Here are some traits to familiarize yourself with, and to help you navigate these trying relationships:
- Toxic people are manipulative. Their plan is to get people to do what they want them to do. It’s all about them. They use other people to accomplish whatever their goal happens to be. Forget what you want; this is not about equality in a relationship—far from it.
- They are judgmental. Keep your eyes and ears open for criticism—about you, what you've done, and what you didn’t do. It’s never about them, and they will lie if it serves them.
- They take no responsibility for their own feelings. Rather, their feelings are projected onto you. If you try to point this out to them, they will likely forcefully defend their perspective, and take no responsibility for almost anything they do.
- They don't apologize. They don’t see any reason to, because things are always someone else’s fault. In many instances, although they try to coordinate relationships to serve their own ends, they try to gain sympathy and attention by claiming “victim” status.
- They are inconsistent. It’s hard to know who you’re with at any given time because they are often not the same person. They may change their perspective, attitude, and behavior depending on what they feel they need to accomplish or what they want to have happen. (And they know how to be kind when they want something from you.
- They make you prove yourself to them. Toxic people make you choose them over someone else, or something they want over something you want. Often, this turns into a “divide and conquer” dynamic in which the only choice is them, even to the point of requiring you to cut off other meaningful relationships to satisfy them.
- They make you defend yourself. They have difficulty staying on point about certain issues, probably because they’re not interested in your point of view or trying to reach an amicable conclusion. Remember, they are supreme manipulators: Their tactics may include being vague and arbitrary, as well as diverting the focus of the discussion to how you’re discussing an issue—your tone, your words, etc. They focus on problems, not solutions.
- They are not caring, supportive, or interested in what’s important to you. In fact, the good things that happen to you move the attention away from them and thwart them from focusing on their own goals. Beware of people who find fault with you and make you wrong. Loyalty is foreign to them.