Writing by Abby Siegel // Photograph by Sophie Charlotte
I’ve dealt with toxic people all of my life and so have most people (if you haven’t you are a blessed individual). They come in many forms, in the guises of familiar family members, friends, schoolmates, coworkers, and the like. The biggest challenge for me has been learning how to take care of myself when dealing with these types of people. At age twenty-three, I am still learning.
So who exactly are these “toxic people”? I like to think there are a few different types:
- The “Negative Nancy”: this person finds a way to suck all of the joy out of the atmosphere. You’ll find them complaining about everything, making negative comments about everything that they find just a tad irritating, making negative comments about things they know you like, not being able to name one positive thing, being cynical…some might call this person a curmudgeon.
- The Manipulator: this person will constantly manipulate you in order to get their way, or to make you think a certain way. They will use emotions to gain someone’s sympathy or pity, or even to displace blame or anger.
- The Chaos-creator: this person lives to create chaos and misery. Think, an angry customer who demands to see the manager when something doesn’t go their way (usually at their own fault).
- Racists, misogynists, and homophobes (and all variations thereof): no further explanation necessary.
- The Competitor: this person will always try to be the best, no matter what. This may include being a sore loser, trying to know more than you do, or even trying to be a bigger fan of something than you are.
- The Condescender: this person will often try to make you feel small or stupid. This may include making you feel dumb for not knowing something, or making you feel stupid for liking something that they think is bad or dumb.
And the list goes on.
Some may tell you that you should feel sorry for these people, because the way they are is sad. And the truth is, it is sad, and you should have empathy for others. But you should not make yourself uncomfortable in trying to accommodate them. Instead, if it feels right, be honest with them about their behavior—that way you get it off your chest, and help make them aware of how their behavior affects others.
And here’s the real kicker: we have all been one of these people at some point in our lives to somebody else. So the advice I give is this:
Observe and learn from others. You can learn what not to do from other people as much as you can learn from your role models. Check yourself to make sure you are being kind and respectful to those around you. It took me a long time to realize how I acted and it was ultimately seeing others act the same way that woke me up. The more I observed and interacted with these people, the less I acted the same way, the more I could take criticisms about my own behavior, and the more easily I could set my boundaries with others in the future.[share]