One of the hardest issues in the beginning of a toxic relationship is determining if the
situation is toxic. The crazy-making feelings are a red flag and clue, but in the
beginning, so many other factors cloud judgement and things simply aren’t black and
When we are growing up, we are taught stranger danger. We are taught that there are
bad people out there who want to do us harm. We imagine that these people are
obvious and dubious. The fact is, sometimes the most broken people look very ordinary
and have positions of authority. Recognizing someone is toxic can be difficult without a
degree in psychology.
This can leave people feeling like maybe it’s them when it isn’t. Toxic people are very
savvy. They have spent years consciously and subconsciously honing their craft.
Whether they know it or not, they have made their way through life manipulating,
bullying, whining, and crying their way to whatever it is they want. They do it for a
myriad of reasons and they do it because it works.
So, how does the average person safeguard themselves from toxic people? Start here:
Check out their history:
Long history of broken relationships- Toxic people have a long history of broken
relationships. Going as far back as they can remember, they have stories of friendships
ending abruptly or on bad terms. They are often at odds with family members and highly
judgmental of people they barely know.
Erratic employment history- Toxic people have a hard time with employment.
Generally, they have difficulty with authority or maybe a chronic personnel issue. Most
likely, they do not have long periods of employment with one company.
Often refer to themselves as a victim or misunderstood- Toxic people often dismiss
their unfavorable outcomes as being a victim or misunderstood. Toxic people spend a
lot of time focused on the behavior of others rather than their own. They see their
negative behavior as justifiable under the circumstances.
Require an abundance of support or affirmation- Toxic people come across as very
confident, but this is not true. They generally require a lot of emotional support, which is
draining to those around them. Their insecurity is manifested by being highly critical of
others while expecting high levels of engagement and sympathy for their needs.
Pay attention to these aspects of toxic people:
They aren’t always toxic- One of the reasons it is hard to determine if someone is
toxic right off the bat is that their behavior is erratic. They aren’t always toxic.
Sometimes toxic people can be caring, engaging, and pleasant. Time must pass, and
the patterns must reveal themselves, before most people realize how difficult they are.
They carry their authority well- Toxic people are very confident in their stand on
everything. They generally believe they are doing the best that they can and have a
rational explanation for their bizarre behaviors.
They use gas lighting as a tactic- Gas lighting is a psychological form of manipulation
where the victim is made to feel like they are going crazy due to the actions of a toxic
person. Gas lighting leaves victims apologizing and modifying their own behavior at the
beck and call of the toxic person – in very unhealthy ways.
If you have identified someone as toxic, it is important that you take steps to keep your
sanity and your safety. While not all toxic people are dangerous, all toxic people have
the potential to undermine and impact others in big ways. Do what you must to redefine
the relationship and keep yourself at arm’s length from the toxic person.