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Home » Toxic People: How to Avoid Them & Not Become One Yourself

It is always helpful to recognize people who project toxic behavior on everything around them. In this way, we can actively work to avoid them. At the same time, we should strive at a personal level not to become a toxic person. In other words, do not become that which you are trying to avoid.

This means that if you are behaving in a very toxic manner, you could become a toxic person that people seek to avoid. We must keep this mind whether we are at home, work or out with friends. Some relationships and situations like work and friends are easier to change, while altering family dynamics are more of a challenge.

However, in all of the above examples, it is possible to set a tone that allows other people to see how you engage and communicate with people. All behavior does not arise from a negative, toxic place. But, there may be some very real reasons that you are attracting or scaring away people. Habits and ways of thinking are changeable. One of the first ways to accomplish this is to recognize the behaviors you would like to modify.

Here a few tips on avoiding and managing toxic behavior in people:

[1] Actively Listen to People:

This is a skill that needs constant practice. It is easy to wait until a person is done speaking, without actually hearing what they said. Often there is not any ill intent in their actions, some people are just not very good at listening. In order to develop active listening abilities, people should practice the following skills:

  • Learn to become more present and aware of the moment.
  • Try to avoid interrupting people if possible.
  • Listening takes practice so be patient.
  • Ask appropriate follow-up questions.
  • Maintain good eye contact and stay positive.
  • Use open and relaxed body language.
  • Aim to understand and connect with the speaker in a positive way.

[2] Trust your gut by contemplating first, then reacting later:

One reason some people stay in hurtful relationships is due to a lack of trust in themselves or their judgment. They may not listen to their gut feelings. They may even rationalize toxic behavior by making excuses for the person. If you find yourself doing this, stop making excuses for the toxic behavior. This is harmful for your self-worth and can lead to issues like depression or PTSD.

However, do not jump to any hasty decisions or do anything drastic. Take some time to think and put things in perspective. You want to have a clear picture of what is actually happening. Practice pausing your reactions and not drawing immediate conclusions. Consider what your reaction. Will it help or hurt the situation? There is a chance that your immediate gut reaction was wrong.

If it helps, write things down your thoughts and feelings. Take a break and give yourself the time that you need. In the future, this break length might well likely get shorter and shorter with practice. Learning not to take things personally comes with improved self-confidence. Control your stress, do not let the stress control you.

[3] Control Your Ego & Display Vulnerability:

People who display toxic behavior are usually desperate to maintain a certain image. They fight to maintain this image even to the point of getting defensive or perhaps even verbally attacking people. However, showing some vulnerability is important for developing any relationship. People want to connect and know that you are like them.

In this way, showing vulnerability is important for getting beyond “small talk” with someone. But it is frustrating to open up to someone, only to find out later that they have used this information against you.

Good relationships that are resilient come with the acknowledgment that there are flaws. Otherwise, actions and conversations are only at the superficial level. It is more challenging to have a meaningful relationship with people, if they never admit they made a mistake. This kind of behavior makes people uncomfortable and denies their emotions or needs.

If people are excessively worried about their personal image, they will likely not display good listening skills. In these situations, learning to put aside their ego is important, since this limits the growth of toxic behavior.  

[4] Do Not Normalize Abusive Behavior & Have an Exit Strategy:

Individuals using toxic behavior will attempt to normalize abusive behavior. Naturally, this creates a challenging situation. Once you start setting boundaries and confronting individuals who use this behavior, they may demean, marginalize or dismiss you.

Try to recognize any traits that you may exhibit that make you a potential target. For example, do not confuse a person’s need for control and grandstanding with strength and perseverance. Do you have a fear of rocking the boat or always feel like you have to please everyone? A point to remember is that you should not have to take responsibility or blame for someone who mistreats you.

If the toxic person is someone you are unable to avoid coming into contact with, make sure you set boundaries for their behavior. Do not engage in rude or abusive behavior. On the contrary, you should stay calm, firm and decisive. For example, in a work situation, you could say “Criticism is fine, but I would prefer not to make it personal.”

Understandably, one simple solution will not fit every situation. These strategies are not fool-proof, but they will point you in the right direction.

Who We Are:

For additional advice on the topic of toxic relationships, contact the staff at Emerald Psychiatry & TMS Center. Their psychiatry practice provides experienced and professional counseling and mental health therapies. They understand that they are here to serve the needs and concerns of their patients.

By forming a trusting partnership with their patients, Emerald Psychiatry generates a comprehensive treatment plan that is customized to an individual’s needs.

Emerald Psychiatry & TMS Center is proud to provide behavioral and mental health services throughout central Ohio. For more information about treatments and services, contact them.

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Contributor: ABCS RCM