by Cylon George
Wrong things happen when you trust, and give too much attention to, the wrong people.
Do you have toxic people in your life? Do they influence you in detrimental ways? Do they leave you feeling manipulated or bad about yourself after every encounter? If so, you’re probably wondering how things got to be this way. Despite your positive attitude and approach to life, you find yourself unexpectedly surrounded by negativity.
It might not occur to you that some of your strongest positive attributes may actually be attracting toxic people. These people may subconsciously feel threatened by your strengths, or they may just see you as an easy target. Either way, they will attempt to undermine or control you by limiting your peace of mind, happiness or success.
It’s important to understand that every character strength has what is commonly called a “shadow side.” When used too liberally, our strengths can become weaknesses and also make us more susceptible to toxic people.
I’ve experienced this in my own life. One of my character strengths is that I am extremely sincere and compassionate. But when pushed to its limit, my sincerity and compassion can become people pleasing. I’ve realized that I sometimes quickly appease people who are pushy or rude just so they will like me. By doing so, I inadvertently allow these people to enter my life and subject me to their toxic behavior.
I eventually learned to find my boundaries and say no, without losing myself in the process. I became aware of how people may try to use my character strengths to their advantage. This awareness has helped me ward off many toxic relationships.
The key is not to suppress your positive character strengths, but to educate yourself so toxic people can’t use them against you. If you feel like these people are drawn to you, here are seven surprising reasons why this may be happening, and some actionable tips to help you address it:
1. You are a great listener.
Let’s face it. With technological distractions stealing our attention all the time, great listeners are often hard to find. When you find one, it’s hard not to take advantage of the rare opportunity to be heard.
Toxic people, however, take things to the next level. They’ll talk to you for hours when they can get away with it. They’ll ignore every body language and verbal cue you throw at them. They’ll share unsolicited, negative details about their life every time they see you. And they’re certainly not interested in what you have to say — because they’re only interested in seeing and hearing things their way.
If you’re great at active or empathetic listening, you may find yourself unwittingly becoming the target of a conversational bully or narcissist.
When entering into a conversation, decide how much time you can, or wish to, spend with the other person. Limit your conversations with toxic people to no more than a few minutes.
Think ahead of time about some exit lines you can use when the time is up or when a lull in the conversation develops. Here are a few examples: “It was great catching up with you…” or, “I’ll talk to you again soon, but right now I must…” or, “I’ve got to get back to work.”
The key to deploying this strategy well is to not send mixed messages. Let your body language and your words match. Of course, this will feel harsh and awkward sometimes, but it’s a necessity for your own well being.
2. You are incredibly generous with your time.
Most people would agree that being generous is a desirable character trait. But beware; toxic people can be drawn to overly generous people.
They will cling to you if you’re willing to drop everything for them, answer all their calls, reply promptly to their emails, and fulfill their requests and demands every minute of the day.
As they consolidate their power by demanding more and more of your precious time, you may find yourself becoming increasingly resentful.
Generosity without boundaries is a recipe for toxic relationships. To establish healthy and reasonable boundaries, start by becoming aware of your feelings and needs. Note the times and circumstances when you’re resentful of fulfilling someone else’s needs. Gradually build boundaries by saying no to gratuitous requests that are likely to cause resentfulness in you.
Again, this will be hard at first because it will feel selfish. But if you’ve ever flown on a plane, you know that flight attendants instruct passengers to put on their own oxygen masks before tending to others, even their own children. Why? Because you cannot help others if you’re incapacitated.
In the long-term, establishing and enforcing boundaries will be one of the most charitable things you can do for yourself and those you care about. They will preserve the best of you so you can share yourself with many wonderful people – not just the toxic ones who try to keep you tied up.
3. You’re open, honest and trusting with your dreams.
Sadly, many people opt to settle in life. So if you’re striving for big dreams and goals, you’re bound to attract the attention of a toxic person or two.
If you freely share your dreams and goals with them, they may view you as aggressive, greedy, unrealistic, or selfish. Driven by the fear that you might actually succeed, they’ll be ready with a word of discouragement. They’ll try to plant seeds of fear and doubt. And as you begin to make progress, they’ll double down on their strategy.
Never share your deepest dreams and goals with people who have proven themselves to be toxic or close-minded, even if they ask you about them repetitively. Be especially wary of people who have lots of opinions but never challenge their own views, educate themselves, offer positive alternatives, or take action.
To counteract their negativity, surround yourself with people who are pursuing similar dreams and goals and have a track record of success. Engage with those who lift you higher. (Marc and Angel discuss this process in detail in the “Relationships” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
4. You’re really easygoing.
Most of us like being around easygoing people.
