advantage of you.

Keep in mind that assessing what traits cause mistreatment of you doesn’t mean that you are to blame. They are still to blame, but this will help you avoid them targetting you in the future.

2) Accept that it might take some time to get rid of them

For some, getting rid of a toxic person is going to take some time.

This is especially true if the toxic person is close to you, lives in your home, or is in some way in charge of your financial situation, for example, a boss.

You might need to map out how you are going to begin the process and what you hope to achieve by removing them from your life.

This is also a crucial step because you’ll need to look at your own toxicity and determine if you are projecting onto another person.

Be honest about where you are and why this is a problem for you and you’ll be in a better place to start removing them from your life.

3) Explore your reactivity

Again, without taking the blame for the dynamic, you should look at how your overreacting and under-reacting in the relationship.

For example, if you’re dealing with a bully, continually under-reacting gives them permission to keep on bullying you.

Also, people who are easily anxious tend to over-react when a relationship is going south, which only gives narcissists more power to keep on playing with you.

Try to not emotionally react to them. Toxic people aren’t worthy of that, anyway.

Be clear, concise, forthright, logical and don’t attach yourself to anything they say.

4) Trust your gut

Some people stay in a hurtful relationship because they don’t trust themselves or their judgment.

You tend to rationalize their toxic behavior or give the person the benefit of the doubt.

But there comes a time when enough is enough. If they’re affecting you emotionally and making your life worse, it’s time to take a stand.

If you find yourself continually making excuses for someone, stop.

Life is a precious gift. Don’t let other toxic people ruin it for you.

5) The word “no” is your new best friend

Chances are that the toxic person in your life didn’t push their way into your life without your permission.

Chances are that slowly, and little by little, they made way into your life and broke down your boundaries and are not going full throttle through your life and making it miserable.

It’s possible that you find it difficult to tell them no. Perhaps they are fragile and you see that, or you see that they don’t have anyone else and you feel bad for the situation they are in.

Stop it right now.

The easiest way to cut a toxic person from your life is to learn to use the word, “no” whenever and wherever possible. Keep them at arm’s length by not letting them into your realm.

6) Beware of the sunk cost fallacy

What’s keeping you in this relationship?

According to the work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Twerksy, humans are notoriously loss-averse and usually prefer to hold onto what they have in the short term – even if giving up a little in the short term will lead to more in the long run.

Also, humans prefer the known to the unknown. Keep this in mind and realize that short term loss may actually lead to long term gain.

7) Recognize the power of intermittent reinforcement

Despite what you may have thought, humans are overly optimistic. We tend to see a close loss as a “near win”. This is what keeps people on slot machines.

Evolution explains this.

In our hunter-gatherer days, when the challenges of life were mostly physical, staying encouraged enough to keep going and turn the near win into a real one was a good thing.

So in toxic relationships, we’re motivated to hang in there, even though we only get what we want some of the time.

“Now and again” does not make a pattern and you need to keep that in mind.

In fact, narcissists are very skilled at what is called “love bombing“, which means gifting you with adoration so they can use that feeling to manipulate you.

Look at your life over the course of a month and ask yourself if they are actually adding to it.

If they’re not, then you need to consider ways you can see them less, or if you have to, not see them at all.

8) Ignore their social media

Whatever you do, don’t torture yourself on social media following their every move. Toxic people love to take to the internet to let the rest of the world know how much things suck or how right they are about things.

It’s a tough spot to be in because chances are that the toxic person is going to constantly ask you, “did you see my post!?” and they’ll want an answer.

A quick, “Sorry, I was too busy” is all you need to respond.

If you want to take things to the next level, you can be very clear about why you don’t follow them on social media and feel out the conversation to see if they are willing to make amends.

9) Don’t waste your time trying to tell you otherwise

Here’s the thing about toxic people: they don’t want your help. They don’t want to learn more, do better, be different.

They want everyone around them to just put up with their ways and make accommodation for them.

It’s an impossible situation and you can bet that it’s one that you cannot improve. You can’t fix stupid.

These people, however smart and cunning they may be, are just stupid.

They don’t see how they are hurting others and they’ll continue to do it because in some sick way, it makes them feel good.

Or at least, doesn’t make them feel any worse about themselves.

10) Create distance (if you can)

Whenever possible, distance yourself from them. If they are at work, eat lunch at a different time or in a different space.

Don’t drastically change your life so that you can’t enjoy yourself at work anymore, but be wary of how you feel and what you take away from the conversations you have with this person.

It might be easier to just eat in your car a few days a week than try to put up with their bullshit one more day in the lunchroom.

If this person is living in your house, you will eventually have to sit down and have a serious conversation with them, but if the situation is temporary, just keep your distance, fill your calendar with things you want to be doing instead of listening to them whine about life, and wait it out.

11) Guard those boundaries or plan an exit strategy

If the toxic person is someone you can’t avoid, you need to set boundaries for the type of behaviour and contact you’re going to have.

You don’t need to be rude, but you need to be firm and decisive.

To a co-worker you might say, “I’m okay with criticism, but my being overweight has nothing to do with my performance.”

12) Anticipate push-back retaliation

It’s likely that the toxic person is benefiting in some way from the way they’re acting to you.

Once you set boundaries, chances are they will redouble their efforts to keep manipulating to gain the upper hand.

Keep firm, strong and direct. Don’t let them emotionally manipulate them. Whatever they say shouldn’t carry any weight.

13) Don’t normalize abusive behaviour

They tend to excuse their behaviour by saying things like “they’re only words” or that the real problem was your sensitivity.

The bottom line is that emotional or verbal abuse is never OK.

If you’re okay with it, or you react to it (which is what they’re looking for), then they’ll keep on doing it.

So don’t emotionally react, explain rationally why they’re wrong and get on with your day without being affected.

Once they know you’re a difficult target to get a reaction out of it, they’ll eventually give up.

14) Say goodbye

In some cases, you are going to have to bite the bullet and let the person go out of your life. That may be easier said than done because toxic people have a way of hanging around.

But if you make yourself perfectly clear that you don’t want such toxicity in your life, they might just be so offended that they bugger off anyway and they’ll do the job of riding themselves from your life so you don’t have to.

It’s not going to be easy, but it will be rewarding.

Who knows, you might find it easy! It might feel good to tell someone that you don’t like their attitude and you deserve better in your life.

Whatever feels right to you, do that. But whatever you do, don’t continue to live in a shell because of this person’s way of making you feel small in your own life. It’s not worth it.

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Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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