We’ve all been around someone toxic. As soon as you read that sentence (or maybe even when you read the headline before you clicked through), you probably saw someone’s face in your mind, didn’t you? That person who exhausts you with their energy. The person you dread talking to because it’s nothing but complaints and negativity. The person you try to avoid because you just don’t have it in you to try to deal with their antics.
Toxic people have a lot in common. Their behaviors are off-putting, and they tend to be at odds with people regularly. You’ve heard the term suck the life from the room- that’s a perfect description of what toxic people do because their presence can change the atmosphere.
While toxic people don’t share every negative trait- someone could be toxic for gossip while another could be toxic for isolating and refusing to communicate…there are some traits that are consistent with toxic people. Traits like:
- Attention-seeking behaviors
- Disruptive behaviors
There are plenty of ways to be toxic. It’s entirely possible for someone to be toxic one way while someone else is toxic in entirely another. Though they may express their toxicity differently, there are some universal traits that make someone toxic.
Toxic people are negative
You probably won’t hear the term toxic positivity. While someone’s perpetual happiness could get on your nerves, happy people don’t tend to cause too many problems.
Negative people on the other hand can do a lot of damage. Negativity is a general term that covers a lot of ground. Toxic people tend to see the worst in people, the worst-case scenario, and focus on the worst parts of everything. Their negative attitude can ruin morale, the day, and over time can drain your energy. One of the most common traits toxic people share is negativity.
You’ll see this negativity in their constant complaints about everything. When you share something good, they’ll find a way to make it negative — everything is “too good to be true” in their world. They might pretend they’re trying to be helpful, but ultimately, it’s still just their negativity.
Toxic people always want attention
Well-adjusted people don’t require constant support. Toxic people tend to feed off the attention of other people- whether it’s positive or negative. They love constant contact.
Toxic people tend to love the struggle, the fight, or the engagement and the drama. They are entrenched in attention-seeking and wear people out with their neediness and need for constant contact. Demanding attention makes it hard for others to shine. Toxic people have a hard time when other people get attention as it threatens their sense of security. They exhaust people because they often want to process everything. In today’s world with unlimited ways to connect, it can be hard to be in relationship with people who always want attention.
Always wanting attention can be anything from constantly texting until you respond to deliberately drawing attention to themselves at a party when they see you focusing on someone else. Attempts to draw your attention might seem good or nice, like bringing you flowers or inviting you out for a girls’ night out. But they might also be more manipulative and destructive, like faking an illness or injury or picking a fight with you.
Toxic people are disruptive
There are all sorts of toxic people: people who manipulate, are angry, or engage in other dysfunctional behaviors would be considered toxic. No matter what makes them uniquely toxic, one thing’s for certain- it’s disruptive.
Toxic people tend to upset the people they are in relationship with, including individually and in groups. Their behaviors, presence, and energy can cause a lot of tension or unnecessary problems to manage. Toxic people tend to cause a ripple effect wherever they go which is absorbed by those around them. Whether people are trying to manage their reactions to toxic people, are trying to disengage them, or attempting to get away from them, toxic people disrupt the harmony that could exist without their presence.
They don’t even have to actively do anything. You might recognize a toxic person in your life from the way you tense up when they’re around. Or perhaps you can feel their emotions when they enter a room — you immediately know they’re angry or happy by their energy as they move into the space. They can give a look or offer a breath that indicates their thought or opinion on something and make everyone else uncomfortable.
Sadly, toxic people aren’t always aware of their impact on others. While there are unlimited ways for someone to be toxic, these are also some common traits all toxic people have, making it a little easier to spot them. Their negativity, attention-seeking, and disruptiveness can change the atmosphere and make things uncomfortable for everyone. Recognize these traits and learn to avoid and disengage the toxic people who come into your life.
Wendy Miller is a meditation teacher, single mom coach & writer. She helps moms use mindfulness, meditation & self-care to create a calm & happy life. She lives in Florida with her two sons and enough pets for a zoo.
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