We've all had toxic people dust us with their poison. Sometimes it's more like a drenching.
Their damage lies in their subtlety and the way they can have you questioning your 'over-reactiveness', your 'oversensitivity', your 'tendency to misinterpret'.
There are plenty of things toxic people do in an attempt to manipulate the world to their advantage. Here are ten of the classics:
1. They'll keep you guessing about which version of them you're getting.
They'll be completely lovely one day and the next you'll be wondering what you've done to upset them. When you ask what's wrong, the answer will likely be 'nothing', delivered with just enough icy cool to let you know there's something. Toxic people figured out long ago that decent people go to extraordinary lengths to keep the people they care about happy. If your attempts to please aren't working, maybe it's time to stop.
2. They'll manipulate.
If you feel as though you're the only one contributing to the relationship, you're probably right. Toxic people have a way of taking from you then expecting your heartfelt appreciation. 'I'm having a dinner party. Why don't you bring dinner. For twelve. You can show off your kitchen skills. K?' If it doesn't feel like a favour, it's not.
3. They won't own their feelings.
They'll act as though their difficult feelings are yours. It's called projection, as in projecting their own feelings and thoughts onto you. For example, someone who is angry might avoid responsibility for their anger by suggesting you're the angry one. It can be subtle, 'Are you okay with me?' or more pointed, 'You've been angry all day.' You'll find yourself justifying and defending and often this will go around in circles. Be clear on what's yours and what's theirs.
4. They'll want you to prove yourself.
Toxic people will wait until you have a commitment and then they'll unfold the drama. 'If you really cared about me you'd skip your work party and spend time with me. Enough will never be enough. Few things are fatal. Unless it's life or death, chances are it can wait.
5. They never apologise.
They'll twist the story, change it and retell it so convincingly as to believe their own nonsense. You don't need an apology to move forward. Some people want to be right more than they want to be happy and you have better things to do than to provide fodder for the right-fighters.
6. They'll be there in a crisis but they won't share your joy.
They'll find reasons your good news isn't that great. About a promotion: 'But you'll be working back a lot.' About a holiday: 'It's going to be unbearably hot.' About being made Queen of the Universe - 'The Universe isn't that big you know and I'm pretty sure you won't get tea breaks.' Get the idea? Don't let them deflate you. You don't need their approval - or anyone else's for that matter.
7. They'll argue, then go offline.
In between phone calls that always end up at their voicemail, you'll find yourself guessing about the status of the relationship. You'll wonder what you've done to upset them, or whether they're dead, alive or just ignoring you - which can often feel the same. Think twice about spending time with someone who would rather leave you out there for lengthy sessions than work it out.
8. They'll use a toxic tone.
The message might be innocent enough but the tone has spikes. Something like, 'What did you do today?' could mean anything from, 'Let's talk about our day,' to 'You never work as hard as me,' to 'I've had an awful day and you don't even care enough to notice.' 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.
9. They'll hijack the conversation by being a victim of your process.
You'll be trying to resolve an issue and before you know it, the conversation/argument has moved away from the issue that was important to you and on to the manner in which you talking about it - whether there's any issue with your manner or not. You'll find yourself defending your tone, your gestures, your choice of words or the way you belly moves when you breathe - it doesn't even need to make sense. Meanwhile, your initial need is well gone onto the pile of unfinished conversations that seems to grow bigger by the day.
10. They'll judge.
We all get it wrong sometimes but toxic people make sure you know it when you do. You're entitled to make innocent mistakes sometimes. Nobody is entitled to judge you for it.
Being able to spot toxic behaviour is the first step in minimising the impact. You might not be able to change what a toxic person does, but you can change what you do with it, and any idea that toxic somebody in your life might have that they can get away with it.
This post originally appeared on heysigmund.com
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