Effectively dealing with difficult people is a pivotal life skill, given the inevitability of interacting with them throughout our lives.
Then there’s the art of letting go. It’s another essential life skill best applied when dealing with toxic individuals: the ones who up the ante and take being difficult to a whole new level.
But how do you know when the “difficult” crosses over into “toxic”? How do you distinguish between the relationships worth keeping and those best cut off?
There’s definitely a fine line between the two, but here are 11 signs you need to remove a toxic person from your life:
1) You feel uneasy at the thought of meeting them
Unless you’re walking into an interview or about to face your sentencing in court, feeling anxious or scared is not a normal reaction to the mere notion of meeting someone.
Let’s take a step back:
Think of the people in your life and imagine catching up with each of them.
Is there someone who triggers a surge of negative emotions just by the thought of your possible interaction with them?
If you’re constantly feeling that way about that someone, it’s about time you listen to your emotions and weed that person out of your life.
After all, healthy connections are those where you feel comfortable and generally positive around each other.
2) Your communication is always dysfunctional
Communication is another key to healthy connections. And while we all have different communication styles, we generally express ourselves well with those around us.
Except, of course, the toxic bunch, who seem to have a PhD in dysfunctional conversations.
You’ll want to stay away from:
- The gaslighters. They consistently deny or twist things to make you question your memory or perception of events.
- The stonewallers. They abruptly withdraw from a conversation to shut down any of your attempts toward a resolution.
- The non-verbal aggressors. They don’t openly discuss their issues with you, but you can see the disdain in how they roll their eyes, cross their arms, or the disapproving look on their face.
Open and healthy communication is the cornerstone of any relationship. And if they can’t offer that, it’s more than okay to step back and gracefully walk away.
3) It’s always a competition
What about those who are great communicators but are equally as good at turning everything into a competition?
This competitive behavior is quite common in the professional environment. For example, a colleague who tries to outshine you in everything, from meetings to presentations and even casual lunchroom conversations.
Can you relate?
If so, you’re probably better off limiting your interactions to only the necessary work-related discussions.
This type of toxicity doesn’t escape our personal relationships, too.
Just like the movie “Bride Wars,” for example:
It’s a story about two lifelong best friends whose friendship turned sour because they made their wedding preparations into a competition.
People who make a contest out of everything create an extremely tense environment instead of a caring and supportive one.
In short, they’re best kept away from your life because they make no room for genuine connections and even have the power to damage existing ones.
4) You’re always wrong
They may not always treat you as the competition, but do they always make you the villain? The failure? The incompetent one?
If you can never say or do anything right in their eyes, maybe they’re the ones who aren’t right for your life.
Don’t take it from me. Take it from the experts:
In 2013, neuroscientists from the Netherlands found constant criticism predisposes people to develop mood disorders.
Another study in 2021 supports this, noting that people who undergo relentless criticism are more at risk for depression and other mood-related disorders.
Criticism really does a number on our brains, but remember that you have the power to avoid it.
Protect your self-esteem and your mental well-being by not subjecting yourself to being around people who give nothing but unending disapproval.
5) Compromise is impossible
Conflicts are unavoidable in both our personal and professional dynamics.
But this is where disagreements become toxic:
When, no matter how hard you try to reach a common ground, the other party (aka the toxic person) refuses to meet you in the middle.
Here’s what it comes down to:
Budging to a compromise is, in a way, admitting that you may also be right and they may partly be wrong – something a toxic person who loves being right will never admit to.
So, use your energy wisely and know which battles are worth fighting.
Believe it or not, sometimes throwing in the towel is the only way to win when dealing with toxic personalities.
6) Your self esteem is dwindling
Another reason to make a break for it is when your self-esteem is slipping away.
This happens when you feel constantly belittled or disrespected.
Avoid the people who dismiss your accomplishments:
Like a family member who trivializes your promotion and says things like, “That’s long overdue. Your cousin XYZ got promoted in just a year on the job”, instead of the plain old, “Congratulations!”
Stay away from people who blatantly disrespect you:
The ones who publicly disclose personal information or point out your mistakes out loud, intending to embarrass you in front of others.
They could also be the sly ones who make frequent sarcastic remarks or constantly interrupt or talk over you.
Keep this in mind:
People who constantly devalue your worth are not worth a spot in your life.
7) Talking to them leaves you with nothing but negative vibes
Let’s do another moment of reflection on the people in your life:
Is there someone who leaves you with feelings of anger, depression, or extreme exhaustion after talking to them?
Toxic people like to focus on excessive negativity.
So, conversations with them are most likely filled with gossip, a hostile take on everything, or criticisms of other people and circumstances.
But it doesn’t end there:
They will also leave no room for your opinion, making you feel overlooked, dismissed, unsupported, and invalidated, among many other negative emotions.
Conversations like these are telltale signs of toxicity. So if they’re happening all too often in your life, it’s high time to reassess the position that person holds in your life.
8) It’s one-sided
Another sign it’s time to cut someone loose is when you’re the only one exerting the effort or giving much more than you’re getting.
Look at it this way:
Tug-of-war is only an effective game when two people are playing it.
Now, imagine doing it solo:
No matter how hard or gentle you pull, you’ll inevitably fall if there’s no one on the other side to prevent the counterbalance.
In short, if you allow someone to remain in your life without reciprocating your efforts or always leaving them unmatched, you’re setting your well-being up for an extremely tough landing.
9) Your cup is nearly empty trying to keep theirs full
Another serious red flag to signal someone should be out of your life is when you’re left bending over backward, trying to keep them happy.
You might be wondering:
How’s this point different from the one about one-sided relationships?
You’re right that the two overlap, but this point is more than just about you doing the lion’s share of the efforts. There’s more to it:
It’s about you literally running yourself to the ground.
It’s no longer about you giving more. It’s more about giving your all, scraping the bottom of the barrel, and finding nothing left.
Needless to say, it’s your life, so your priority should always be to ensure you fill your cup first.
10) You bring out the worst in each other
You know you have to leave someone behind when they bring out the bad side of you.
But here’s where it gets a bit tricky:
When you have strong emotional and psychological connections with the toxic person, it sometimes clouds your judgment, making it difficult to walk out on them.
Take The Joker and Harley Quinn, for example:
They started as a psychiatrist-patient relationship, but then Joker encouraged Harley’s violent tendencies. She gradually lost sight of her moral compass and was eventually sucked into a life of chaos and crime.
While your personal experiences may not be as disastrous, the point remains the same:
When your bad side starts outshining your good one, it’s time to free yourself from the toxic person’s influence.
11) You’ve lost yourself
Some people don’t bring out the worst side of you. Instead, they completely change you – to a point where you no longer recognize yourself.
Think about it:
Did you love dancing but stopped busting the moves because a friend told you you were “not that good?”
Did you have a big social circle that has now reduced to practically none because your partner isolated you from them?
Were you financially independent until recently when your family pressured you to dip into your savings to cover their financial mismanagements and needs?
I get it, It’s hard to break connections especially with friends and family. But hear me out:
It’s harder to recover when your inner self drifts away.
So if you find yourself sidelining your needs, blurring your boundaries, and losing touch with your true self, don’t just walk, run!
If someone constantly threatens your well-being or chips away at your peace of mind, it’s time they take their exit.
Call them what they are: toxic.
And do what needs to be done: step away.
No ifs, ands, or buts.