If you’re an easygoing person, you’re good at keeping your cool in tough situations and putting others at ease with a comforting word or witty quip. You’re also likely non-aggressive, patient and kind.
But the inner peace you exude is attractive to the toxic person who’s eager to disrupt the peace. They may misinterpret your apparent pacifism and conclude that you’re an easy target for their controlling ways. And in your weaker moments you may find yourself saying yes to them more often than you might realize.
Become aware of how a toxic person may try to take advantage of your easygoing ways. For instance, your polite words and gestures may be seen as an open invitation. Phrases such as “Sure, anytime you want,” or, “That’s no problem at all,” may be interpreted literally by a toxic person. They may respond by monopolizing your time for their own purposes.
Avoid the tendency to automatically commit to requests. Instead, make your default response: “Let me get back to you on that in ten minutes.” If you do say yes, be sure not to give the impression that your offer is open-ended. (Read Toxic People.)
5. Your sunny disposition is all-inclusive.
As the saying goes, opposites attract. Sometimes the positive light you shine attracts people who are craving the light themselves.
As a person with a sunny disposition, you’re often the one to strike up a conversation or light up a room with your infectious smile. These qualities make you a pleasure to be around but may also be attractive to certainly toxic people who ultimately want to hog everyone’s attention and make the conversation about “ME, ME, ME.” They are typically unhappy with themselves, and therefore look to others for validation. These people deserve respect, but you need to respect yourself too.
Understand that many unhappy people are unable to find joy within themselves – and they mistakenly believe that you can make them happy. They’re relatively easy to spot because they’ll go above and beyond to please you with flattery, gifts or idealization. They’ll be overly agreeable and willing to fulfill your requests or desires, as long as you give them a “yes” to everything.
These are warning signs that you may be in danger of falling under the obligations of a toxic person who will eventually expect you to pump up their ego 24/7. But the truth is, you can’t make them happy, even if you could oblige to their every need. And you’re almost certain to make yourself unhappy by doing so.
If you find yourself entering into a relationship with a person like this, ask yourself: Am I spending time with this person because they flatter me or because I genuinely want to be in this relationship? If your answer is the former, don’t be afraid to give yourself some breathing room.
6. You’re a great bridge builder.
If you’re a bridge builder, you can’t stand seeing disagreements and disputes go unresolved. If you’re one of the parties involved, you’ll move heaven and earth to find a compromise or resolve the problem.
While most people would likely respond to such overtures in kind ways, certain toxic people in your life may be more interested in destroying bridges rather than building them.
Some toxic people find their joy by creating drama and discord. Understand that some bridges are simply not worth building or maintaining. They’re bridges to nowhere.
How do you resist the urge to build or maintain bridges when you know it’s futile? Think about how often you’ve had to work on building or repairing bridges due to a toxic person’s behavior. If they’re constantly requiring you to resolve disputes, think about how they may be deriving pleasure at your expense. It may be a sign that you’ll need to cut funding to this hopeless venture so you can apply your resources of time and energy to more positive endeavors.
May the bridges you burn light your way.
7. Your view of human nature is super positive.
For most of us, our daily interactions with people affirm our basic assumptions that the average human being is kind and decent. But every so often, we unsuspectingly run into the darker sides of human nature in the people around us that may challenge these assumptions.
Do you struggle to accept the darker sides of human nature such as possessiveness, narcissism, greed, and deception? Do you hold on to friendships with such people because you believe they will change? Do you brush off their put downs and unkind deeds and spend lots of time with them anyway?
If so, you may have a relatively high tolerance for toxic people. You may find yourself enduring their negative and even abusive behavior. And you actually may not realize that you are in a relationship with a toxic person until the situation becomes dire.
Human beings are pretty good at sensing danger with their intuition – not just physical dangers but emotional dangers as well. If you’re in an emotionally negative or abusive situation, don’t second-guess the discomfort you feel inside. This may be difficult because your optimism about others may drown out uncomfortable feelings such as anxiety, shock, anger, or emotional withdrawal.
When warning signs appear in the form of emotional discomfort, instead of brushing them off or ignoring them, ask yourself these questions:
- What is causing this feeling in me when I’m with this person?
- What is this discomfort trying to protect me from?
- What positive actions can I take to relieve this discomfort?
Just like physical pain (as unpleasant as it is) protects you from further bodily harm, emotional discomfort, when embraced, can protect you from the damaging effects of a toxic environment. (Marc and Angel discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
The positivity and goodness you bring to the world truly are precious gifts. Protect these gifts from negative influences. Invest yourself in people and circumstances that will magnify your efforts rather than diminish them.
