A Guide to Recognizing and Dealing with Toxic People

By Gemma Gladstone Ph.D | Published 4/30/2019 0

Photo Source: iStock Photos

No matter how many self-help books you read or how much wisdom you possess on human socialization, there will always come a time when you need to deal with toxic people. As the description suggests, having these people in your life is not healthy.

When in the company of toxic people, you become fearful of speaking up and being yourself. They can even stir up fear and an unshakeable feeling of guilt when you think about breaking up with or cutting that person out of your life.

The bottom line:

Toxic people prevent you from being happy.

To save yourself from the distress, it is important that you know how to spot such individuals so you can avoid engaging with them and remove them in your life once and for all.

What types of people are considered “toxic”? 

There are several types of toxic people. And they come in more categories than we care to count. From emotional vampires to drama magnets, these are people who exhibit toxic personalities that can affect your emotional well-being whether they know it or not.

The only way you can avoid these people is to identify who they are based on how they act, what words they say, and how they make you feel.

●    Critics

As the name suggests, this type of toxic person undermines your sense of self-esteem.  This is mainly because they have low self-esteem.

Although critics will not call you offensive names, they will make it a point to criticize almost everything about you. This can range from your appearance to your beliefs and thoughts. Rather than offer advice on how you can improve, critics will berate your negative qualities incessantly and hinder your growth.

●    Passive Aggressors

A passive aggressor exhibits behavior that can be categorized as an expression of rage in a passive manner. They don’t get directly to the point and often find ways to make you feel their anger without explicitly telling you.

Some signs that you are dealing with passive aggressors include sarcasm, backhanded compliments, and expression of mixed messages. When you are in a relationship with this type of toxic person, it might feel like you must choose your words and actions carefully to avoid sparking a confrontation.

●    Narcissists

Toxic people that fall under this category often choose a single way to undermine your happiness: one-way communication.

When speaking to narcissists, you will find yourself losing any chance of getting a word in during conversations. The worst part is that they only talk about themselves, don’t wait for any response from the person they’re talking to, and just adore hearing their own voice.

These people should be avoided at all costs, especially if they are starting to make you feel unimportant and unloved.

●    Stonewallers

The act of “stonewalling” refers to the refusal to maintain open communication when discussing an important matter about the relationship. Stonewallers are one of the worst people to get into a relationship with. They will leave you hanging and never try to resolve whatever issue you might have.


Although these four are the most common types, they aren’t the only people you should try to avoid. Understanding what these toxic people have in common would help you recognize who they are.

Some of them are downright judgmental, while others don’t take responsibility for how they feel. There are also those who manipulate you and those that don’t apologize even after they made a mistake.

Many toxic people are also known to be inconsistent with their words and actions. Plus there are those that focus on finding fault rather than a solution to problems.

In short, they don’t show sincere support, care, or interest in you and what you’re going through.

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5 effective ways to deal with toxic people

While it may be difficult, it isn’t impossible to achieve happiness even when you’re surrounded by toxic people. So long as you know how to handle them and protect yourself from the toxicity they bring, you can get by unscathed.

To help you out, here are five effective ways to deal with the toxic people in your life:

1.    Protect yourself during potentially toxic interactions

Sometimes, interacting with a toxic person is unavoidable. When you’ve come to this point, you should know how to protect yourself from the negativity.

To do so, you must use “I” statements.  When expressing how you feel, assert that the person you’re speaking with must listen and try to understand your side for you to have a healthy relationship.

2.    Identify what makes you an easy prey

Toxic people often cannot help but be negative around you when you appear as easy prey. To avoid this, you should assess your own characteristics to identify why people treat you the way they do.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re taking the blame for how other people mistreat you. You just need to determine what you need to change so that the experience won’t happen again with other toxic people.

3.    Check your reactions

Like tip no. 2, this doesn’t entail taking responsibility for the dynamic of the toxic relationship you’re in, either. Check. your reactions. This only means you must see whether some of your responses tend to aggravate the toxicity of the other person involved.

For example, showing anxiousness and fear of being left alone might fuel a narcissist’s eagerness to keep playing his or her games. In contrast, a lack of reaction might also cause the toxic person to think that he or she is permitted to mistreat you. That said, there are certain reactions you should avoid, depending on what kind of toxic person you are dealing with.

4.    Be wary of the “sunk cost fallacy”

When you keep on holding on to a toxic relationship, one of the most important questions you need to answer is this: “Why won’t you leave?

After pondering this, some people find out that they’ve succumbed to what psychology experts call the “sunk cost fallacy.”  This is the tendency to pursue an endeavor because of the time, money, or any other resource they invested in it.

Based on a study on this fallacy published in the Psychological Science journal, people tend to keep holding on to something because of the nonrecoverable resources they used up to get to that point, even if they will be better off without it. This explains why people tend to find it difficult to break up with someone they’ve been with for a long time, even after realizing that the relationship is no longer healthy.

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5.    Stay away from toxicity

Toxic people offer nothing but negativity and obstruction to your true happiness. You are better off without people who only give you heartaches and take every ounce of love you have without giving back.

Thinking about your own happiness is not the same as being selfish — so be kind to yourself and just do it.

Gemma Gladstone Ph.D

Website: https://www.goodmood.com.au/

Dr. Gemma Gladstone is an endorsed clinical psychologist and certified schema therapist, supervisor, and trainer. Along with Justine Corry, she is co-director of the Good Mood Clinic in Sydney and has 24 years of experience within mental health.

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