We've all heard that old saying, "You are what you eat." But what about, "You are what you surround yourself with?" In other words, the people we associate with have a big impact on our lives. And this is especially true when it comes to toxic people. Toxic people are those who regularly display actions and behaviors that hurt others or otherwise negatively impact the lives of the people around them.
So if you're wondering if you might be toxic, these are 7 signs that you might be toxic and the change in perspective that can help you grow.
1. You're perpetually sarcastic.
The clever retort that is usually underhanded and uncalled-for and a poor take at comedy is far more common than it should be. People usually use sarcasm to escape being persecuted for their hurtful comments, and often even construe it as a sign of their intellect.
It can often become one's default mode of interaction if they grew up in an environment where a lot of conversations began with "I told you so" or remarks designed to one-up another person.
Such a trait can look 'clever' from afar but when you are on the receiving end of it that becomes hurtful and if frequented leaves the people that are subjected to it with a bad taste in their mouth and feels like cloaked animosity.
The Fix: We all know how terrible it feels to be the target of such remarks, particularly once we're in an exceedingly vulnerable state. Thus before you open your mouth, ask yourself, "How would I feel if I were sharing one thing concerning my life or thoughts and somebody gave such an underhanded response?"
2. You approach conflict indirectly.
Conflicts are uncomfortable. We don't like to deal directly with complex situations, so we devise ways to get around them. But if we avoid difficult situations or conversations and internalize hostility and lash out with stubborn behavior and subtle insults, we fester the problem. No matter what the situation is it doesn’t warrant being passive-aggressive, which is hurtful and painful to us and the person that is on the receiving end of it, and it not only perpetuates the problem but also magnifies it.
The Fix: There can be no growth without discomfort, The ability to create a safe space for difficult conversation is why most relationships work well over a period of time. When faced with a troublesome situation the best thing you can do is journal different aspects of it and come up with friendly ways to bring it up without being more accusatory
For instance: "How can I say this in a helpful way?" or "I wish to have this difficult conversation, do you have the time and space for that right now?"
3. You use conflict to gain attention
You yearn for disaster because of the attention it gets. You fancy situations that bring attention to you and refuse to make changes in your own life that could lead to a transformation, and in the process of doing so put great pressure on your peers and family members.
The thing about craving situations that are toxic is that we perpetuate the vicious cycle long after the event has taken place and continue to seek comfort and advice without acting on them.
The fix: Leaning on our network in difficult times for help is a genuine sentiment,
However, when we find ourselves on a path where life has consistently been a deteriorating train wreck and where all of our conversations centered around getting this attention, it's time to get it together.
4. You deflect their truth and need to speak for themselves.
You highlight their flaws and categories of their trauma as tales of fantasy to avoid addressing the issue and in process alienate them even more.
Putting a rational filter on everything you simply ask them to change their mindset, effectively applying cognitive Photoshop to our "negative" emotions because these feelings are uncomfortable or socially unpalatable, and you are having a difficult time processing your emotions about them.
For example: You tell Priya how tardy she is constantly or How unproductive she can be, instead of realizing that she might be dealing with her depression and is trying to cope with her deteriorating mental health. This usually ends up pushing the person away and creates an unsafe environment, isn’t it?
The fix: When you master your emotions by sitting with them and taking your time to process them, you can create an inclusive environment around you where people feel comfortable in having conversations with you that are difficult.
You can present yourself to be more open by saying something like this - I've observed this change in you, and I'm right here for you in case you ever need to talk." Then give them the chance to reach out to you.
5. You try to correct everyone.
Some of us grew up in an environment where we were forced to take on adult responsibilities, in turn programming us to solve other people's problems. One thing that we begin to learn as we grow through our relationships is that we cannot help people if they don't want to make the change, no matter how much pressure we apply. This form of emotional labor creates distress and resentments within us.
The Fix: When we go through difficult situations and come out the other side, we naturally wish to depart that sacred knowledge onto others. This works when the other person is willing to receive and act upon that information. We cannot make those changes for them, people cannot be our projects, But what we can do is listen to them and offer help and that could look like asking them - I have a suggestion. Would you like to hear it? Or, “Do you want to talk about what bothers you?”
6. You always try to one-up the other person.
You try to compete on everything with your peers, When you try to connect with someone using empathy you try to resonate with their experience, but when you shift it to how you have had it worse you create a contest out of it.
In doing so we push them away, maybe even lessen the intensity or invalidate their experience of a traumatic event.
The Fix: To understand pain is pain, and that we all are not affected by the exact same event in the same manner, Some may have an overwhelming sense of doom to something from which we can easily recover or vice versa.
If we wish to empathize with them, we can be an active listener and usually ask ourselves
"What would I like someone to say to me on my behalf?" And then comfort them with those words.
7. You project your truth on everyone.
A spiritual author Paulo Coelho writes about: We believe that an extra person subscribing to our truth makes it more valid.
When we go through troubling times and come out the other side with a working solution, we tend to think of it as an absolute and then push it forward into our environmental existence, hoping that our dear ones can reap the benefits of this epiphany.
However, forcing our truths down some other person's throat feels just as uncomfortable and invasive. Moreover, simply because something's worked for you doesn't suggest it will work for somebody else. It simply means that the solution worked well for you, isn’t it?
The Fix: Remember that you cannot change people, and you can only love them, and forcing your epiphany or said solution to their life experience will only push them away.
What you can do in life is act in a way that when someone looks up to you and sees you leading by example and actions, those actions are positive and once they reach out to you for help you will be able to open up the conversation which can lead to incremental benefits in their life.
What makes people toxic?
We are fundamentally run on programs and nuances that we pick up from the people around us. More often than not these behaviors are learned from role models that are not in a functional space themselves, and sooner or later we find ourselves in a bad place in life, we get tired, and we see the world through a pessimistic lens. Snowballing our toxicity.
What we collectively remember is that having a bad chapter in our lives doesn't mean we're doomed forever.
Instead, recognizing the root and engaging in personal growth can help us find ourselves anew or create a new self that is stronger after integrating the wisdom of a difficult chapter in our lives. When you start detoxing, you should be mindful and be proud of your growth.
Just because we've had some toxic and harmful behaviors isn't a cause for shame. Rather, knowing that we've transcended them is actually cause for pride. Understanding our own traits helps develop empathy for why we do the things we do, builds our self-awareness, and helps us to become better as a person. Acknowledgment is the first step of that journey, and it goes a long way.