Here’s the thing: we know drama drains our energy and time. Really, it’s kind of a big, nasty drag. And we know we can avoid drama when we avoid toxic people. So, let’s use our noggins here and find a foolproof system for sniffing out toxic people and RUNNING the other way. Seriously, I’m talking Usain Bolt style
How to Recognize Toxic People
The first step to avoid toxic people is to recognize them (we’ll talk about how to avoid them in a minute).
Avoiding toxic people sounds easy, sure. But have you ever been super anxious and had someone say, “just relax”? Same concept here — it’s a LOT easier said than done. If we could just walk around and say, hmm I think you’re toxic — I’m going to avoid you, life would be pretty easy. We could also find the perfect pair of jeans on the first try and eat all the chocolate in the world without gaining a pound or breaking out. But, since the world isn’t that perfect, let’s dig in…
Here are the toxic people you want to avoid
1. The Frenemy: In case you’ve never seen Gossip Girl, a frenemy is someone who is friendly to your face, but a stone cold [insert expletive here] behind your back.
Because they’re publicly sweet as pie, this kind of toxic person is really tough to recognize. With that said, here are a few ways to know you’re dealing with a classic frenemy:
They have a lot of enemies.
Pay attention to a) how other people respond to them and b) how they respond to other people. If they have racked up enemies in the past, there’s probably a reason.
If you spend enough time with a frenemy, a few of their “ex-friends” will come out of the woodwork. Pay attention to what they have to say.
Also watch how they respond to other people. If your frenemy mentions how much they LOVE Sally’s skirt – and then trash it as soon as Sally walks away – BE WARNED! Remember, if they talk TO you about other people, they talk TO OTHER people about you — 10/10 times.
They subtly tear you down.
You’re up for a huge promotion at work. Instead of popping open the champagne to celebrate with you, your frenemy pumps you for information by asking you things like:
- Is Bob okay with you working extra hours?
- Why are you in this field, anyway?
- Will you be making more money?
In a nutshell, frenemies are not happy for you!
Of course, this is all masked under the “I’m just worried about you; I’m just trying to help,” frenemy veil.
Frenemies are jealous of your success. If you find that a particular person always finds a way to make you feel bad about your new promotion/boyfriend/car/Christmas bonus… it’s time to move on! Save yourself the drama and avoid toxic people such as the frenemy.
2. The Vortex: This person sucks the fun and happiness out of EVERYTHING!
- You’re out having a blast at a restaurant and she tells you about her cousin who got food poisoning. (Cue Debbie Downer music here!)
- You’re at the movies and she is hot/cold/hungry/tired/mad at the kids in front of you/has to pee/doesn’t like the popcorn… you get the picture. This kind of toxic person is a little easier to recognize, but is JUST as (if not more) draining than a frenemy because it’s our nature to try to please.
3. The Town Yeller: If you have someone in your life who constantly says something like, “You didn’t hear it from me, but __________.” RUN. Run far, far away. They’re like the Demetors in Harry Potter, except they feed off of secrets rather than fears.
Tip: If you suspect you’re dealing with a Town Yeller, tell them something innocent but make it seem secretive. If word gets around, they’re none the wiser but you have saved yourself a lot of heartache!
Now that you can recognize the signs, it will be easier to avoid toxic people and protect yourself.
Notice I said easier. Not easy. Because the truth is, most of us want to believe the best in people — especially if they’re our friend or family member. So really, recognizing is only half the battle. Also, it can be tricky to avoid toxic people because they are part of ALL of our lives (i.e. coworkers, family, in laws). So, rather than focusing on physically avoiding them, let’s talk about emotionally avoiding them.
4 Tips to Avoid Toxic People
At the end of the day, all we can control is our reaction to the world.
Often times, these toxic people are woven into our lives in unavoidable ways. We can’t make a ‘Vortex’ happy, we can’t convert a ‘Town Teller’ into a secret-keeping vault, but we can control how they make us feel and how we respond to them.
1. Above all else, guard yourself!
Before we address anything else, understand this: it’s up to you to protect yourself from toxic people.
We can have compassion for them, we can love them, but we can’t engage with them. Once you recognize that you’re dealing with a toxic person, put your guard up.
- divulge personal information
- let yourself get caught up in their drama
- try to please them
There’s a saying in the emergency management field: don’t create another casualty by saving a casualty. Meaning, don’t go down with them. Love them, help them, but don’t engage with them.
2. Accept that you can’t change the way someone is.
There’s something freeing in relinquishing control. When a toxic person is close to us, we often feel responsible for them. “Oh my gosh, that’s my sister, if I don’t fix this she’ll alienate herself from everyone!”. But hey, that’s not your job. You can’t control another person. If we could, I’d be best friends with Joanna Gaines.
Once you stop focusing on how a toxic person treats you (and the rest of the world), you’re free to start focusing on YOU!
When you focus on you and your personal development, you become a stronger person more equipped to deal with these tough situations. This is actually a lifelong skill that will serve you well — in lots of situations.
3. Focus on compassion.
People are the way they are for a reason, and we may never know that reason.
- Maybe the ‘Vortex’ grew up with a very critical parent and now finds the worst in every situation out of habit. That must have been hard.
- Perhaps the ‘Town Yeller’ feels useless unless they have information. That must be painful.
- It’s possible that the ‘Frenemy’ is accustomed to being stabbed in the back and now feels like they have to do it first to avoid that pain. That’s a sad way to live – have compassion.
When we focus on understanding WHY people are the way they are, it helps us relate to them.
While we still won’t tell them personal details, we’ll have some more grace when dealing with them. Who knows, over time you may inspire them to evaluate their ways!
4. Find another outlet.
This is extremely important if the toxic person is a family member or close friend.
If you’re just now recognizing that someone you’re very close to is toxic, there’s a lot to deal with. The most pressing thing is to find another outlet!
- If you used to go to a ‘Town Yeller’ with all of your problems, find another person to talk to – STAT.
- If your ‘Frenemy’ is also your yoga partner, join a meetup and find a new one! This will protect you from falling back into old patterns and you’ll make some new friends. Win-win.
- Surround yourself with positive vibes.
That’s about all I have for you, friend! I hope this helps you recognize and avoid toxic people – and live a happier life because of it!