The term “toxic” rose to prominence over the past decade and has become so commonly used that it was featured as Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2018. It is often used to refer to people who cause harm to their loved ones through behaviors and interactions.
Typically, dealing with a toxic person detrimentally affects our mental, emotional, and physical well-being to the point that it becomes unbearable. However, if you learn to recognize these common signs of a toxic person, you can protect yourself and maintain healthy relationships with friends and family.
1. Constant Criticism
Sometimes even our closest friends and family can be critical of our behaviors and choices. However, toxic individuals criticize and belittle others constantly. They rarely offer constructive feedback and, instead, focus on tearing others down. This type of criticism is not helpful but instead harmful to the recipient’s self-esteem. In fact, a toxic person will criticize others until they feel inadequate or worthless.
Toxic people are skilled at manipulating situations and people to serve their interests. They may use guilt, fear, or flattery to get what they want, often disregarding the needs and feelings of others. They may also withhold affection, make threats, or engage in passive-aggressive communication to force you to give in to their demands.
3. Lack of Empathy
Virtually all humans innately have some level of empathy. However, a toxic person often lacks empathy. They have difficulty understanding others’ feelings and experiences. They may appear insensitive, dismissive, or even cruel when others are going through difficult times.
Although gaslighting is technically a form of manipulation, it is often harder to recognize than more aggressive tactics like threats or passive-aggressive communication. When a toxic person uses gaslighting to manipulate a friend or family member, they manipulate and distort reality to make you doubt your perceptions and feelings. They might make you question your sanity or memory of events.
People who use gaslighting to manipulate others often use phrases like, “You’re being dramatic,” or “That’s not what I said.” It often happens subtly until you begin to believe the toxic person more so they can continue to gaslight you.
5. Inconsistency in Behavior
All of us experience highs and lows throughout our lives. We all experience moments of joy and our fair share of challenges. However, most people handle these events in stride and maintain a mostly consistent attitude and approach toward life.
A toxic individual rarely maintains consistency, though. Their behavior is unpredictable, and they often fail to fulfill their commitments or promises. It becomes challenging to provide support to someone when you never know what to expect from them. They might be ecstatic and engaged with you one moment, only to dismiss or ignore you the next.
6. Jealousy and Envy
We all feel jealous of others occasionally, but we move on and learn how to accept or celebrate our loved ones’ wins. However, toxic people can be overly jealous of others’ successes, possessions, or relationships. This can lead to passive-aggressive behavior or attempts to undermine others’ achievements.
7. Boundary Violations
Personal boundaries are important. When we abide by others’ boundaries, we show them love and respect. Unfortunately, a toxic person often disregards personal boundaries and pushes others to do things they’re uncomfortable with or don’t want to do. Toxic individuals may be intrusive and disrespectful of personal space and privacy to the point that they will go to great lengths to violate boundaries.
Boundary violations are frustrating enough. However, some toxic people will take this to the next level and encourage or create codependency. In a codependent relationship, one person often relies on the other person for their sense of worth.
When it comes to toxic people, they will use gaslighting and manipulation to force a close friend or romantic partner to become reliant on them. This gives them a clear advantage and can even help the toxic person isolate their loved one from the outside world.
9. Chronic Negativity
Toxic people tend to be pessimistic, seeing the worst in almost every situation. Their negativity can be draining and impact the mood of those around them. They may even twist seemingly positive situations to place a negative spin on them.
10. Constant Drama
Have you ever noticed that the same friends who always seem negative also seem to have something going on in their lives constantly? That’s because toxic individuals thrive on drama and conflict. They may create unnecessary problems and seek attention by stirring trouble or playing the victim. Unfortunately, toxic people aren’t interested in maintaining healthy, stable relationships, so they don’t care how much drama or pain they cause.
11. Inability to Take Responsibility
Toxic people often deflect blame and refuse to take responsibility for their actions. They may shift blame onto others or external circumstances. This often adds to the drama in their lives, not to mention they use manipulation and gaslighting to get out of taking responsibility for their actions.
12. Lack of Genuine Support
No matter how we feel about certain situations, most of us are willing and able to offer genuine support and encouragement to the people we love. On the other hand, toxic people are often self-centered and reluctant to provide genuine support or encouragement to others. They may only offer praise when it serves their interests.
13. Difficulty with Forgiveness
Toxic people may hold grudges and be unwilling to forgive, leading to long-lasting conflicts and unresolved issues. They can quickly dismiss or “cancel” people who do something that angers them, or they may end long-standing friendships over seemingly small issues because they can’t move past it.
Learn How to Recognize and Deal With Toxic People
Now that you know these common signs of a toxic person, you can more readily identify these individuals and take the necessary steps to protect yourself. You can call them out on their behaviors, set boundaries, and, if necessary, distance yourself from them to avoid pain and suffering.
Until a toxic person is willing to accept their flaws and work toward progress, you can’t establish a healthy relationship with them. The best thing you can do is surround yourself with positive, supportive, healthy relationships that will contribute to your happiness and personal growth.
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