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There are certain kinds of people we hate to have around us. Most notably, the kind prone to abusive and violent outbursts. However, not everyone bad for us gives out such loud and obvious signals.
In fact, certain traits make people likable to us when it’s in our best interests to stay away from them. Besides, sometimes even well-meaning friends can cause us much harm through unintended consequences of their actions.
The thing is, when we are with our friends, we feel comfortable enough to shed our inhibitions and let our guards down. And why not? Life would be miserable if we couldn’t be our true selves even in the company of our friends.
But that also makes us vulnerable.
So you must recognize early the kind of people who are deceptively dangerous and guard yourself against them. These are the people who can make your life miserable without your having the slightest idea of what’s going on.
So, here are the five red flags you must watch out for in people you hang out with.
They Don’t Have a Good Sense of Privacy
Most of us have certain aspects of our lives that we don’t share with anyone except those very close to us (sometimes not even with them).
But not everyone has that healthy sense of privacy. I have come across people who start sharing all sorts of inappropriate things even before we can call ourselves friends. Let me explain why this is a problem.
When people share more of their lives than you would expect, it makes you feel like you are special to them. It signals that they trust you. And because reciprocity is a human trait, you feel compelled to like and trust them. Soon enough, in the flow of the moment, you might share something with them, you would regret later.
And guess what? Because they don’t have a good sense of privacy, whatever you share with them gets put in the public domain.
So be very careful with people who share too much with you or others. Instead of assuming you have won their friendship and trust in a few meetings, consider the possibility of them having a loose tongue. It’s likely they do not have well-defined boundaries regarding what should or should not be revealed to others.
Remember, those who don’t value their own privacy cannot be expected to value yours. Also, don’t harbor any illusions that you can protect yourself by being careful about what you speak in front of them. It is usually not so easy.
You need to limit the time you spend with them. Lesser, the better.
They Flatter You, Constantly and Tirelessly
We all have an inherent need to feel recognized and appreciated. So, when someone compliments you, you feel delighted. You crave more. And guess what? Your dear friend never disappoints you. They never seem to get tired of showering you with praises. How can you not like them?
Well, you should be extremely careful. Friends are not devotees. And you are not a deity. When someone praises you a little too much a little too often, their appreciation is meaningless. But that’s not all. Excessive praise can be a sign of something sinister lurking beneath the surface.
“Jealous colleagues may give you excessive praise, but with sarcastic undertones. They know what you did was meaningful, so they offer insincere praise as a way of cutting you down.”
Needless to say, it cannot lead to anything good.
They Trash-Talk Others
Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of gossip now and then? But some people can’t get enough of it. They will have the juiciest bits of news and rumors concerning others and will take great pleasure in sharing everything with the rest of the world.
In their rulebook, everything’s fair as long as it makes for hot gossip. At times they would go as far as inventing stories about people.
The sad truth is, even those who are not like them often find them fun to be with — as long as the gossip doesn’t focus on someone they care about.
But what you must not forget is how people talk about others in their absence is a good indication of how they talk about you and your absence. Besides, if people perceive them as your friends, it only lends credibility to their scandalous words.
So unless you enjoy the risk of character assassination, don’t let these trash-talkers stay close to you.
To Your Surprise, Others Warn You Against Them
A few years ago, I had a friend who was great to hang out with. Others would often warn us (another friend of mine and me) that he was very different from what he looked like and that we would soon regret it if we didn’t keep our distance from him. But his awesomeness blew away all those warnings.
It was only after several months that we started to see how everything people said about him was true. He managed to get us into different kinds of trouble, and it took some effort to undo the damages.
The thing is, it’s not easy to judge people. In fact, it‘s awfully hard. So there’s a ton of value in learning from the experiences others have had with an individual. One person’s experience may not point in the right direction, but an aggregate of experiences is seldom wrong.
They Are Too Immature for Their Age
Immaturity can make people appear cute and funny. But it also makes them a huge liability for their friends.
While immature people can lighten the mood and make you laugh with their childish acts, they don’t always understand the consequences of their actions or the gravity of a situation. Plus, they don’t even have a good grip over their own emotions and actions.
As friends, they can easily put you in positions of embarrassment or trouble. Or both. Even if things don’t get as bad, their tantrums are enough to make them emotionally draining.
What to Do
Ideally, I would prefer not to have these people in my life at all. But we do not live in an ideal world, and at times, it may not be practical to avoid them altogether.
In such cases, the strategy I prefer (in addition to minimizing the time spent around them) is to be alert and set clear boundaries regarding what behavior you find acceptable.
For example, if you find them going overboard with praises, just let them know that while you appreciate that they recognize your efforts and skills, it makes you feel uncomfortable. As a reason, you could say, it undermines others’ contributions or that you find it embarrassing.
But be very precise in your communication. In trying to be polite, don’t be ambiguous. Send out a clear message that you won’t tolerate any violation of your boundaries.
I have seen people talk about other ways, too, but most of them involve reacting in certain ways every time people do something. As I see it, it’s just too exhausting. Why would you want to participate in unnecessary mind games?
In a Nutshell
People skills are among the most important skills to have. And a part of those skills is the ability to recognize the people who can be toxic to your well-being.
These five red flags will help you identify some of them so you can avoid them or at least take protective measures (like setting and communicating clear boundaries).
- They do not have a good sense of privacy.
- They shower you with insincere praise.
- They have an addiction to gossip.
- Others have had bad experiences with them.
- They are immature adults.