Most of us want to avoid toxic people in our lives – but doing so can be tricky. Toxic people are often charming, manipulative, and exciting to be around. Most of us don’t spend our time with new friends on the lookout for troublesome behavior. We prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt and concentrate on having fun. Usually we aren’t even aware we’ve encountered a toxic person until we have already fallen deep into their web. So – how do we avoid toxic people without over-analyzing each move a new acquaintance makes?
Here are six simple signs to help you spot a toxic person early on:
1. She exhibits casual disrespect.
This could involve littering, eye-rolling, or talking to your waitress in a condescending tone. She might also disobey minor rules, assuming that she is above them. For example, she may opt to take a selfie at an event where the organizers were clear about no photography being allowed. She might leave her dirty plate at the dinner table, confident that someone else will clear it for her. This behavior indicates a lack of consideration for others, as well as an over-inflated ego. It is best to steer clear – she is likely to treat your feelings with the same care as the shirt she left crumpled on the dressing room floor.
2. He is an expert at deflecting blame.
He avoids taking responsibility in any kind of conflict, deftly shifting the blame to those nearby. If his wife hadn’t nagged him to mow the lawn, he wouldn’t have tripped and hurt himself. If his boss weren’t such a jerk, he’d have gotten a raise by now. Nothing is his fault. This mindset applies not only to arguments with his loved ones, but to run-ins authority figures as well. He can always talk his way out of a speeding ticket, for example, no matter how frequently he is pulled over. This behavior will keep a toxic person from growing and maturing in the way the rest of us do when we make a mistake or encounter conflict.
3. She is the queen of humble-bragging.
Is she absolutely fantastic at her job – way better than her co-workers? Is she sure they’re trying their best, though? Does she also manage to squeeze in yoga, French lessons, room parent duties, equestrian hobbies, and cultivate a beautiful garden? Do you know all of this because she told you three times? Does she tell everyone she meets – almost immediately? Accomplishing great things is admirable, and not at all worrisome behavior. What becomes troubling is when she has the need to use her accomplishments to inflate her own ego in relation to yours.
4. He interrupts you.
Interrupting others is more than annoying – it’s a sign of deeper trouble. Speaking over another person sends the message that your words are inherently much more important than theirs. The ability to do so casually is evidence of a deeply self-centered character with little regard for the thoughts and feelings of others. The choice to interrupt also signals that your friend is not listening. He is just waiting for his turn to speak – and he is not even doing that correctly. As Brian Spellman said, “First, let me finish. Then interrupt.”
5. She needs all of your attention, and everyone else’s, forever.
“I love to be the center of attention. My oversized ego craves it and needs it,” joked Paul Shaffer. Your friend’s need for the spotlight, however, is no joke. It is a sign of toxicity. People who need constant validation from others are likely not secure in their own skin. This dissatisfaction and self-loathing is the root of most toxic behavior. Her own validation is not enough, because she does not value her own perspective. Until she learns to love herself, she will always crave approval from those around her – and sadly, it will never be enough.
6. He has something rude to say about everyone.
Dummies, fatties, and poor people, beware – you will not escape his eagle eye for criticism. His favorite past-time is to make crushing observations of people who have done nothing to deserve any kind of scrutiny. Perhaps he has never even met his target. This seems counter-intuitive when you consider his own ego, which is likely made of glass. However, these two behaviors are most definitely connected. “Judging others is easy because it distracts us from the responsibility of judging ourselves,” observed Charles F. Glassman. By tearing another person down, your friend is building his own ego in the most toxic way possible.
William Gay put it very simply. “There’s folks you just don’t need. You’re better off without em. Your life is just a little better because they ain’t in it.” Don’t waste time on friendships that bring you down. Find a friend who builds you up and makes you a better person.