Even though your positive traits may inadvertently attract toxic people, do not let this stop you from being who you are. Just be aware of this reality so you can better spot danger when it arises and take positive, protective measures.
Also consider that your positive gifts have the power to indirectly transform negativity. Just as light will dispel darkness, your light can be a shining example to those who mean well but don’t realize their toxic tendencies. And even though you’ll need to limit your exposure to them, don’t underestimate the possibility that your example may influence them for the better, one way or the other, over the long run.
The floor is yours…
What are your experiences with toxic people? What have you done to cope with their behavior? What have you done to let your light shine anyway? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
Author Bio: Cylon is a spiritual chaplain, musician, devoted husband, and busy dad of six. He blogs about practical spiritual tips for living well at Spiritual Living For Busy People – sign up and get his free guide 20 Little Tricks To Improve Your Mood Even If You Feel Like Punching Something (or Someone).
Photo by: Kim Carrier
Interesting twist on this topic. Opposites attract – kindness sometimes attracts toxicity. In my experience the inferiority complex is the mother of the superiority complex (to use a couple of old school terms). I have a friend who is basically good, but brings out the worst in me. I feel in-“toxicated” when I’m around him and a lot better when apart. I hated for our friendship to dissolve, but we’re both better for it! I can’t fix him and I’m tired of feeling un-fixed around him. It’s weird, but it worked out well in the end.
Denise, thanks for sharing your story. It can be so hard to break off toxic relationships. Sometimes the combination of personalities create a situation that is not beneficial to either party. It’s great that you were able to keep your perspective about the fact that your friend was a good person – but that your relationship with him was not good for you. All the best to you on your journey forward.
I let someone toxic into my life last year. I am still recovering from the destruction he caused. The M&A website, emails and book have been a big part of my recovery process. It tok a long time for me to realize I let him do this to me. I fully participated. It amazed me how quickly I became as sick as him. It took a lot to recognize what was happening and remove myself from the situation. Sadly, the clean up continues five months later and will probably continue for some time. The only thing that I can do is continue to love myself through the process and wish him well in my prayers. This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do…and I’ve had to do some hard things.
Sarah Ghandour says
I just got out of a similar relationship months ago. I am sure you endured much pain. Be so GRATEFUL that GOD gave you the strength and wisdom to close that door! God wants the best for you and not a man who wants to destroy you and your life. Pray for healing in your heart and body so you can move past this relationship quickly and receive your joy back! Don’t let this past relationship steal any more of your time. You have many great things ahead for you. When God is ready, he will bring you a man who loves, adores and celebrates you!
God Bless you,
Jenn and Sarah, it’s inspiring that you both found the strength to get out of these difficult relationships. May God bless you both on your journey back to joy.
your comment is so funny – my toxic relationship was viewed as a gift from God following the death of a family member. Your words are almost exactly what all my friends said when the toxic one entered my life. They told him the same thing. The toxic person was not a love interest, but rather an old, lonely man who turned out to be one of the most terrible people I have ever known. Next time, I will rely on my own intuition and let not be a puppet to a God who celebrates me in this manner.
I envy you for being able to move out of a toxic relationship. I don’t want who I am in this relationship with this person- I always feel toxic around him. I’m always ok on my own but whenever I am around him, I kindá transform into another me that I do not want- I become lonely, sad and weak, when I’m actually the opposite before I met him. I’ve tried to move out of this relationship before, but I would pick it up again because I feel guilty leaving him miserable, and I feel like I won’t be happy anyway with the guilt, so I’d get back to the relationship. I care a lot about this person and I just want him to at least get through his troubles and then I can peacefully leave him, knowing he’s ok. Well, I know I’m wrong, it’s just that I still haven’t found the strength to really end the relationship.
Hi Jenn & Sarah,
Thanks so much for posting your stories. I am currently in that same situation and trying to get out and STOP the MADNESS. M&A posts have really helped me to get the courage to be stronger and hopefully I can break free. It’s taken me 3 years to realize this guy is “Killing my Spirit” and I am ready to put an end to this. Trying to build up the courage. Thanks again…I know that I’m not alone!
Hi Jenn.. I had a similar relationship. We broke off 5 months ago. It was very painful in the beginning. Now I felt so much better and realized that being alone is actually more relaxing and fun than in a toxic relationship. Be strong and always say this to yourself – Positive Changes, Let My Strength be stronger than my Sadness’. Take Care!
