4 Traits of a Toxic Person + 4 Ways to Deal With Them
Updated: Aug 8
As kids we’re more concerned with finding a place at the lunch table than a place in the world. We befriend the girls on our lacrosse team or the boys in our Boy Scout troop. We play with the neighbor’s kids because our parents didn’t let us wander too far from home. Our teachers didn’t let us choose who we could sit next to, but you bet we were talking to whoever it was. During childhood, our friends are usually the kids physically closest to us.
We choose convenience over connection.
Once we become adults, we're more sure of ourselves and more specific about the people we want around us. Unfortunately, a lot of the people we may want around are actually toxic for us. Maybe they’re good people, but bad friends. Maybe they’re toxic to us, but not someone else. It can get confusing so today I’m going to simplify it for you!
I’ve let go of many toxic people and if there’s one thing I wish I knew sooner, it was how to spot them. Today I’m going to share with you how to spot a toxic person and how to gracefully move on from them.
Before we get into that, let’s talk about what “toxic” really means…
Identifying the Imbalance
Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest healing systems. It focuses on balancing the mind, body and soul for optimal health. If you’re familiar with Ayurveda then you’ve probably heard the expression, “everything you eat is either poison or medicine.” The tricky part is the very same food that may be medicine to you is poison to someone else.
In college, my suite mate was severely allergic to strawberries. I eat strawberries almost every day (on an English muffin with cream cheese it’s life changing!) When I eat strawberries, I absorb all the nutrients and health benefits that keep my body in balance. If my suite mate eats them, she’ll die. To her, they are poison and to me they are medicine.
The same goes for toxic people…
Just like food, toxic people are subjective. Someone may be toxic for you, but not for someone else. And that’s ok! Toxic people are not always bad people, but they are always bad for you. Strawberries aren’t bad, but they were definitely bad for my suite mate.
As an Ayurveda enthusiast, I take a dosha quiz about once a month to identify my imbalances and rid out the toxic influences in my life. Unfortunately, there is no quiz for identifying toxic people. The good news is that after many tough experiences, I’ve discovered how to know if someone is a toxic person. Let's dig in…
4 Signs of A Toxic Person:
1. Paperwork Before People
When I was studying abroad in England, I was overwhelmed with paperwork. As I watched my assignments fill up like a summer concert in Jones Beach, I learned something powerful. One night, a beloved receptionist told me, “people before paperwork.”
A good friend will put assignments aside to console you. Friendship means love and love means sacrifice. A good friend will be there for you even if it means sacrificing some sleep for a night and doing the paperwork after they’ve listened to you. When my roommate came home crying after a fight with her boyfriend, I dropped the paperwork. I have not one regret about it and we're still close friends to this day.
Toxic people will put paperwork before people 90% of the time. This is because toxic people are self-absorbed and selfish. Selfish people make bad friends because they are never willing to sacrifice. If you have a friend who never puts the papers down so you can pour out your heart, they’re toxic.
2. Takers Not Givers
I learned the way of the world at a young age. I can still hear my parents saying, “There are givers and there are takers. Always be a giver.”
Toxic people are takers.
Toxic people will TAKE up your time, venting about their own issues but never GIVE you their ear. According to Psychiatrist Abigail Brenner toxic people, “Take no responsibility for their own feelings. Rather, their feelings are projected onto you. If you try to point this out to them, they will likely vehemently defend their perspective, and take no responsibility for almost anything they do.”
Toxic people can physically take something from you. But having someone take from you emotionally is far worse. And that's coming from someone who’s had her bike and $500 worth of jewelry stolen.
Toxic people will take from you until your soul is as bare as the trees in winter.
I used to have a group of girlfriends where the gossiping ran rampant. We gossiped about other people and each other. It was the wildest thing. We all liked each other, but constantly spoke badly behind each other’s backs. And we saw nothing wrong with it!
Toxic people gossip.
If you're someone who doesn’t see a problem with gossiping, hear me out…
The biggest issue with gossiping is that it goes against Jesus. He calls us to love not judge. When we gossip, we enjoy criticizing others. “Gossipers derive pleasure from other people’s misfortunes,” says Forbes contributor Travis Bradberry. Additionally, most gossip is false. Even if it is true, just because someone did something shitty does not mean you need to repeat it. Why would you want to focus on that negative energy anyway? In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Great minds discuss ideas, small minds discuss people.” Toxic people are small minded gossipers.
