You’ve probably heard of the phrase toxic person, and are aware at least of the importance of not surrounding yourself with this type of person. Particularly, if you consider:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” ~ Jim Rohn
And one of those five is either someone you’re living or work closely with and has a toxic personality.
The dictionary definition of toxic is a poisonous substance with the synonyms: dangerous, unsafe, harmful, destructive and even malignant (with connotations of evil, or hateful).
If we apply this to the term toxic person we might consider this to be a person who is dangerous, harmful or destructive to us as an individual.
The Urban Dictionary gives a rather nice definition of a Toxic Person as being:
“Used to describe a person who is tainted by a subconscious malevolence or psychosis that affects the lives of those who come into contact with them.”
But we’d probably put it less strongly than subconscious malevolence or psychosis and describe it as behaviour which drains you – the receiver of this toxic behaviour – of energy and life.
A person causing social tension or indeed unpleasantness, might be described as having a toxic personality, for example.
It is of course important to separate the behaviour from the person. It’s not the person in their entirety who is toxic, rather it is their behaviour which is toxic.
And it’s also worth pointing out, it is your response to their behaviour, i.e. the power you are giving that behaviour in your mind that determines whether or not they are toxic to you.
Not such a comfortable thought!
Perhaps of more comfort then is the fact that you always have the power to choose your thoughts and responses to that behaviour however difficult that may seem. And it’s important to recognise that both the person displaying the behaviour and the person who might be on the receiving end – both play a part or a role in the toxic interactions. So if you feel you are on the receiving end, it is equally necessary to consider your own personal role as well.
Toxicity – a great word isn’t it?
“The degree to which a substance (or person in this case) can damage an organism (or in this instance another person) as well as the effect on the substructure” – Wikipedia
(Note, our additions are in brackets)
In that definition, the actual word refers to the effect on the whole organism, such as a person, as well as the substructure of the organism.
We even hear that effect on part of us in the language people sometimes use to describe toxic behaviour, saying things like:
“His behaviour does my head in!”
And we know that having a toxic person around can have quite an effect on a group of people. Within an organization, like the workplace, for example.
And maybe the toxicity of the individual relates to the amount of contact, or degree of proximity or closeness you have to that toxic person. Or the amount of credence, you give to that person’s behaviour.
It is quite incredible, how one person can affect so many others around them.
Why do toxic people behave in this way?
Often the person has been deeply hurt or is suffering themselves, and on some level are unable to take responsibility for that hurt and suffering and the subsequent problems that causes in their life. So they may typically project their behaviour onto others.
Here it’s useful to separate the behaviour of the toxic person from the behaviour you find yourself enacting when you’re dealing with it.
Typically, the toxic person will exhibit some or all of the following characteristics.
So, we’ve looked at the toxic behaviour of the so called ‘toxic person’
This could be characterised in the following ways or behaviours:
Tell-tale signs include:
Episode 85 of The Changeability Podcast
Hear Kathryn and Julian discuss how to recognise toxic people and relationships and their own experiences in the latest episode of The Changeability Podcast.
And next week…
We’ll discuss the tricky task of ‘How to deal with toxic people and relationships.’
But in the meantime let us know if you recognise these behaviours where you are. We’d love to read or hear your comments below.
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