I am 57 years old, and had encountered many “toxic people” in my life. I have recently gone through a ending of a long term relationship, and the betrayal of two people I thought were my friends. It left me depressed, confused and extremely lonely, and it took the love of people in my life to pull me back from the edge. I am embarrassed to admit that I was in such a dark place. But, now I need to begin again. My problem is that I now realize I have never learned to establish boundaries in relationships.
I am a kind, loving, compassionate woman, and so I am an easy target for “toxic people”. How at 57 do I learn to establish boundaries, and enforce them? A part of me wants to never let a man get too close again. But, hiding from life isn’t the real me. I have just begun therapy, and hope that I can learn the tools that I have never learned. I have spent my whole life pleasing people.
Being the good daughter, the good sister, the good wife….and so on. There are times when I hate myself for accepting so little from people to whom I give so much.
I find all the articles on this site to be so timely, they arrive just when I seem to need them most. Thank you for the gift you constantly give to your readers.
Caroline I was in my 60’s before I started to set boundaries in my relationships. I had never really encountered “boundaries” before so this was something new to me. I needed to set boundaries with my family and this was a difficult thing for me to do. I would hardly ever say NO to them and had the “disease to please”. If I ever did say no I was made to feel guilty, or shamed for not being the good daughter/sister or whatever. I was bought up to keep the peace, not to rock the boat and be “nice” to everybody! I knew I had to take control of my life! About 12 months ago I started to read books on people pleasing, controlling and manipulative behaviour, toxic relationships etc and this has really helped me. It’s not easy to change, it takes courage, but it is so worth it in the end. Good luck!
Yes, I relate to this and I thank you for posting. I am 58 and have finally learned to set boundaries. I am a bit ashamed it has taken this long – largely because I wasn’t aware of it – but it is a great feeling.
Your comments have really resonated with me. Thank you for putting your thoughts into words, so well. I too am in my 50’s and just now figuring this out…
Hang in there, and I’ll do the same. 🙂
Sandra Pawula says
How interesting! Being an INFJ, I have some of the qualities that you indicate could draw toxic people to me. I feel lucky because I don’t have toxic people in my life. But I still need to set boundaries with some people – cause after all, we all have our patterns, and your advice is excellent in this way.
This is incredibly thought provoking. Not so much for me as I am a reasonably guarded person, but for my partner who is a very open, generous and loving soul. I see her dealing with most of these examples on a very regular basis. This has given me a lot of food for thought.
The main challenge I have is point 3. I have learned not to be too aspirational in front of certain people in my life for the reasons you have outlined. As Jim Rohn says, “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” So might as well spend it with other open minded aspirational people.
Brad, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the post. I hope your partner can benefit from it as well. This Jim Rohn quote is one of my favorite and I try to live it every day!
Very well written post. I’m currently dealing with a toxic family member and this post definitely confirmed some of the things I was intuitively feeling. Thanks!
Rose Costas says
Thanks for this post as it reminds me how much I need to be careful about the persons I allow in my life. I have been in situations with toxic people and felt like I was suffocating.
People enter our lives for different reasons but we can never allow them to bring toxicity into our lives.
But… what if I am the toxic one?
M, thank you for asking this question. Please see Elijah’s thoughts below. Honestly, I think we all have toxic tendencies. We can choose to not allow these tendencies to dominate our lives….and it starts with self-awareness. Seems to me like you are well on your way to curbing any toxic behaviors you may have. May you find all success, happiness, and peace.
Great post, filled with all the practical ideas to ward off the toxicity.
Your article helps us to face our own toxic behaviour too, that we may also be unwittingly exhibiting. Thanks for showing us a mirror and watching ourselves more than others.
I used to be the toxic person: always needing attention, manipulative, causing unnecessary drama, ignoring uncomfortable body language, so on. Anyway, I learned from my mistakes and why I would do them.
With Marc and Angel’s website I’ve learned the traits of toxic people and the error of my ways and have changed, and also recognize when others are being toxic.
I am just sorry for the good genuine people I have hurt in the process of coming to my realization. But. I have to move forward positively in my life knowing the mistakes I made, embracing them fully, not dwell on them, and moving forward.
Elijah, I’m inspired by your courage to share this. You’ve demonstrated that toxic behaviors of the past don’t make you a toxic person for life. We can all chose to change for the better. Thank you 🙂
Shannon K. Steffen says
Wow! Talk about absolutely enlightening. Thank you so much, Angel!
I run into this so much because I am such an easy-going and light-hearted person. My personality is to help others and give up myself. It isn’t something I set out to do, but rather, it is just a innate trait that can’t be hidden.
My smile also lights up the entire room. How do I know this? Because people tell me that they love the “Shannon smile”. Of course, I just laugh this off because it is my nature.
