A users guide to toxic people
I don’t remember who first said this first, but my grandfather once quoted to me, “You become the company you keep”. I didn’t pay much attention to it until I began to notice that my life had become filled with drama and turmoil, some of it self-generated, but I had no idea why. It turns out, I was becoming the company I kept. I had managed to become attached to a Toxic. Once you start identifying the behaviour of toxic people you will start to notice them everywhere. And once you’re aware of it, you can actually see the behaviour seeping in and affecting the people around them.
Think about people that you know who make you feel drained of energy when you’ve spent time with them.
The ones whose comments always feel a little backhanded or judgemental. People who downright pull you down and leave you feeling worse about yourself. The ones who always seem embroiled in drama. Negative, needy, manipulative people who suck the happiness out of your day. Women are in general very sensitive to the environment around them and will likely be taking on the negativity of a toxic person often without even realising it.
The simplest way to spot a Toxic? Watch to see who criticises and complains the most.
Cheryl Richardson’s bookTake Time for Your Life. (yes it has a vile 90s self-help vibe but it's really worth reading) She writes a great deal about dealing with negative people and has some incredible insights into salvaging relationships when this is an issue. What makes her so brilliant is that she empowers you to grow beyond the behaviour and possibly even help the other person become aware of their own without creating confrontation.
She breaks them down into these categories
The Blamer This person likes to hear his own voice. He constantly complains about what isn’t working in his life and yet gets energy from complaining and dumping his frustrations on you.
The Drainer This is the needy person who calls to ask for your guidance, support, information, advice or whatever she needs to feel better in the moment. Because of her neediness, the conversation often revolves around her, and you can almost feel the life being sucked out of you during the conversation.
The Shamer This person can be hazardous to your health. The shamer may cut you off, put you down, reprimand you, or make fun of your or your ideas in front of others. He often ignores your boundaries and may try to convince you that his criticism is for you own good. The shamer is the kind of person who makes you question your own sanity before his.
The Discounter This is the person who discounts or challenges everything you say. Often, she has a strong need to be right and can find fault with any position. It can be exhausting to have a conversation with the discounter, so eventually, you end up giving in and deciding to just listen.
The Gossip This person avoids intimacy by talking about other behind their backs. The gossip gets energy from relaying stories, opinions, and the latest “scoop.” By gossiping about others, he creates a lack of safety in his relationships, whether he realises it or not. After all, if he’ll talk about someone else, he’ll talk about you.
Sound familiar? Does it even maybe sound like you?
Dealing with these people can be tricky as the easiest way is just to avoid them. If you can’t do this, make encounters as brief as you can. Unfortunately many times toxic people are unavoidable. It might be a friend within your social circle which can be tricky as you will have to find ways to either exclude them from gatherings or for a time being, exclude yourself.
A strategy I have found successfully is to avoid larger gatherings and see your friends in smaller bunches of two or three at a time and phase out having that person present. When they are there, ignore all drama. Don’t take the bait to start arguments and don’t participate in negativity. Because they aren’t getting the response they need they will simply move on to someone else. Quite often you’ll discover that the other members of the group feel the same way but just don’t know what to do about it.
Sometimes your Toxic may be a close friend that you don’t want to have to cut out.
The only way to deal with this is by creating boundaries and being honest but gentle about their behaviour.
Don’t forget that it comes from a place of incredible insecurity.
The worst type of Toxic is one you have to work with. Being exposed to negativity, criticism, passive aggression and complains for 8 hours a day is enough to drive anyone to drink. My personal solution is to make it someone else’s problem. Sit down with your manager and explain your feelings and issues. A good manager will organise personal development or counselling for everyone involved until the situation has either resolved itself or gotten to a point where you don’t want to murder your colleagues with a stapler. A bad manager, who does nothing, means you are in the wrong job and should take your talents elsewhere!
However you decide to deal with your Toxic, you do need to take some kind of action. The negative impact on your own life can translate into causing you self-esteem issues, difficulties in your relationships and friendships and just plain stressing you out!