The world’s full of toxic people, and some can be difficult to avoid. Like a difficult colleagues at work, an evil boss, in-law, step-someone, parent, sibling or spouse. Some have personality disorders, but many just get that way because it works for them.
They’re usually charming to everyone else — and to you when you first meet. So it’s not easy to see them coming.
And they’re subtle. So you’re forever wondering “is it me?” Or whether you’re “over-reacting” or being “too sensitive.” But it’s not you. It’s them.
They’re forever getting upset about something. When you ask what’s wrong the answer’s usually “Nothing!” With long sighs and grumpy looks. You find yourself trying everything to make them happy. See why it works for them?
There’s a cycle: slowly the demands build up and a crisis looms. You end up doing what they want. Instantly they’re nice again. But just enough to keep you quiet. And then the demands start to build up again…
They’re controlling and do things that hurt you, while implying it’s all for the good: “You really should skip your classes so we can spend more time together.”
They’re judgemental and exaggerate: “You always…” They never apologise. They endlessly lie and twist everything around. They project their own feelings onto you, and end up convincing you that you’re wrong, lazy, confused, unfair or stupid.
THEY NEVER SHARE YOUR JOY
They never ever share your joy. Your good news is never good news: “That pay-rise isn’t much for all the work you’re doing.” They bring up stuff from many arguments ago.
And somehow everything always seems to end up about what you’ve done to them. Or the way you’re talking, rather than what you’re talking about.
Or they leave everything unfinished and go offline for days at a time. Spot any of this and you should leave, but in many situations you simply can’t. So what can you do?
Choose your battles carefully. Conflict’s the only way they feel important. So save your energy for issues that really matter.
Don’t run to their side in every crisis. Ask once, talk about it and if needs be, apologise. Don’t offer help, you don’t need to explain why, justify your decision or make excuses. Stop trying to please them.
Walk away and come back when their mood’s lifted. Especially if they start ranting at you.
You can’t reason with them. You can’t change them. So stop trying. Be clear about your boundaries, and listen when your intuition says something isn’t right. Set your own rules, and stand firm on them.
A poisonous boss is particularly difficult, because you can never win. So just do your best - and start networking for a new job.
Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself. And always watch for the signs that someone’s toxic. Their behaviour can be breathtakingly damaging.
Just make sure they never ever get a chance to use it on you.