But, the problem is that people abuse my boundaries all the time. I have business meetings in coffee shops all the time (I’m a freelance consultant) and there was even a time where the woman was 1-hour late… and then, when she did show up, she wouldn’t give me the chance to leave… for 4 hours! She just kept going on and I she made me feel bad every time I tried to leave.
Thank you for the further insight and awesome tips. I will definitely take them to heart.
Quite a confronting article for me. It was like reading a gossip mag with all these dirty little secrets about myself, being revealed to the world.
As I read through the list, I mentally ticked off a situation for each: “that time when she did that”, “that time when they asked me to do this”, “that time when I tried to please him”….
A few months ago I was dealt a blow by some long time friends who became toxic, and it totally took me by surprise. Tearing myself away from them was extremely hard, and I felt heartbroken to lose their friendship. I went through a period of mourning them. Later I realised it was the best thing I could have done, as I was losing myself in those manipulative relationships.
I still catch myself being lead down the the garden path, and I try to recognise these signs earlier! These articles really help.
Marc and Angel, you have once again delivered a powerful message. This post is so empowering and I hope that it really helps the many people who are encountering such situations in their lives. Point no.7 especially resonated with me and I am certain with a lot of your followers. I want to thank you for giving us insight and the tools for living a wholesome and healthy life, first for ourselves then others.
Sheima Salam Sumer says
I honestly feel that this is a God-sent article because I’ve been struggling with a toxic person in my life for the past few years. It took me a while to realize how toxic this person really is. Your points are so true and now I don’t feel so bad about separating myself from this person.
Sheima, I’m so glad to hear that this article affirmed you in your choice to separate from the toxic person in your life.
I am also facing such toxic people in my life. Thanks a lot for comforting me with ur great thoughts.Thanks again and always stay blessed.
I just told a friend last night……..I attract toxic people. Yesterday I literally had to turn around and walk out of someone’s door. He followed me outside and kept talking……..I thought I was extremely rude by walking out( I’m everyone’s friend and fixer)……HELLO…….it didn’t phase him one bit! Within 1/2 an hour, I had three people’s problems in my lap………and that after I witnessed a woman berate her husband in the check out line for picking up the wrong bagged lettuce. I was ill from witnessing that conversation.
What perfect timing for this article……..boundaries it is. This is a new concept for me. Lots of reprogramming to do.
Right along with I can’t fix anyone else………and it’s not my job if I could. Everyone is entitled to their own journey in this life……..it’s how we grow and evolve :O) Thank you Angel R
I’ve always had difficulty setting boundaries since I was taught to please and to be liked. And so I attracted a manipulative narcissistic man whom I dated for 2 years on & off. I soon had feelings I had never experienced before; depression, sadness, worthlessness and even suicide. I didn’t know what happened to me-where I lost myself and how. I couldn’t stand the person I had become. And if I attempted to talk about it with him, “I had a problem”, or I was ignored, or worse, he would taunt me about it, making me never want to share anything with him #3.
As soon as we decided to break it off, I immediately felt better. I’m still working on it, but notice what a ride I was taken on. Thank you for sharing this; it helps me validate my feelings and know that I’m not alone. In gratitude. ..
Rula, thank you for sharing your story. It’s unfortunate that so many of us experience toxicity in our romantic relationships. These can be very hard to break away from. I’m so glad you were able to break free.
A few years ago, I helped a depressed, suicidal longtime friend get his life back on track (helping him find medical care and get a decent job) and yet he hasn’t been there to help me after my beloved father died several months ago. He lost his mom 15 years ago so I thought he would “get it,” but he’s still so immersed in his own life that he can’t really give to others. It’s incredibly frustrating for me so I will be distancing myself from him. I’m glad I helped him but it’s clear that he can’t help me so I will be exiting from this longtime friendship.
Just an observation from the cheap seats. If you had to help him get his life back on track (i.e he couldn’t help himself) perhaps he isn’t equipped with the right tools to help you when you need it.
Have you spoken to him about it?
This is one of my favorite posts ever! As I was reading, I kept saying, “That’s me! That’s me!” I am someone who is generally cheerful, and as such, I often get sucked into negative conversations. I think that some people mistakenly believe that nothing can dampen another’s sunny spirit, so they just rant and rave and complain forever. I’m not going to let my disposition be taken for granted.
Thanks so much for sharing.
I’m so glad you enjoyed the post Emily! Continue to let your positive light shine!
Sergio Rodrigues says
My main problem is how to distinguish a positive or genuine feedback from a negative remark coming from a toxic person.
