In order to stay away from toxic people, you have to be able to spot them. You have to be able to distinguish them from normal, healthy types. Another skill is to know when you do not know, to be able to recognise that you are not sure if somebody is toxic or not. Giving somebody the benefit of the doubt can be a disaster.
To stay away from toxic people it's useful to have a checklist that you use when you meet new people so that you have some way to measure their character or traits. Obviously, there's no actual measure for character but what we can look at are behaviours. By behaviours I mean what people say and what they do.
Having a list of such behaviours allows you to quickly assess whether somebody fits into the category of toxic or not. In this way you can decide whether you want to commit to some kind of relationship with them and to what level.
So what are these behaviors?
Is your very, very first impression of this new person that there is something off, but you cannot quite put your finger on it? Or do you even feel disgust, revulsion? Many people report such an initial feeling, but then when the manipulator starts to talk, everything changes.
Does this new person seem to talk non-stop?
Are they always talking about themselves?
If the topic veers off onto something else, do they bring it back to themselves?
Do they talk so much it's difficult for you to find an opening to start talking?
If somebody tells a story about some topic, do they have a better story about it?
If somebody in the group talks about having met somebody important, does this new person have a story about having met somebody even more famous?
When you listen to their stories do you have a sense that they are exaggerating or that the story isn't actually true, but everybody is too polite to actually call them out on it? Instead, people just nod and smile politely?
Does this new person turn all their attention on you, even to point of it being somewhat uncomfortable?
Do they ask lots of questions about you, without giving information away about themselves?
Do they want to know your deepest desires in the first or second meeting?
Do they flatter you? Flattery is excessive or insincere praise. In other words, they say things you know are not true but it makes you feel good anyway, or they say things about you that they couldn't possibly know about you but it still makes you feel good.
Do they make you feel special, unique, different?
Are they offering you exactly what you need in this moment?
Is this person asking you to make a decision where they are providing you with only two choices?
Are they putting a time limit on this decision?
Do they seem to have loads of things in common with you? They like the same things, they are interested in the same subjects, and so on? But if you push them for details you realize that their knowledge of such things is very superficial?
Have you heard horror stories about this person, but now that you've met them this person seems too nice for the stories to be true?
Do some people rant and rave about how nice this person is while others despise them or hate their guts? This polarity around toxic people is very common.
Do they have very few true friends? Which is why they will have loads of time to dedicate to you from the very start...
Do they seem too good to be true? If so, be very careful. If more people paid attention to this one, less would be caught in abusive relationships.
Are other people, your friends and family, for example, warning you against this new person in your life? The rules is that you never, ever, go against the people who care for you when they are warning you about a potential manipulator in your life. It is much easier for outsiders to see abusers than it is for the victim.
This list is not exhaustive, but if you recognize many of these things in someone you are meeting for the first time, or indeed, in someone who has newly come into your life, then chances are that you are dealing with a toxic person and you would be well advised to stay away.
What if you are already involved with a toxic person? Here are some ideas for getting rid of toxic people.
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