6 Types of Toxic People and How to Spot Them

“People inspire you, or they drain you — pick them wisely.” — Hans F. Hansen


“You’re okay that she talks to you that way?” my friend Angela asked.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Did you not just hear her say that you don’t look pretty and should change?”

“Sarah’s just joking. We’ve always talked that way to each other,” I said, waving it off.

I couldn’t ignore though how hot my face had gotten when Sarah had said those words to me. How I’d looked down at my outfit and thought, I spent a lot of time picking this out. What’s wrong with it??

Now that Angela had noticed how Sarah spoke to me, I felt even worse.

When it was just Sarah and I, I could fantasize that our friendship was supportive and loving with some “playful” teasing, but having a witness meant I couldn’t ignore the reality: Sarah wasn’t all that nice to me.

I’d been friends with Sarah for nearly all of my adult life, but our relationship had begun to feel like repetitively going to get my taxes filed and being told I owed $1000. I continued to hang on, though, because of our history. I felt guilty at “giving up,” withdrawing from, or setting boundaries in a relationship I’d had for so long.

We all deserve to have people in our lives that we enjoy spending time with, but we may make up reasons to hang onto unhealthy relationships out of guilt.

These are often the reasons why:

History

Like my relationship with Sarah, you’ve known this person forever, and you can’t imagine them not being in your life anymore, regardless of how bad they make you feel.

Proximity

They’re close with your spouse, friend, or co-worker. They’re your sister-in-law, your bestie’s husband, or your spouse’s boss. You don’t want to put your person in an awkward situation by speaking up, but you also don’t like being around that other person for whatever reason.

Context

You work with them. They’re your neighbor, or their child is on your kid’s soccer team. You see them all the time, but unless you move or change jobs, it’s not likely that they’re going to go away anytime soon.

Family

Just because someone birthed you, wiped your ass, or happens to be your father’s or mother’s sibling/parent/spouse, etc. doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to be healthy and supportive.


If you’re uncertain whether a relationship is “toxic” for you, ask yourself the following questions.

Do you

  • dread seeing them?

  • feel drained or exhausted after spending even minor amounts of time with them?

  • find yourself feeling angry, sad, depressed, or insecure while/after spending time with them?

  • constantly feel as if you need to put on a “show” in order to attempt to impress them?

  • find that your conversations center around gossiping or being mean about other people?

  • notice they never seem to hear you when you say “no” or to try to meet your needs?

  • feel like you need to explain/defend/justify their behavior to others because it’s always taken “wrongly?”

  • have to always “rescue” this person or fix their problems, of which they’re never responsible for?

  • notice that they often try to “one-up” you or “compete” with you for who has it better/worse?

If you can answer “yes” to one or more of these, then it’s not likely your relationship is healthy.


Toxic Relationships Can Have a Lasting Impact on You

Regardless of whatever we tell ourselves to keep hanging on, toxic relationships can make us miserable and actually hamper our brain’s ability to function.

In one study, they found that exposure to stimuli that caused strong negative emotions — like what happens when you deal with a toxic relationship — caused subjects to be unable to perform tasks. Chronic stress, which would happen in a long-term toxic relationship, can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain.

It also can’t be ignored that popular advice like the following one has a lot of truth to it:

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” ― Jim Rohn

We help ourselves in dramatic ways when we withdraw, set boundaries, or end toxic relationships. Not only do we start reversing the impact it had on our brains, but we also can find ourselves more apt to succeed personally because we’re no longer feeling unsupported.


6 Types of Toxic People

1. The Self-Centered Conversationalist

Have you ever been talking to someone who perpetually interrupts you? They don’t ask you questions, wait for your responses, or . . . shut up?

They’re a self-centered conversationalist, someone who is never going to stop to learn about or be attentive to your needs.

2. The Victim

At first, you think they’ve just had a hard time of it. They got fired unjustly or they have an asshole of a partner, but then you start to realize that they don’t take any personal responsibility.

They actually got fired because they continually showed up late to work, and their partner may be a jerk because they keep racking up credit card debt.

3. The Happiness Sucker

Nothing’s ever going right in their lives. Nothing. Their job is awful, but no one else is hiring in their industry. They should get a divorce, but they can’t afford it.

Even if you go to them with whatever bad is going on in your life, don’t expect to have a sympathetic ear. They’ll just out-do your bad. These are the kind of people you feel worse after talking to.

4. The Drama Magnet

Some people are always in conflict. One problem is resolved, and then another one pops up immediately. They create and thrive in crises, and they love to moan to you about each and every one.

They absolutely don’t want your advice or solutions though. They prefer to dish on the bad instead of actually create some good.

Watch out though, because ones like this will draw you into their drama someday.

5. The Jelly

The jelly is jealous, which becomes clear in how they gossip about or criticize other people and their choices. Even if something wonderful happened to someone, they’d have something to say like, “That’s a nice house and all, but I’d never want to live in that neighborhood,” or “Did you see the outfit she bought for her first day at her new job?”

Something to remember:

When someone gossips TO you, they’ll gossip ABOUT you.

The jelly certainly can’t be trusted, and don’t expect to get warmth and support from them when something goes good in your life.

6. The Bulldozer

A bulldozer is never wrong, doesn’t take anyone else’s feelings or ideas into account, and always puts themselves first. They believe their opinions are facts. Fuck _____! they’re apt to say. No one is their equal. Everyone is a competitor, even you.

Once you’ve identified a relationship is toxic, you’ll begin to find the behavior more predictable and less acceptable. You’ll be able to look at it more rationally and make whatever choices you need to. Whatever you do, choose to do (set boundaries, withdraw, or end it entirely), make sure to stick to it. You deserve healthy relationships, and that starts by choosing yourself over unhealthy ones.


Want a more targeted way of addressing your own toxic behaviors? Sign up here to get a FREE copy of my “Are You Toxic?” worksheet packet.

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