Great question Sergio. In short, genuine feedback speaks to the problem while toxic remarks often attack the person. Genuine feedback is always affirming of the person even when addressing a person’s actions. I hope this helps.
I am very ‘awakened’ by this article. It is exactly what has been happening in my life which I cannot seem to understand why I am always in negative relationships. Just broke up with my ex about 5 months ago. Now it hit me hard that I was in a toxic relationship with a toxic guy. Now I know….Thanks Marc and Angel !
Habeeb Ababbo says
What great lesson… sadly my boss is an example of a toxic fellow.
Fabulous list that again gets right to the heart of the matter from an unexpected angle. I had to deal with more than enough of other people’s toxic/unconscious behaviour in my own family and circle of ‘friends’ when growing up. I was too young to handle it then so it just entered me and stayed there as wounds. Now i have a good handle on it all and what i take most from this is the support i feel from the remedy tips. I no longer feel alone or weak in taking the decisions i take.
This article fits me to a tee, I was always there for everyone too much and ended up with some very toxic friends in my life, who once i put my foot down totally betrayed me and caused me a lot of harm. For awhile, I was still seeking their approval and it is only recently that i am so thankful to have these people out of my life. I have always done well in life and these people were constantly trying to bring down on a notch, so good riddance!
First of all, great post ! I am a teenage girl and I’ve had someone toxic in my life just a couple of months ago… He was a guy in my class and suffering from depression. He started talking to me and we became friends, then he started telling me stuff about his depression and how he had suicidal thoughts… He just was so negative about life, where I am super positive about everything… I started thinking whether I had to tell an adult about it or not, he didn’t want me to. It made me feel so sad and I was dissapointed in myself, cause I couldn’t do anything for the guy… We used to text each other for days, usually it would start with small talk, and end up with his problems, him saying this like I give up, me trying to persuade him not to do such things… It became so annoying, cause he never asked about my life or me and I got tired of telling him not to commit suicide. I started feeling even worse… Then one day he threatened me (over text) to do something for him or else he’d commit suicide… That’s when I told my twin sister everything and she and I went to the teacher I trust the most. He helped us out a lot… Eventually the guy lost his suicidal thoughts and fell in love with me… At least, that’s what he said… Now I know that I was just in a rebound relationship with him, since he had a girlfriend whom had broke up with him. So, I thought I liked him as well… And we got together, but after a couple of days I started to feel bad about the relationship. He tried to interact so much with me and my life… He would come and sit next to me, talk to me in breaks, follow me around the school and he would act too sweet. I didn’t like his behaviour (I felt I was tied down to him and needed freedom), plus I felt like he was making up things and lying to me a lot… He’d say things like he has a split personality, one of the personalities could write down the future of the other one… And I just didn’t believe all of it. I wanted to break up… So we broke up, and he would keep telling me that we belong together and we’re meant to be and all that kind of bullshit… I got fed up and started to feel insecure since I started a relationship with this guy while my parents didn’t approve… I felt ill and it became even worse when he kept contacting me. Eventually I told him I didn’t want to be friends anymore and he stopped contacting me… I feel bad sometimes thinking that I thought I liked this guy (which I only THOUGHT!!) and wasting time on a toxic relationship with a toxic person. This post made me think of him several times and I recognized a lot in it… It came around the right time, since I felt bad again today
Sherree Stratton says
Thank you for summing up fixes for out-of-control attributes that have turned us into toxic people magnets. This list is going to be very helpful as I work on managing my tendency to love everyone at my own expense. It is really hard for me to excise toxic people from my life — I’m thinking that they need me somehow. But, I’ve gotten good at scheduling time when I can give them my undivided attention (for a lunch or a walk or a shopping excursion) — something that has a beginning and an end. I let my toxic friends know that I’m a very busy person and that if they need to talk with me, we need to schedule something. I let them vent or preen or be snarky for x amount of time and then it’s over. I still like to think that love and kindness and patience might just make a difference in even toxic people’s lives.
Rachel Ang says
I was just asking myself just now why do I seem to get alot of toxic and dramatic people in my life. was thinking, could it be me? this seems so true in many ways. thank you for sharing! 🙂
I can relate to many of these posts. Can anyone recommend a good book about creating boundaries?
This was the most amazing article in the last months! Spot on, and well explained.. hopefully we don’t repeat the same mistakes twice, or at least thrice :-)! Thank you Marc and Angel !
Linda Kamin says
Can I ask, “What do you do when the toxic person is your daughter?”
