Studying Psychology shows you a myriad of complicated terms, endless name of disorders, personality types, etc. But let’s be practical here, everywhere you go there’s always a “toxic” person. They’re impossible to avoid, can give you negative feelings and worse affect your mental health.
But do you know that Toxic behavior is something that can manifest in us all?
We all have bad days but it is important to be aware of our actions and how they affect the people around us. “Self-awareness” – according to my professor and the author of best selling book Permission to feel – Marc Brackett, is the start of becoming an Emotional Scientist.
First, let us learn how to identify a toxic individual.
Being toxic is never fun to be around, you drive people away and usually encounter conflicts and misunderstandings. Keep in mind that these behaviors don’t happen overnight, it is developed through the years and has underlying causes or triggers like childhood trauma. They are actually unconscious and developed over time as their defense mechanism. Not an excuse though, that’s why we begin by realizing if our behavior is already hurting other people.
Ways not to be toxic.
1. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
it all starts with your mind, your thoughts drive and guide how you behave.
Professor Marc Brackett said that our brain is hay wired to think negatively right away, it is our automatic way of thinking. This is not good for the body as it activates our limbic system.
Thinking positively takes time and lot of effort.
2. Be actively Grateful
When we practice gratitude, our feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction increase, and the feeling of burn-out decreases.
Toxic people are unhappy because they tend to look at the past and for them everything in their life is not good enough.
Take a few minutes everyday to be actively grateful. This could be anything from your pet, sunshine or good weather, family, or the roof above your head.
If you really want not to be toxic, know that acknowledging the good things in your life lets you focus on them and everything else seems brighter and happier.
3. Think before you react
build the habit of pausing before reacting.
toxic people are highly reactive, they tend to lash out on people around them.
this is the best time to practice being a better listener, so instead of reacting try to listen first.
being an active listener shows that you care.
4. Let your ego go
a toxic person is desperate to maintain a certain image to the point of attacking others, or being defensive and becoming a habitual liar.
they believe they’re entitled and people are beneath them.
accept that nobody’s perfect and that you’re not always correct.
kindness is free and without your ego this is easy.
5. Show accountability
this is related to ego, apologizing is like admitting defeat to a toxic person.
admitting you’ve made a mistake and taking responsibility makes it feel you’ve failed.
if you’re not able to be accountable for your own wrongdoing — if you dig in, and have to maintain your image — this is a big potential problem. For one, it’s a sign of narcissism.
it will be a struggle to maintain a real relationship to someone who can never ever accept fault. It makes other people uncomfortable, denies their emotions or needs, and leaves them feeling wronged too.
Just as environment has its toxins and so is humanity.
In the Philippines, Mental health has a negative connotation so I’ll be using emotional and mental health interchangeably.
What is a Toxic Person?
Toxicity is not considered an illness but there could be underlying causes or trauma behind their toxicity. But how will you know if they are toxic? A toxic person is anyone whose behavior gives negativity and upset to your life. They consistently cause you a negative response and you feel uncomfortable around them.
Before I give you the types, here are toxic behaviors you watch out for;
Enjoy Others Suffering
Never Taking Ownership (non-admission of faults)
Refusing to Apologize
Just to be clear, we are all imperfect in one way or another. The difference with toxic people is that they “always” manifest the behaviors mentioned above and has destroyed relationships and brought conflicts.
I’m studying Psychology because I’d like to know how to deal with different kinds of people. As an entrepreneur, I face a myriad of people everyday. Not to pat myself at the back, but I know I’m a good-hearted person so I need to protect myself and set boundaries. I believe that truly toxic ones are not worth my time and I feel like a portion of my life is deducted or shortened as I deal with them.
Believe it or not, there are 10 types of toxic people. Yes! that many. Maintain your peace and emotional health by being aware of their kind.
10 Types of Toxic People
The Gossiper – we have a term here in the Philippines – “Marites” not sure how they derived that name but gossiper a.k.a. Marites is on the top of the list. What’s sad is they derive pleasure from talking about other people and they seem to celebrate with others’ misfortunes.
The Temperamental – they seem to have anger management issues. It’s also difficult to deal with them as they don’t know how to handle their own emotions and can become explosive.
The Victim – they see themselves as victims. Some may shower you with (superfluous) gifts, sort of bribery then they will open up to you. And you empathize with them, kind-hearted ones can easily fall for this trap.
The Self-Absorbed – inconsiderate and a total narcissist. Fact check – they’re only using you for their benefit.
The Envious – self explanatory and I’ve met many. Perfect to pair with “Marites” as they try to bring down one’s reputation.
The Manipulator – they are a pro in manipulating those around them to get what they want. Another overlapping sign is when they excessively give you gifts and make you ask the question – “for what?”
The Seductive, Overly-Dramatic Person – quoted this from Psychology Today. They’re fun to be with, often the life of the party. They are charming, seductive, physically attractive and do things to attract attention. They focus a great deal of time on outward appearance but really insecure deep inside.
The Narcissistic-Aggressive Person – another from Psychology Today. Coming from the word – narcissism, these individuals are abusive, verbally or physically. They are selfish and aggressive, tend to be adventurous and risk-takers.
The Judgemental – have you heard of the saying – “don’t rain on my parade” The judgemental are quick to tell you what’s wrong about your decision. They only see your faults and look down on others. Nothing is ever good enough for them.
The Arrogant – arrogance is false-confidence and always masks insecurities.
Everything begins with awareness.
If you know someone who is toxic and there’s no way to avoid them, don’t fret. You may not be able to physically avoid them but you can set boundaries. First identify them and maintain a safe “emotional” distance. Expect the behavior/s mentioned above so you’ll be well prepared to “rationally” face them. You are now equipped but don’t ever try to engage or mix into the chaos. Call them out if they do something wrong to you.
Always choose peace. Respond and don’t react, I know it’s easier said than done but I’m just being optimistic here. For normal people like you and me, there’s hope and peace.
In my Positive Psychology class by University of Pennsylvania, we are asked to take the VIA Character Strengths. Unlike the popular MBTI, this test is about character, our signature strengths. If you are curious to take it, link is here. It is free with a payment option for extra features.
Big 5 Character Traits
Allow me to share the results of mine –
According to VIA Survey:
Spirituality (transcendence) – having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe; knowing where one fits within the larger scheme; having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort.
Honesty (courage) – speaking the truth but more broadly presenting oneself in a genuine way and acting in a sincere way; being without pretense; taking responsibility for one’s feelings and actions.
Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence (transcendence) – noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience
Fairness (justice) – treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting feelings bias decisions about others; giving everyone a fair chance.
Curiosity(wisdom) – taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; finding subjects and topics fascinating, exploring and discovering.
Remember that there’s no right or wrong answer. And your character strengths are key elements to living an authentic and meaningful life. Research shows that people who use their strengths are 18 times more likely to be flourishing than those who do not. By knowing and using your characters can help you be happier and more confident, improve areas in your life (relationships), and manage problems and stress.
VIA Character Survey
Positive Psychology by Prof. Martin Seligman (Father of Positive Psychology – University of Pennsylvania)
Help fight Depression and watch for signs listed below. The DSM-5 outlines the following criterion to make a diagnosis of depression. The individual must have at least 5 or more of these symptoms for a minimum of 2 weeks.
1. Sad mood most of the day, nearly everyday 2. Loss of interest (hallmark of MDD) 3. Significant weight loss/gain 4. Sleep disturbance 5. Psychomotor slowness – slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement 6. Fatigue 7. Feelings or worthlessness, low self esteem 8. Indecisive and not being able to focus 9. Thoughts of suicide or death and/ or a suicidal attempt.