At least once, you’re going to have a toxic person in your life. It might be a friend, a significant other, or even a relative. This person will seem great at the start, but your relationship with them inevitably becomes strained and difficult to stay close to them, with you feeling worse after most interactions.
These are some of the most common things toxic people do and how to react to them.
Behavior: They Try To Maintain A Power Imbalance
They make it so you always owe them something—they buy you gifts you could never afford or do favors you couldn’t return. They make it so you’re constantly in a lower place of power than them and constantly in debt.
What To Do: Stop Accepting Their Offers
Someone can’t hold a favor or gift over you if you simply refuse to accept it. Once you notice that a person is starting to try and hold power over you, start rejecting their offers so that they can’t turn them against you.
Behavior: They Project Their Feelings Onto You
When they have a negative feeling about themselves, they’ll act out against you or accuse you in some way. I once had a friend ask why I thought she was stupider than me; I didn’t, but it was her pushing her own insecurities onto someone else.
What To Do: Let It Be
When someone is clearly projecting their own negative feelings onto you and accusing you of having them, just let them be. Their accusations have nothing to do with your feelings towards them, and you shouldn’t have to defend yourself against something you didn’t do.
Behavior: They Come At You Out Of The Blue
Without any warning, this person will start blowing up your phone with accusations, whether new or old. They’ll purposely do this when they know you’re unprepared to talk—and might even do it to sabotage your mood—so that you’ll slip up and say something “incorrect” that they can hold against you.
What To Do: Don’t Get Roped In
You should be alert to this type of tactic. When it happens, don’t let them rope you into the conversation, because that will only leave you sucked into the drama they’ve created in their head. End the conversation right then and agree to discuss later.
Behavior: They Never Act The Same Toward You
One day, they are the kindest, most fun, most generous person you know, but the next day they’re sullen, aggressive, and cruel. Their behavior is never the same toward you, causing you to constantly question where you stand with them.
What To Do: Let Go Of Your Need For An Apology
Even if you are right in the situation, you are never going to receive the apology you need to from this person. You know what the truth is in your heart even if you never get that recognition from the other person.
Behavior: They Never Admit They’re Wrong And They Don’t Apologize
Toxic people will find a way to always be the victim and never be wrong; they’ll even ignore facts. Toxic people are great at twisting words and situations and finding a way to make you the bad guy.
What To Do: Stop Internalizing It
I know it’s hard to separate yourself from the way someone addresses you personally, but you have to take a breath, step back, and recognize that their actions aren’t about you but actually just a reflection of who they are.
Behavior: They Use “Innocent Language” To Hurt You
While they might be saying something seemingly neutral, the tone or context implies something much more malicious. They’ll do this so that they technically said nothing rude or cruel and therefore can’t be called out for it, but are still being demeaning.
What To Do: Recognize Your Own Worth
Recognize that none of the derogatory remarks that this person aims to belittle you with are actually about you and that you personally have more value than you’re being credited for.
Behavior: They’ll Punish You With Silence
The second you bring up an issue you’re having with them or do something they don’t like, they respond to you with radio silence—they ignore your calls and texts and give you the cold shoulder until you’re asking for their forgiveness.
What To Do: Stop Reaching Out In Return
If someone wants to punish you with silence even if you’ve done nothing wrong, you should stop reaching out to them. They’ll get bored when you’re no longer trying to mend things. In the long run, if this happens habitually, you should consider if you actually want this person in your life.
Behavior: They Make You Feel Diminished, Even Over Good Things
I once had a significant other get angry at me when I got an offer for my dream job. Toxic people are unable to feel happy for others’ successes because they need to feel like they’re doing better than everyone else around them.
What To Do: Stop Sharing With Them
If every piece of good news is met with a negative response from this person, stop sharing good news with them. You should be allowed to enjoy your successes without having someone try to dampen your mood.
Behavior: They Refuse To Have A Discussion And Resolve Things
Whenever you do try to talk through issues with them, they’re unable to actually have a productive discussion. They find ways to deflect accountability and redirect the conversation from their own actions to dig up past unresolved issues to place blame on you.
What To Do: Be True To Yourself
In an argument with someone who refuses to address their own complicity in the problem, the only thing you can do is tell the truth about how you feel, not defend it, and leave the conversation knowing that you did what you know was right
Behavior: They Speak Ill Of You And Try To Make People See You In A Negative Light
If you do break away from a toxic person and refuse to let them control you anymore, they will try to control the way that others see you by saying degrading things about you.
What To Do: Remain Patient—The Truth Comes Out
A past close friend of mine who I cut off for being toxic spread an array of rumors about me to mutual friends and acquaintances. While it hurt at the time, I waited it out instead of giving the reaction she wanted. In the end, those other people saw that she had been lying the whole time and her toxicity was clear.