Tammi W. says
Cylon hit the nail on the head with this one. Marc and Angel always post the best information. This is a tricky subject because sometimes the toxic people are those very close to you. Or to be honest as for me, after my divorce years ago, I was in a dark place. Over the last 8 years I am in such a great space and I feel that people are jealous. Like some like it when you are down but when you find your way you get strange comments and I truly pick up on jealousy. I have great boundaries and I thank God for that. Boundaries are the key and do not feel bad about instilling them. Keep them up and be very forward with people when they cross them. Limit your coming and goings with toxic people. You life is too valuable. Thank you for this great article.
Akanksha Srivastava says
Thank you. Your article is coming to me at right time. I really needed this. Now I understand what mistake I have been making in my relationships. I have toxic people in my life and I give them so much importance but now I know what I have to do.
Great article that seemed to address the fact that I am so afraid of entering any relationship because of how I’ve been hurt by toxicity. I have a good foundation in this sort of vulnerability–making the best of everything, being helpful and cheery.
I was brought up by strict parents and, unfortunately, the submissiveness carries over into adulthood for many, many years; and, even though it fades, as soon as certain words are heard or there’s an indication of someone else’s need, I am quick to respond in the old way. Sometimes a toxic person seems to have that extra set of antennae that don’t give you time to evaluate, measure their sincerity and decide the best course of action. It’s almost as if they know or see you’re trying to overcome your first, helpful inclinations. With advice you’ve supplied and a determination not to let all of the personality traits you’ve indicated get me hooked into a bad relationship, I may try again. (Toxic friends and family I have chucked..I feel good that I started somewhere.)
I love your articles and books. I have generally been able to quickly get rid of toxic people except for those who I somehow end up working with. And they always seem to be drawn to me because I am a kind loving person who is a good listener, etc. In all cases I liked my work and it was always a certain person that would make my life miserable until I finally had to quit my job. It took me a very long time to understand what a narcissist was and also the behaviors of psychopaths. I used to think that all people were kind and loving and it took me many years of trying to understand why some people were so hurtful. I am 55 years old and wish that I would have known 30 plus years ago what I know now. It would have saved me so much grief and energy that I could have put toward other things. Keep up the good work!
This is exactly me, and why I was an easy target! I want to print this whole post and paste it somewhere I can see it, absorb it and practice it everyday!!!
A great post on an amazing site 🙂 ..I like #6-may the bridges you burn light your way…because there is not turning back.
Carol Reddick says
I am disabled and recovering from a very abusive childhood. I also have 3 kids (2 have special needs). My cousin and especially her teenagers, were a strong support for my family. I went above and beyond to show my gratitude. My cousin became finantially dependent on me, however, she would spend money treating others to dinner, getting her nails professionally done, etc.. I started feeling like her personal ATM. She also inherited a lot of expensive material things because of me. I started standing up for myself because I felt taken for granted. She then distanced herself from me and ultimately disowned my children and I. My kids miss playing at her house. Since she abandoned my family, I don’t have a strong support system. I know rejection is protection but please pray for my family and our broken hearts.
Thanks for a wonderful, insightful and amazing post.It is all so very true. I am an INFJ and I have always attracted needy people who saw me as a soft target. I am now learning to dial back on the “charm”. and the “warmth”, as certain people see me as an “easy mark” and a free therapist, and also try to minimize or discourage my dreams. Thanks again for this great post.
Nicki Lee says
Such a helpful post, Cylon! I do have a friend who isn’t respectful of my time. I don’t think he necessarily started as a toxic person. My behavior contributed to it. I need to be able to set parameters so that I don’t spend two hours marinating in his negativity. I’m looking forward to trying your fixes!
Difficult when the toxic person in one’s life is one’s mother. I am her live-in carer. To walk away is to institutionalize her. I keep trying to find ways of dealing with the toxicity. I keep getting caught unawares.
Get out! I also have a toxic mother hell bent on controlling me.. and it has led to me attracting a lifetime of similar assholes. It’s not worth the pain! I’m going to make business cards offering my care, listening and support… for $500 an hour. I’ll hand it to every toxic fucker I meet.. and I meet a lot of them. See if they’ll pay me to be their Patsy!! Certainly deserve that much for putting up with their BS! Really, really, really sick of toxic fucks. Where’s Hitler when you need him? Forget the Jews.. let’s gas all the narc’s instead. Better world.
Phillip Shurtleff says
To add my experience. I believe in helping people in distress, even if it’s just a little bit of help. Toxic people continuously put themselves into distress by driving away those willing to work with them. So it isn’t unusual to help someone in distress only to find that they’re working to stay in distress and will just drag you down with them.
The challenge is to recognize those that are genuinely in need and will make the best use of that help they can and those that wastefully use up that help and tried to get more.
