How to identify toxic people

Joyce woke up to a loud banging on her front door.  She looked at her phone – it was 5 am.  As she made her way to the door, she knew exactly who was knocking on her door at that ungodly hour.

“Who is it?”

“It’s me…… open up!”

As soon as she opened the door her friend Emily budged in, whizzed past her to the kitchen, put the kettle on as she mumbled on about yet another crisis, Then it happened.

“Get out!” Joyce yelled with such ferocity it scared them both.

“What?” Emily asked bewildered.

With a calmness she never knew she had, Joyce said… “get out of my house and out of my life. I’ve just about had enough…”

Joyce had an epiphany.  In the 20 years, she’d known and loved Emily, their relationship was very much one-sided.  Emily just took.  And in the instant Joyce threw her out, it was like a sack of potatoes had been lifted off her shoulders.  She felt like she was breathing for the first time in years.  Theirs was not a mutually beneficial relationship.  Had she knocked on Emily’s door at 6, she’d never hear the end of it.

Types of people

We all know and have encountered different kinds of people. We all have at least one person in our lives who have us bending backwards to please them.  These people come in all shapes, sizes and relations – family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances.  Psychologists tell us people can basically be divided into 5 types link based on personality, but life experiences tell us there’s always that group who are like spawns of the devil.

As a person journeys through self-development, he or she realises there are people in his or her life that adds no value or takes quality out of their life.  Other people go through life without differentiating toxic people from non-toxic people in their lives.  However toxic people are not necessarily the ones that abuse or mistreat you.  The worst kinds of toxic people are the ones hiding in plain sight. Sometimes it takes years of self-discovery and self-development to identify these people or what to do about them.

The critic

Imagine you arrive half an hour late to a scheduled dinner with a friend.  Obviously your friend is angry and unhappy because you kept them waiting.  For the critic, instead of asking why you were late, they’d go on the attack.  They judge and criticise you for being late without any consideration that several things could have caused your lateness.  They might spend a considerable amount of time digging up instances where you caused something because of lateness.  They will criticise your character and not the action. 

A critic brings a lot of toxicity in a relationship.  In the above example, you are already feeling guilty for being late, but your friend’s constant criticism extends to your appearance and thought processes.  Instead of talking and making suggestions to habits they don’t like about you, they berate you and make you feel bad for every indiscretion.  The only good critic is one with timely constructive criticism.

The passive aggressor

With this person, you are always walking on eggshells whenever you are with them.  When their compliments are not backhanded, they are laced with sarcasm.

Imagine a scenario where you think you’ve upset a friend and are unsure why or what.  As a good friend, you decide to ask them what it is you’ve done to avoid it in the future.  Instead, your friend replies in a flat tone… “I am fine”, or “I’m not mad” when it’s clear they are.  Your brain goes into overdrive trying to figure out what you did or what to do to make them feel better. 

Her mood dictates the conversation irrespective of yours.  Of course, they never actually ask this of you, they just show it or make you feel it.  Passive aggressors are master manipulators.

If a person can’t be direct and honest with you, or when they talk in parables, sends mixed signals, acts like everything is fine when everything around you says otherwise then that person is a passive aggressor.  What value do they add to your life? 

The narcissist

This is the person who acts and talks like she is God’s gift to mankind.  She thinks she knows everything and everyone and it’s not afraid to say so.  If she’s a mother, for example, she believes and tells anyone and everyone that she’s the best mother unlike so and so because no one can measure up to her.  This type of person has the tendency to look down on people. 

With a narcissist, you never agree to disagree because they always have to win.  They lack insight.  They lack empathy and want to be the centre of attention on everything – at other people’s weddings and even funerals – they will find something to make the occasion become about them.  They possess an inflated sense of importance.

If you have anyone like this it’s best to let them go because when they realise you are on to them they are not beyond destroying you, so they end up on top of that situation too.

The stonewaller

This type of person will never tell you anything personal about them especially if it’s good news.  The only time they talk openly is when they can mirror your bad news. When you tell them how shit your life is, they’ll invent a story to share on how shit their life is.  The problem with this is that they revel in your misery.  They exaggerate their woes because they enjoy knowing you think you are in the same boat as them – these people double up as pessimists.


On rare occasions and certainly not unheard of, you might find one person who is all the above and more, e.g. a person who says, “I apologise if I ….” instead of saying, “I am sorry for….”

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