How to Identify and Avoid Toxic Relationships in Your Life

An important skill in life is to learn to identify and avoid toxic relationships. Toxic relationships affect us in the workplace, our close relationships as well as friendships.  Often it is only through negative experiences that we become more aware of how toxic some relationships truly are.

The types of toxic relationships may differ whether they occur within the workplace or within our personal lives. Let us explore a few of them:

Control Freak

This person wants everything done their way. They like to manage situations or relationships to ensure they achieve a certain outcome. They can often be rigid, inflexible or domineering.

Your response: Do not confront them or react emotionally towards them. You may also choose to not respond at all. Avoid being forced into agreeing to something that you do not support. Play for time. Often the lesson for us with a controlling person is: to learn to manage our own emotional reaction, assert ourselves and set boundaries. Do this in a quiet and firm manner or walk away from the situation.

Critical Person

This individual is the one who will find fault with everything. No matter what you suggest they will shoot down your idea.  They are picky and often hyper-analytical. Sometimes critical people are just highly insecure or highly stressed individuals. Being overly critical or negative could also be a sign of depression. We see this often in elderly people. These are very draining toxic relationships.

Your response: Let them explain themselves. Then indicate to them that you understand where they are coming from. Take time to work out whether what they say is valid. Is there an opportunity for you to learn and grow from the situation?

Where it has become a way of reacting for someone to be like this, you may decide to cut this person out of your life completely. Alternatively you could talk to them about how they come across and the impact it has on your relationship. Focus more on the positive or change the topic to something more constructive.

The People Pleaser

Aka the Nice Guy: this person will say or do whatever keeps everyone else happy. They will never show that they disagree with others. They are often reluctant to take responsibility for decisions and allow others to walk over them. They will do anything to keep the peace. You will never know what they truly feel as they will give you the answer they think you want to hear.

Your response: You need to be patient with them and give them space to assert themselves in your relationship. Create a safe space for them to express their true thoughts and feelings.  Allow them to make decisions and honour their decisions. Give them deadlines by when they need to respond.

The Victim

This person is insecure and tends to take on a martyr role i.e. “poor me”. They can often come across as passive aggressive so you may struggle to get them to commit to something. They feel they are powerless and have no control over what happens to them in life. They will blame others or circumstances. Victims cause exhausting toxic relationships.

Your response: make sure that you do not get hooked in to supporting their point of view. Listen to their problem once only. If they tell it a second time they are trying to get your sympathy. So be aware of this. Then focus on what they can do to solve the issue. Keep on putting the ball back in their court to do something to change the situation.

The Manipulator

This person cannot be trusted. They mislead you so that they can get their own way. They have a high need for control: sometimes quite openly so but most times in a very subtle, devious way. They know your weaknesses and will capitalise on these to get their desired reaction. Manipulators contribute to very toxic relationships.

Your response: You need to know your basic human rights (e.g. to be treated with respect, to have the right to set your own priorities, to say “No” without feeling guilty, to protect yourself from any form of abuse). Guard against getting hooked in when they touch on one of your vulnerable points. Play for time by saying you need time to think. Learn to say “no” diplomatically. Minimise your contact with them if possible.

The Lazy Person

This individual always tries to find short cuts. They steal your ideas or try to get you to collaborate so that you end up doing all the work.

Your response: be cautious of them and keep your ideas to yourself.

The Flighty Person

This person makes decisions based on their moods. Do not assume that what they say or do reflects their true response as they will change their mind.

Your response: distance yourself from them. Rely on yourself or other reliable people to get things done.

The Gossip

This is the person who spreads stories about people that may or may not be true. They create a great deal of distrust among individuals.

Your response: If the rumours lack credibility just ignore them. If they affect productivity or relationships confront the gossiper in a one to one meeting. Make them aware of the impact of their behaviour.

It is important to be aware of the types of people you attract into your life. This may well highlight person growth areas for you: such as the need to express yourself, assert yourself or to learn to let issues go. You would gain from relationship counselling if you feel drained from some relationships.

Posted in Relationships, Self mastery.