I’m in a toxic situation right now. I had all those uncomfortable feelings for a while but kept trying to squash them down. The person in question spends a lot of time gossiping about her other friends, people I have met and gotten to know through her. I’m a good listener and while we lived a good distance from them and the dramas played out away from us I was comfortable. We now live close and I’ve started to feel quite paranoid about what is being said about me. I know I need to cut the ties but I’ve been second guessing myself a lot.
Excellent article. I read most of those points with a reluctant sigh and slight nod. I’ve been running into these people a lot lately. It’s incredibly tough to make the decision to distance yourself from someone you used to consider your friend.
Incredible article. Had me saying ‘oh my word’ right through it as I recognised so many of the aspects in my own life. Why do we ignore that emotional discomfort and intuition for so long? Seems so obvious now when I look back. Really love this website, feels sometimes like the universe talking to me as it always just hits the right spot.
In my case it’s not about loving & caring, because God knows how much I’ve tried to be there, & help others. But, some people will literately suck the life out of you if you let them! I have learned & try using “discernment & set boundaries” for my heart’s sake & my sanity. When we have gone as far as we can with some people & it comes to the point to where it makes us physically & emotionally sick, then it is time to totally put them in our Creators Hands, & trust Him to make a better way, & dust your feet off. Hope~Faith~Love?
This was a great article, just what I needed! After 30 years of marriage, I was divorced. My counselor suggested I get out there and date within 4 months of being divorced. Being the “pleaser” and “avoider” I went online. I met a man who seemed very needy (he even told me he’d been told he was needy) That was my first red flag. I should’ve listened to my intuition… We dated for 14 months, with him being very insecure and toxic. He had a huge ego and constantly nagged me about not communicating well enough. He would facetime or skype with me at least 5 times a day. I don’t know why it took me so long to end this relationship. I did love him and thought maybe I was doing something wrong. I still am having a hard time with the break-up, but know it was the right thing to do. I’ve learned a lot and have no regrets because I know what to look for and what not to put up with. He had me believing that I needed “fixed” but in reality, I didn’t. He was controlling, a vasillator, and had anxious attachment problems. I went out recently with a man, who after 2 dates, showed the exact same signs. I cut it off immediately. It’s hard not to be a pleaser, but it’s not healthy and I’m starting to change. I will be looking for similar articles to reinforce the changes I need to make. Thanks for a great article.
Hi.everyone! I can’t say that they are all toxic people.. but I don’t know what the exact word to say.. I’m 31 yrs.of age and the youngest of 10 siblings. All my life I’m still pleasing everyone of my family. Hoping Sunday they recognize me as good daughter and sister for them.. till this age I end up for nothing.. I fell to tiring and depressed.. I suffocated for to much protective I can’t feel that I’m free .. they always say they do that because I’m weak.
OMG !! The most amazing post ever !! This perfectly explains my relationship with my abusive narcissistic mother. I’m a good listener, a caring and sensitive person, & that woman manipulated all my strengths, sucked up my emotional energy and time, and ultimately made me feel like useless c**p.
Thanks to God, I cut off from her last year and also from my toxic brother. And over the past few months, I have met so many awesome human beings who would not have come had I still been stuck in the negativity. Yes, sometimes your positive qualities do attract toxic people. But when you are careful & open to deleting the toxic people from your life, your positive energies will definitely attract like-minded people who would respect & admire your qualities, and motivate you to be a better version of yourself.
N, I had to do the same thing with both parents. You can love them but not have to take part in a relationship. I love this article because being raised by them in the manner in which I was….I have always been the people pleaser type which has left me anxious and exhausted. I agree with you about being careful and open to deleting those toxic people from your life. Ive had a fear that I would end up alone, no friends etc. But really in essence you are, I am just finding my footing with this…
Great post and comments on a universal problem. A lot of what you say, Angel, reminds me of the description of a passive-aggressive personality type. Whether you are the “toxic” person or on the receiving end of some type of toxic behavior, the first step, as these comments attest, is recognizing it and then finding ways to deal with it. A favorite mantra of mine is “If you keep doing the things you’re doing, you’ll keep getting the things you are getting.” Sometimes, just the way you respond to your situation is the best answer.
Maria Stenvinkel says
Awesome post! Thanks for the tips 🙂
Ellen Bard says
Great post Cylon, and it’s clearly resonated with a lot of people. These are great ways to set healthy boundaries, something that can be a real struggle. I will be reflecting on these this week.
I love your final reminder that even when others may at times take advantage of some of our positive traits, we can still set a great example and be a role model that influences people.