Could the challenges you are facing in your career or life be related to a toxic person?
What is a toxic person?
According to Kimberly Drake, writing for psychcentral.com, a toxic person is someone in your life that repeatedly causes you confusion, anxiety, and stress.
Is there someone you have to deal with in your life or work that seems to make things difficult or complicated?
You may find that this person seems to blow hot and cold. Sometimes they can seem nice and easy-going, but another time, they can be negative, critical, or judgmental. You may have even experienced them suddenly becoming very angry or even flying into a rage. It can be unsettling and disturbing to say the least.
If you try to talk to a toxic person about your concerns or express that they have hurt you, this person will often minimize your concerns, make excuses, or turn things around and try to blame things on you instead. What you will rarely, if ever, hear is a sincere apology and true regret. Even if the person does apologize, you will find that they will continue to repeat the same offending behavior again.
It can be very frustrating and confusing when a person says one thing but does another. They may apologize, but then repeat the same offending action again. What are you to make of this? You may find yourself reviewing the situation over and over in your mind, trying to make sense of it.
In such perplexing situations, keep in mind that you can trust your body and your gut reaction. When you are feeling confused about a person, situation, or environment, pay attention to how your body feels.
When you are around the person or in the situation or environment, how do you feel? Do you feel relaxed and mostly at ease, or do you feel tense, anxious, nervous, or even nauseous? Do you feel like you are walking on eggshells, afraid of what might set the person off next? The reality is that our body recognizes something unhealthy or dangerous before our heart and mind do.
Also pay close attention to how the person reacts when you say no or set a boundary in some way – so that you are not giving this person what he/she wants. If the person starts arguing or guilt-tripping you, and especially if he/she gets angry with you, take pause and see this as the red flag that it is.
Understand that anyone can make a mistake or have a bad day, but the person should later apologize for his/her bad behavior. If you tell the person that it was upsetting to you and you didn’t appreciate being treated that way, the person should apologize and try to make amends.
You should especially pay close attention if this seems to be a pattern of behavior and not a one-off situation.
Also keep in mind that a person’s behavior toward you can change over time. Sometimes a person can start off being the nicest, most charming person you can imagine – whether as a friend, manager, co-worker, romantic partner, or other relationship. However, once you seem comfortable in the relationship and trusting, you may see the person’s behavior begin to change – and NOT in a good way!
They may begin to become more critical of you. They may question you and/or cause you to start questioning yourself. Sometimes their behavior can be very subtle. It might even seem well-meaning or concerned on the surface, but it leaves you feeling bad. Pay close attention.
According to Dr. Heidi Brocke, ‘Toxic people, like all of us have insecurities, and to make up for those insecurities they have a strong NEED for control, power, attention, and admiration.’
If you find yourself in a relationship that often leaves you feeling confused and uncomfortable in some way, take a moment to view it through a different lens. Ask yourself if the person’s words and actions make sense if you view them through the lens that they are seeking control, power, attention, or admiration.
If you find yourself in a relationship of any sort with a toxic person, you may first want to try to talk with the person about your concerns. Share with them how their behavior makes you feel and what you would like to see change. Based on the person’s reaction, you can decide on your next steps.
If the person seems genuinely sorry and wants to make amends, you may consider giving them a second chance. However, keep in mind that an apology with no change in behavior is not a real apology – only empty words. Actions really do speak louder than words, so pay attention to a person’s actions. Remember, talk is cheap. It’s all about their actual behavior.
Perhaps the person truly does begin treating you better and things improve. If so, great, but stay cautious. Toxic people will sometimes behave better for a short period of time, but then they always go back to their old tricks eventually. If there is any more bad behavior, confront it straight away. People will treat you the way you let them.
If you find that the person continues to treat you badly, then you should consider limiting your contact with this person. You need to set some strong boundaries around how you will interact with them. If the person ignores and crosses your boundaries, realize that you now need to enact a consequence. Consequences are not meant to punish the other person, but to protect you by defending/reaffirming your boundaries.
For example, maybe you are willing to see the person occasionally, but you will limit the sorts of topics you will discuss and the amount of time you are willing to spend with the person. If the person starts behaving badly, you will ask them to stop. If they refuse, then you will end the interaction. Depending on the severity of the person’s bad behavior and how negatively they make you feel, you may decide to cut contact with this person entirely.
When you do discuss your concerns with the person, if he or she does not take your concerns and feelings seriously, you should strongly reconsider your relationship with this person. Beware if the person tries to tell you that you have misunderstood, you are too sensitive, you are making something out of nothing, etc.
If the person becomes angry and defensive or tries to twist things around and blame it on you, this is a red flag. You should take it as a sign to end this relationship if at all possible. These are signs of a self-centered person who does not care about you or your feelings.
Bottom line is that any person who deserves a place in your life should treat you with kindness and respect. Any person who doesn’t treat you well does not deserve to be in your life.
Healthy relationships are not always perfect and can have their ups and downs. However, healthy relationships should not be so complicated and stressful, and certainly not incredibly painful. Healthy relationships sometimes have disagreements and conflict, but this should be handled with respect while always looking for a mutually agreeable solution. In a healthy relationship, you should normally feel happy, relaxed, and at ease.
If you find yourself feeling tense around someone, dreading seeing them, and feeling relieved when your interaction is over, pay attention to your body’s warning signals. This is likely a toxic person, and this is a relationship that is not healthy for you.
If you realize that you are in a toxic relationship, ask yourself what you can do to limit your interaction with this person or how to cut contact with this person all together. It might not be possible to completely cut contact right away, but start working on an exit plan.
If the toxic person is someone you work with, try to figure out how you can reduce contact with this person. It may be that you can mostly reduce contact with this person and that everything else about your work colleagues and environment is positive.
However, if the toxic person is someone you work closely with and is causing you a lot of grief, you may need to look carefully at the situation and see if you have a chance to move to a different seat, project, or even team. If the toxic person is your boss, odds are that this toxic person will outlast you, as frustrating and unfair as that is. In this case, your best bet is to start updating your resume/CV and looking for a new job.
If you like your company/organization overall and feel your manager is just one bad apple, then you might consider looking to move to a different team within the same company. However, if you notice that there seem to be a lot of toxic people in management roles and you see toxicity in company policies, operations, and culture, you may be better off to leave. If toxicity seems this widespread, you may have the misfortune of being in a toxic company or organization. This can cause damage to your career, happiness, and health.
If this is the case, you should begin working on an exit strategy and leave as soon as possible. No job is worth subjecting yourself to toxicity and putting your health, happiness, and well-being at risk.
Whether you find yourself dealing with a toxic person in your professional or personal life, know that you deserve better. No one deserves to be mistreated by a toxic person. Life is too short to put up with such nonsense. Decide on the boundaries that you need to feel comfortable and protected. If this means cutting contact and removing the toxic person from your life, then do it.
You only get one life, and you deserve to spend it with kind, respectful, and supportive people. Refuse to settle for less.