4. Getting Attention & Not Paying Attention
I didn’t realize how toxic my group of girlfriends were because I wasn’t paying attention. Okay, that's a lie. The truth is I was more concerned with getting attention as opposed to paying attention. I knew if I brought juicy gossip to the girls’ night, I would get attention.
Joseph Gordon- Levitt gives an incredible Ted Talk on the difference between getting attention and paying attention. I strongly recommend you watch it on your own time. It caught my eye because it’s titled, “How Craving Attention Makes You Less Creative. He says, “The more I go after that feeling of paying attention, the happier I am. But the more I go after the powerful feeling of getting attention, the unhappier I am.”
Toxic people would rather focus on getting attention than paying attention.
There’s a lot happening in the world that demands our attention. When we pay attention, it fuels our creativity and expands our knowledge. When we get attention, we become narcissists and stop caring about the issues of the world.
Toxic people are too busy craving attention that they hardly pay attention to you. A toxic person won't pay attention to your triumphs because it takes the attention away from them. “The good things that happen to you move the attention away from them and thwart them from focusing on their own goals,” says M.D. Abigail Brenner. Toxic people get attention, good friends pay attention.
We all enjoy a bit of attention, but a toxic person cannot survive without it.
Now That You Know How to Identify a Toxic Person, Here Are Some Tips for Moving On (from my own experience)
There is a roller coaster of emotions you’ll want to prepare yourself for once you decide to leave a toxic person. I wish I buckled up and that’s why I’m sharing with you exactly how it goes down...
4 Things You Need to Remember for Moving On
1. You Are Enough
While I dealt with many emotions, the one that still lingers is a feeling of inadequacy. When you let go of toxic people, you’ll still see them having a blast with their friends. You may think, why didn’t I get that treatment?
It'll make you feel like you weren’t enough. But that is a lie!
If you believe it, you’ll go from resenting them to resenting yourself. Both are bad routes. You are enough. You are worthy of meaningful friendships, it just didn’t happen with them. And that’s ok. Let go of your resentment toward them and don’t you dare start resenting yourself. To a nontoxic person, your friendship will be more than enough.
2. Bad Friend Not a Bad Person
There’s a detour on your route to moving on that leads to a rocky road. This detour convinces you that by bringing others down, you’ll be lifted up. It'll cause you to villainize your former friends. Viewing them as bad people may feel like it’s helping you move on but it actually just keeps you holding onto negative energy.
Plus, bringing others down to make yourself feel better is ALWAYS a recipe for disaster.
You can love yourself without hating them. Just because they were a bad friend to you does not mean they are a bad person. To you they were toxic, but to someone else they are not. Accept it and move on. It’s not your job to condemn them. You may feel slightly better shitting on them, but the high is fleeting and you’ll only feel worse in the long run.
Love yourself and love your decision to let them go.
3. Forgiveness Not Foolishness
You must forgive the toxic people you’ve let go of. For you, not them. When we forgive, we let go of the baggage of negativity we’ve been carrying around. We stop being upset or angry with them and start accepting life without them. Forgiveness is for your own peace of mind and it is not weak. Forgiveness is what Jesus calls us to. If He can forgive the sins of the world, you can forgive your toxic ex friends.
*Be careful not to let your forgiveness boomerang you into foolishness*
When I say forgive them, I mean accept that they couldn’t be the good friend you deserved. I’m not saying crawl back to them. You’re allowed to look at their social media, if it doesn’t throw off your balance. You’re allowed to say hello to them in town, if it doesn’t throw off your balance. But do not confuse civility with an apology. And if you do get an apology, you do not have to be friends with them again.
Forgive. Move Forward. Don't be Fooled.
4. Good Friends Don't Lose Friends, Friends Lose Them
Real estate developer Joe Gorga has said that “good people don’t lose people, people lose them.” This is true but I was thinking,“good friends don’t lose friends, friends lose them.”
You did not lose your friend, you left them.
“Losing” sounds a lot like “failing.” When you prioritize your mind, body, soul balance, you cannot fail. You left them because they were a bad friend and a toxic person. They threw you off balance. In the words of Jim Carey...
“If their absence brings you peace, you didn’t lose them.”
So stop moping and start prioritizing being a good friend to the people you love. If you are a good friend, you will not lose friends, they’ll lose you!
I’m sure you can find a dozen other articles about toxic people on the web. But everything I’ve shared with you today came from personal experience. I went through it and I wrote this to help you through it. This is everything I wish I was prepared for. Best of luck on your journey to meaningful relationships.
Stay in balance.
Prioritize your peace.