Even if you’re more of a lone wolf than a social butterfly, you need people in your life. Healthy relationships with friends and family are rewarding and enriching. Studies have shown that having a solid group of friends may even increase your lifespan. But if the people in your life aren’t so great, it can take a negative toll on your mental and physical health. Bad relationships can increase stress, anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure, lower immunity, create digestive problems, and more.
We’ve all encountered toxic people—family, friends, coworkers—who hold us back, bring us down and cause us misery, whether they mean to or not. You may be well aware of who these people are in your life, but it’s not always easy to separate yourself from these bad influences. Let’s figure out how to identify those toxic people and how to deal with them.
HOW TO TELL IF A FRIEND IS TOXIC
Think about the people in your life that you spend the most time with. How do they make you feel? Is there anyone that consistently leaves you feeling lousy? After spending time with a toxic friend, you might feel insecure, exhausted, pessimistic or generally unhappy. Toxic friends can be like parasites that latch on and drain all the good from us.
Some toxic people are easy to spot while others may be master manipulators. Here are some behaviors red flags to look out for:
- They’re demanding. Toxic people always need something—a ride, some money, someone to listen to their complaints—and never return the favor. They take a lot but give very little in return.
- They’re possessive. Toxic people are often insecure and selfish friends. They don’t want to share attention and may try to control who you spend time with and isolate you from other friends. Toxic people will usually clash and conflict with the good people in your life.
- They can’t give a compliment. Good friends will lift you up. Toxic friends do the opposite. They’ll rarely say a kind or encouraging thing because they don’t want you to feel better about yourself. Making other people insecure helps them deal with their own self-esteem issues. The only compliments they’ll give are back-handed ones.
- They won’t admit their faults. Toxic people never own up to their toxic behavior. They’re always blaming others and always believe themselves to be right. They tend to paint themselves as victims and refuse to see themselves as they really are.
People can be toxic in so many different ways, no two are exactly alike. The best way to identify a toxic person is to examine their influence on you, the balance of give-and-take in the relationship, and how they make you feel. Anyone who consistently causes you stress, makes you feel bad about yourself, lies to you, or leaves you drained, isn’t someone worth keeping around.
HOW TO GET RID OF TOXIC PEOPLE
Once you know who the toxic people in your life are, it doesn’t make it any easier to get rid of them. Dealing with a toxic person all depends on who that person is. The first step in removing a toxic person from your life is to distance yourself from them. If that person is a family member, that could mean living somewhere else or pursuing family therapy. If it’s a coworker, you may need to consider consulting HR or transferring to another department.
As part of this distancing, don’t communicate with the toxic person and block them on social media. You need to set boundaries and keep them, but toxic people usually have trouble respecting boundaries so don’t be surprised if they make this process difficult. It’s important to try and avoid arguing or debating with them if they manage to contact you. Keep your cool and stick to your guns.
A toxic friend is often in our life because there is something that draws us to them, so it can be easy to let them back in. If you find yourself heading down a familiar path back to them, write a letter. You don’t have to send it but it’s a chance to write down what you’re feeling and review it anytime you find yourself forgetting why you’re distancing yourself in the first place.
Toxic people are skilled at manipulation so don’t be hard on yourself if this process takes multiple attempts.