10 Ways to Spot a Toxic Person (and How to Protect Yourself)
"Givers need to learn to set limits because takers rarely do." - Rachel Wolchin
If you’ve ever broken up with a person or had a falling out with a friend then you know just how much it can hurt. But why do we hurt so badly for people that give us so little in return? Why do we continually offer our best only to be met with the lack of appreciation and I dare to say… manipulation?
If you generally care for how you make others feel, chances are you are an empath. You probably derive happiness from making people feel good and that’s an awesome quality. It’s almost disappointing when you realize that not everyone out there is wired to look out for the interest of others. The sad truth is that some people are just toxic manipulators who seek to exploit kindness. They have no regard for other human beings. The only thing that's important to them is their own distorted reality.
As an empath, it’s almost impossible to comprehend how someone could purposely deceive and manipulate. Or play some sort of a game with your emotions. However, if you haven’t noticed yet, a large portion of our population is made up of people who are highly toxic! Your intuition is the greatest defense against a manipulative person but there are also specific behaviors that can help spot a toxic person, some of which include:
- Gaslighting and crazy-making. These people blatantly deny their own manipulative behavior and ignore evidence when confronted with it. They become dismissive and critical if you attempt to disprove their fabrication with facts. Instead of actually addressing their inappropriate behavior, somehow it always becomes your fault for being “sensitive” and “crazy”. Toxic people condition you to believe that the main problem isn’t them, but instead your reactions to their games.
- Pathological lying and excuses. There is always an excuse for everything. They make up lies faster than you can question them. They constantly blame others – it is never their fault. They spend more time rationalizing their behavior than improving it. Even when caught in a lie, they express no remorse or embarrassment.
- The ultimate hypocrite. “Do as I say, not as I do.” They have extremely high expectations for respect, adoration, and fidelity, yet they will give none of this back to you. They will cheat, lie, criticize, and manipulate. But you are expected to remain perfect.
- Cannot put themselves in anyone else’s shoes. You find yourself desperately trying to make them understand how they made you feel but they just stare at you blankly. You slowly learn not to communicate feelings with them, because you’re usually met with silence or annoyance.
- Circular conversations. You’ll think you worked something out, only to begin discussing it in two minutes. And it’s as if you never said a word the first time around. They’ll begin reciting all the same tired garbage, ignoring any legitimate arguments you may have provided moments ago. If something is going to be resolved, it will be on their terms.
- Selfishness and a crippling thirst for attention. Do you know that friend who seriously makes you feel exhausted after hanging out? They drain energy from you and consume your entire life. This may be a good indicator that you’re dealing with a toxic person. Any healthy relationship, whether personal or professional, should make you feel energized and uplifted, not exhausted.
- Arrogance and grandiosity. Despite the humble, sweet image they present, you start to notice an unmistakable air of superiority about them. They talk down to you as if you are intellectually deficient and emotionally unstable. This is because deep down inside these people are projecting their own insecurities onto you. They cut the heads of others to raise their own level.
- Unable to understand basic human emotions. Non-toxic people understand fundamental concepts like honesty and kindness. If you find yourself explaining things like “empathy” and “feelings” and “being nice” chances are you are dealing with a manipulator. You probably think that, “If they can just understand why I’m hurt, then they’ll stop doing it.” But they won’t. They wouldn’t have hurt you in the first place if they were a decent human being.
- Silent treatment. When empathetic people are given the silent treatment, they often self-destruct and think of everything they may have done wrong. You will run through everything you’ve done or said, blaming yourself for your feelings and emotions. This is how manipulative people try to abuse you and plant doubts in your head. If you were given the silent treatment, recognize that this person is not worth your time and effort.
- The eternal victim. Somehow despite all their wrongdoings, they manage to manipulate you into thinking that their unacceptable behavior was because of their abusive past. You will end up feeling bad for them, even if they’ve done something horribly wrong. Once they’ve successfully diverted your attention, everything will go back to the way it was. They've managed to fool you again.
If any of those characteristics sound familiar, you are probably dealing with a toxic person. So how in the world can you live healthily in a world where you are bound to encounter good and bad people? The answer lies in setting proper boundaries and respecting yourself. If you sense "wrong behavior", don’t question your moral compass. Good people make us feel good. Bad people leave us with a pit in our stomach. It's as simple as that.
It can be tough to accept that emotionally crippled human predators are out there. You probably believed that as long as you’re nice, the world will be nice back. But you are starting to realize that this isn’t the way things work.
The key to protecting yourself is not to throw away your kindness and empathy, it’s to throw away the people who hurt you. You don't have to tolerate this form of abuse and you are certainly NOT obligated to make everyone around you happy.