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What is Toxic Behavior and How to Deal with Toxic People?

At some point in our lives, we all come across someone who causes a lot of problems in our life. They may stir up trouble and be the reason behind some conflicts. These people are actually toxic individuals and the behavior they exhibit is called toxic behavior. 

The toxic traits of a toxic person include unsupportive and unpleasant behavior, being manipulative, judgmental, controlling, and self-centered. Such people can be the cause of various negative feelings and emotions that you may be experiencing like depression, anxiousness, worthlessness, and unhappiness. 

Most often than not, a toxic person can be your closest friend, someone you have known all your life, or someone who came into your life abruptly like a colleague or college friend and was suddenly very important to you. We tend to have blind spots for such people and we usually ignore their toxic behavior regardless of how bad and unpleasant they often make us feel. In this article, we’ll talk about how you can recognize the toxic behavior patterns exhibited by someone you are close to and what you can do to deal with such a person.

So Who is a Toxic Person Really?

To explain it in the most simple form, a toxic person is anyone whose behavior adds negativity and stress to your life. We often find ourselves asking this question “ why is this person behaving this way?” and “what exactly led this person to be so toxic?” And there is usually an answer to these questions. Many people who behave in a toxic manner have been through trauma themselves and instead of dealing with that trauma, these people start exhibiting toxic traits. These people usually don’t know how to process trauma and stress in a healthy manner so they end up being unpleasant around people. 

Toxicity is not considered a mental disorder but some mental disorders can be the underlying cause of toxic behavior, like borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or bipolar disorder. As Christian Baloga, an award-winning artist and author has said: 

 “ Pay no attention to toxic words. What people say is often a reflection of themselves, not you.”

Traits of Toxic People

Toxic people exhibit some specific toxic traits. Here are some toxic traits you should familiarize yourself with. It will help you recognize the toxic behavior patterns of people around you: 

  1. Toxic people are very manipulative: Their methodology is to get people to do what they want. They are self-centered individuals. They tend to use people for their own and they use manipulation tactics to convince others to help them in their own agendas
  1. They are judgemental: While they want people to not hold them accountable for their own actions, they tend to be very judgmental towards other people. They often criticize you in front of others to belittle you. They highlight your flaws and the things they believe you have done wrong. 
  1. They don’t apologize: They have this unwavering belief that they are never wrong. They tend to blame others for their own mistakes. They would even go so far as claiming the victim status to get the attention and sympathy of others. 
  1. They are narcissistic and aggressive individuals: They are superficially charming, glib, and exciting. They have a sense of entitlement that leads to remarkable selfishness. They tend to assert their dominance over the people around them and they often get aggressive if things don’t go their way.
  1. They are inconsistent: They often change their perspective, attitude, and behavior depending on what they feel they need to accomplish or what they want to have happened.

Dealing with Toxic People

Even after learning about the signs of a toxic person and the way they make you feel, you still might not know how to deal with them. Here are a few ways in which you can handle such people:

  • Be blunt 

We are at times inclined towards being okay with the negative things a toxic person throws our way. We tend to stay quiet because we don’t want to have a difficult talk with someone or sometimes we just hate confrontation. But you should always speak up and stand up for yourself. Be blunt! If you feel someone is belittling you or toxic behavior patterns, call the person out. Let them know you don’t appreciate how they are behaving. If you call them out, they’ll know they can’t manipulate you and can’t take advantage of you. 

  • Set boundaries

If you can’t get rid of a toxic person, set stricter boundaries and make sure the toxic person never crosses those boundaries. Stay calm and communicate your boundaries. Boundaries make our expectations clear, so others know what to expect from us and how we want to be treated. 

  • Make yourself a priority

Besides being narcissistic or abusive, a person can display other behavior, which can also be toxic. An individual may desperately need your help to get out of a bad situation or might need you as emotional support to deal with a traumatic event. Whilst it’s okay to help a person like that, you need to make sure you don’t get emotionally drained out in the process. You might care about this particular person, but don’t offer support at the risk of your own well-being. You can offer help to someone but make sure you have enough emotional energy left to meet your own needs. 

  • Learn to say NO

We are often very hesitant when it comes to saying no. It’s mostly not about self-esteem or confidence, some of us have this innate desire to go above and beyond for loved ones. For a toxic person, this can be an opportunity for exploitation. 

