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How To Spot and Avoid a Toxic Person

Updated on February 22, 2016

What is a Toxic Person?

A toxic person can come in all shapes and sizes. They can be friends, co-workers, even family, and lovers. They can cloud your mind with gossip, play a victim, manipulate, be self-absorbed, and sometimes just down right mean. Being around these kinds of people will not only bring down your confidence, but you will find that you will soon start to be like them if you don't find a way to avoid or distract yourself from their damaging behavior.


I cannot stress how important it is to set boundaries with a toxic person. It is possible to be assertive without yelling, fighting, or degrading the toxic person, which would thus bring you down to their level. I'm going to go over some key points as to how to set boundaries with a toxic person. These work especially well for a narcissist, the most common type of toxic person.

  • Do not let them verbally abuse you. The easiest way to do this is to just hang up the phone if it is during a phone conversation, or to just walk away. The toxic person wants you to be verbally abusive back so that their behavior seems justified in their own head. Do not do this. Telling them to go F$#^ off feels good in the moment, but in the long run it does more damage to you, and more damage to them. Their behavior will feel justified, and they will simply just move onto the next prey. If it gets to a point to where they are harassing you or threatening you, you can always get the authorities involved or block their phone number.
  • Limit the amount of time you talk to them. This can be a very effective way to deal with a toxic person, especially if it's somebody you have to talk to, such as an ex-husband or family member. If there are topics that must be discussed, such as child support or a family get together, write them down before you talk to the person. Set a time limit. During the conversation stick to the key points, and do not respond to any negative comments they throw your way. For example:

Me: "So I will drop off our son at 3 at your house and you can bring him home at 8."

Ex-Husband: "Why? So you can go out with your boyfriend and picking him up won't cut into your date time?"

Me: "Does 3 to 8 work for you?"

Ex-Husband: "Yeah I guess."

Me: "Great! See you then."

I'm not saying that's exactly how it will go every time you talk to a toxic person about a sensitive subject, but at least you did your part in not feeding into their drama, and that's half the battle. Sticking to the key topics will help retrain the toxic person's brain to realizing they won't get the response they want from you, thus cutting down fighting a little more each time you talk to them.

  • Choose your battles. This can be especially effective when dealing with a boss or co-worker. The work place can be filled with toxic people, and dealing with the toxic people in a bad way can ruin your chance of a promotion or raise. Everybody has had the boss that makes them feel like they aren't good enough, or micromanages every little thing they do. If you can't seem to make your boss happy, and it's ruining your job performance and your self esteem, ask for a meeting. Ask them how you can do your job better, and what you need to work on. You're boss will not only see that you care about your job but also that you are assertive enough to not be picked on. Asking for the meeting sets things on your terms. You can ask questions, and they need to be reasonable or they will look bad. Other methods you can use to deal with a toxic boss are:

- Document anything that seems like harassment, or seems illegal for them to say to you; this can come in handy if they just decide they don't like you one day and want to let you go, which at that point you have something to turn into unemployment or human resources.

- If you have another person in charge to talk to about issues you are having, do so. Sometimes all it takes is another manager telling them to back off.

-Try not to overthink every negative thing they say to you. Just know that you are doing the best you can, and just block out the unproductive words.

Choosing your battles can also work in other situations such as with family members or spouses, even kids. Is it really worth fighting with your husband about the waitress he hit on 10 years ago at the office Christmas party? Probably not. Will he let you forget about the time you got drunk and flirted with the bartender? Probably not, but you are the bigger person, and two wrongs don't make a right. You doing to them what they did to do does not help matters, it makes them worse.

Learn to Let Go

Overall, a toxic person will ruin your life, if you let them. There are plenty of tools you can use to make your life easier when dealing with someone who likes to spread their negativity. You can't run and hide from a toxic person, but you can help yourself and them by not playing into their toxic games. Everyday you will face a toxic person, and everyday you can free your mind from the overwhelming emotional games a toxic person will play with you. Don't worry about getting in the last word, worry about your own sanity.


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