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5 Ways To Identify Toxic People (And Questions To Ask Yourself)

One of life’s greatest challenges is dealing with toxic people. You know the type: draining, non-supportive, and/or difficult people that often bring you down. Toxic people tend to be passive-aggressive, rude, unfair, and their negativity runs the risk of breeding negativity in your own life. Whether you’re dealing with a toxic workplace, toxic friendships, toxic family members, or even a toxic romantic relationship, you need to make some changes in your life, stat.

Where do you begin? Start by identifying the toxicity. Figure out where it’s coming from (more specifically, who) and try making changes to end the toxicity. If you’re living in an unhealthy, negative relationship, it might be time to end it and move on. Are your friendships are causing you more stress than relief? You may need to terminate them. If your job and/or employer is soiling your career goals, it could be necessary to find a new job.

Whichever situation you’re in, here are ways to identify toxic people in your life:

1. They are endlessly critical and judgmental.

Dealing with people who do nothing except complain, gossip, and judge everything around them is a sure sign of toxicity. You don’t need that negativity, whether it’s at work, home, or in your social life. Life is so short! Why hang around people who critique every little thing, especially if you don’t have to? Find yourself a circle of friends and peers who spread positivity, not judgment.

2. You feel worse after seeing them.

A sure sign of a toxic person in your life is when you feel worse after seeing that person. If you are 100% happy and content with yourself and then feel awful after seeing that person, they’re no doubt a toxic influence in your life. It’s not always as simple as ditching this toxic person or people. Family is family, so perhaps you are kind of “stuck with” the toxic people. But, you can certainly reduce the amount of time you spend with a toxic relative (or completely remove that person from your life, if possible and necessary). Same goes for a toxic boss, colleague, friend, or beau. If you can, get rid of that negativity!

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3. You feel like you have to defend yourself to them.

How aggravating and draining is it to have to prove yourself to others? It’s exhausting! It’s one thing when your grandma innocently nags you to get married or start a family when you see her over the holidays, but it is completely different and toxic when you feel like you have to defend your choices and life path to the people around you on a regular basis.

It is your life. No one can make these choices for you. What you elect to do for a career, who you choose to be with romantically, what you believe in, and how you want to spend your time are all choices you need to make on your own. Don’t defend your choices to toxic people. Live your life on your own terms!

4. You dread seeing them.

Come on! If you dread seeing a certain person or group of people, chances are they are toxic. Don’t volunteer to spend time with people who bring you down. Be honest if your friends are downers. Speak candidly if your relatives bring you more agony than joy. As hard as it is, speaking up and advocating for your own happiness is the only way you can get rid of the toxicity. If you dread seeing someone, it’s time to move on!

5. They are manipulative.

If there are people in your life manipulating you for their own benefit, it’s a situation that has the word “toxic” written all over it. Friendship is not about bargaining for one’s own gains. Relationships are not about accomplishing one’s own goals. Whether it’s a relative, a friend, or a partner, it’s a two-way street.

You can give, but you also need to get in return. Relationships are about working together on a common goal and being equals. Short of a rude boss (who maybe you should quit working for), the people in your life should not be asking you to do things for them for their own benefit. Manipulation is not okay; it’s toxic. Stop it, if you can.

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Do you have toxic people in your life? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are the people around me judgmental?
  • Do I dread spending time with these people?
  • Do I feel drained after seeing these people?
  • Am I in manipulative friendships?
  • Is my partner endlessly negative and critical?
  • Do these people bring drama into my life?
  • Do I have to constantly defend myself to these people?
  • Is my employer causing me to question my career due to poor treatment?
  • Am I unhappy, depressed, and/or uninspired as a consequence of talking to these people?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’ve found yourself in a toxic situation. There are many types of toxic people. If you can get these types of people out of your life (or at least engage with them less often) you’ll be golden.

About the Author

Rachael Warren (Tulipano)

Rachael is a University of Southern Maine graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a minor in Sociology. She remotely works full-time as a Senior Content Marketing Specialist for Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. In her leisure time, Rachael enjoys traveling with her husband, finding the next Netflix series to binge, and taking too many photos of her dogs Jax and Kai. Rachael is obsessed with chapstick, favors the Oxford comma, and is a proud Mainer. You'll likely find her exploring New England + beyond.