Identifying Toxicity

In all fairness, we do need to be certain of toxic dynamics before we take extreme measures. After all, we have all made our share of mistakes and bad judgments. More importantly, if there arises opposition (which resistance will), we need our convictions strong enough to stand. Though the line is usually grey and intensionally blurred, patterns do tell. Regardless of how convincing your arguments may or may not be to others, be convinced yourself.

Characteristics of Toxic Individuals

  1. No Reciprocity

There is no genuine give-and-take of healthy relationships. The benefit (however dressed up otherwise) is one-sided. And neither are the burdens fairly shared. Symptoms include forgotten promises, hypocrisy, stolen credit, demands, and unrealistic expectations.

2. No Empathy

There might be honeyed words, but they are not acted upon. There really is no genuine concern. You are left handling your own struggles on your own- and often even humiliated for it. Tell-tale signs include unhelpful criticism, indifference, manipulation, offensive/insulting comments, and a consistent lack of support.

3. No Personal Responsibility

Mature individuals understand that they are not flawless, that life is a series of lessons and we must grow by learning from them. Not so for the toxic individual. While they might admit to being wrong on occasion, nothing is done to correct either the behavior or the rift it has caused in the relationship. They really expect to have a free pass to behave however they please, and everyone who doesn’t accept that is wrong. Signs include blame, excuses, long justifications, no genuine apologies, double standards, negligence, whining, or creating distractions.

4. Inconsistency

In one sense, toxic people are the most consistent people there are because they will invariably side with their own best interest and see no need to change. It’s just that they dress their self-interest up in other garbs that makes them seem completely unreliable. There is no need to uphold a principle they don’t really have when it ceases to be of any benefit. A refusal to provide a needed home improvement may be dismissed as too expensive while equivalent funds are being frittered away on some needless hobby. It appears economy is a valued principle, when it only disguises control. So a boundary or ideal established at one time may or may not be upheld another. And this is chaos, because you never really know where you stand or what the true motivation is.

5. Abuse of Social Cues

Toxic people are often completely unresponsive to social cues, particularly on an individual basis. Your discomfort, hesitation, or even blatant hints may be completely ignored, dismissed- or worse, exploited. Yet toxic people freely pour out their social cues: their opinions and feelings command the scene. By dominating the emotional climate, they can more easily sway support to their own agenda. Warning signs are drama, attention seeking, domination, and avoidance of situations that they cannot use to their benefit.

But ultimately, toxicity must be determined by you. Like exposure to toxic fumes, the effect of exposure to toxic people varies somewhat from person to person. Those who have more distant contact, greater resistance/stamina, lower frequency of interaction, strong outside support, or less at stake may not even notice the poison. But if you are getting sick from it (even if no one else is), the relationship is toxic. Do as much as you can to get out and go somewhere where you can breathe!


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