Signs of Toxic People

There are people who we know who might be labeled toxic. How do you know if someone is toxic? How can you identify toxic behavior?

Toxic people have many traits in common. Most toxic behavior is designed to fill an emotional need. Toxic people have usually been through some type of trauma or neglect, and spend their energy trying to fill this seemingly insatiable need. Toxic people will manipulate people and situations to make themselves the focus of attention. If they do not receive the attention they so desperately need, the may become angry, sullen, or passive-aggressive.

Toxic people struggle to let others receive attention or accolades. This may be subtle or overt. They may take credit for a job well done or they may always have to have the last word or story.

Toxic people are usually controlling. They try to control every situation in order to steer the outcome in their favor, or make themselves look good. They fear giving control to another, knowing that their deep-rooted needs will not get met. They will use many different behaviors to control and manipulate a situation, even to the detriment of those that should come first, like their children, for instance. Toxic parents may manipulate their children so that they appear to be better parents than they really may be. Romans 16:17-18 says, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.”

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It is important to realize that toxic people do not want to resolve an argument. They feed off of drama. They maintain power by keeping you emotionally off balance. If you interact with someone who continually drains you without resolution, it may be that you are dealing with a toxic person. Proverbs 22:24-25 says, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.”

What is the best way to handle toxic people? Establishing healthy boundaries with toxic people is crucial. Boundaries let others know what is expected and what behaviors will not be tolerated. Toxic people will have difficulty with boundaries, and most likely they will not respect them at first.  If a toxic person will not respect your boundaries, it may be that you need to cut all ties with them. Once they respect your boundaries, they can be allowed to interact with you again.