For such people sticking to refusal can be hard because they might guilt trip you into doing what they want but you should stay firm and stand your ground. If you are not okay with something, bluntly say “no!!”. 

It may be challenging at first, especially when the toxic person will throw a dramatic tantrum to try to get their way. But the more you practice saying “no” to things you aren’t comfortable with, the easier it becomes.

  • Be compassionate but know that it’s not your job to fix them

Toxic people are not just toxic towards others, their behavior is toxic for themselves as well and it soon catches up to them. And just like everyone, even toxic people and capable of change. 

We might want to lend a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on to the people we care about instead of avoiding them or writing them out of our lives, regardless of how toxic they are. You can offer compassion to such people but you need to keep in mind that you might not be able to change them completely. 

If someone wants to change themselves they need to commit to it completely, you may offer support but don’t do it at the expense of your own emotional resources. 

Toxic People in a Workplace

If you are someone who has been working in a corporate environment for a while, you must know the kind. These people are office bullies. Every workplace has at least a few of these negative, nagging, pestering, super-competitive, rude and mean-spirited people who threaten, shame, demean and raise their voices against their fellow co-workers. If you are someone who is dealing with a toxic person in the workplace you are not alone. According to a study 4 out 5 people currently work or have previously worked with a toxic colleague.

These individuals tend to create hindrances and obstacles to a productive and healthy work environment and their passive-aggressive attitude can annoy everyone, making the whole team grouchy and irritable. From distancing yourself to putting your foot down entirely, there are a few things you can do to alleviate the toxic behavior of a co-worker. 

Frequently give yourself a power check. Know that no one can make you feel inferior until you, yourself inadvertently feel that way. Be aware of your potential and don’t seek out validations from such people. This will restrict toxic people from invading your headspace. You can even launch a counterstrike and completely avoid such people and just surround yourself with positive and uplifting people. Uplifting people are a great counterbalance to toxicity. Lastly, just mentally move past the toxicity and focus on flourishing your career. 

Toxic People in a Relationship

There are both toxic men and toxic women out there and we may end up getting involved with these individuals in a romantic way which may end up being disastrous in the end. 

Toxic relationships by definition mean any relationship in which toxic partners’ behavior is emotionally and, not infrequently, physically damaging to the other partner. The most basic characteristics of toxic relationships are lack of trust, perpetual lying, and controlling behaviors. 

Relationships require time, work, and effort and both parties should be willing to put in the work and make the effort. The most triggering warning signs of a toxic relationship are violence, abuse, and harassment in which case a person who abused should seek out help immediately. The subtle warning signs include persistent unhappiness and loneliness despite being with the other person. 

Some toxic relationships can be mended given each partner is committed to trying. The relationship must become healthy and mutually beneficial for any potential to continue. But if it can’t be fixed, it’s best for individuals involved to walk away from the relationship. 

How to get rid of a Toxic Person?

The best way to deal with a toxic person is to eliminate them from your life if possible. It’s okay to support someone who is going through a rough time but if you have someone in your life who constantly manipulates you, demeans you, and makes you feel bad about yourself, get rid of such people. But it can be difficult to do so especially if the toxic person in your life is someone you care about deeply. Here are a few steps for you to follow to eliminate that person from your life:

  • Don’t expect the person to change
  • Establish and maintain healthy boundaries
  • Don’t be pulled into crisis
  • Own your weaknesses
  • Understand they may resist
  • Choose your emotional battles carefully
  • Surround yourself with positive people

How to Stop Being a Toxic Person?

If you recognize that your behavior may be toxic and you are willing to work on yourself to be a better person and influence in someone else’s life, here are a few things you can do to stop being toxic:

  • Be aware of yourself and your behavior
  • Know your values and abide by them
  • Be a good listener
  • Be empathetic and compassionate 
  • Think first, react second
  • Let your ego go
  • Show vulnerability and accountability
  • Reach out for help

Final Word

Toxic behavior may not be considered a big deal but it may be the result of some serious trauma or an underlying mental disorder. If you have someone in your life who you believe displays toxic traits or you, yourself, have recognized your toxic behavior patterns and are willing to do something about it, consult a physician. We have expert physicians on board who will help you get to the root cause of your problem so you can lead a positive and happy life.

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