Master these two concepts to keep your life free of toxic relationships
Making friends, finding love, and building healthy relationships is a challenge in today's world. If you're anything like me, you've spent a good amount of your time making friends, falling in love, or perhaps even getting married, only to find out later that you were building a relationship with someone who was totally toxic.
How did this happen? You might wonder, as you're picking up the pieces of the property they destroyed.
"How did I let this person in my life?"
"What was I thinking?"
These are perfectly natural things to think and feel when we discover that someone who's toxic slipped past our radar, moving beyond our missile defense systems, and into our personal lives where we're more vulnerable to their manipulative ways.
Fortunately, there are ways to detect such people long before we get to this point.
1. Choose Your Friends Wisely
I hate to state the obvious, here, but when it comes to building healthy, loving relationships, it's essential that we choose our friends wisely.
"Consistency of behavior can be a clue in picking reliable friends. As a psychologist, I have been trained in the diagnostic assessment of people and their behavior. This often means that I have to assess a person’s integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness as part of a job application or security clearance. I’ve spent thousands of hours refining my skills, but the most powerful tool I ever learned was taught to me in a 5-minute conversation."
Safe to say, this guy knows what he's talking about when it comes to spotting toxic behaviors quickly. He's a psychologist and he treats patients for a living, people who likely have things to work on in life. Nobody goes and sees a psychologist because everything's fine.
He goes on to give us two questions we can ask that'll help us sum up someone's character when we're just getting to know them. Instead of making excuses for bad behavior or pretending it didn't happen, he suggests we ask ourselves these two things about the behavior in question, quote:
“Have they ever done this before?” The answer to this question will help you distinguish an honest mistake from an enduring pattern of behavior. Everyone makes mistakes. A mistake is what they did. Repeating the same behavior several times is no longer a “mistake,” it may be who they are.
Then ask, “What type of person behaves like that?” In other words: “What type of person does what that person just did?” The answer to this question gets to the core issue of whether this is the type of person you want as a friend, acquaintance, business partner, or even as a spouse!
Now that is a strategy for weeding out toxic people on your way to healthy relationships.
Choosing your friends wisely is the first step. The second step is paying attention to red flags.
2. Watch Out for Red Flags!
Red flags are everywhere when we encounter toxic people who aren't good for us. When someone demonstrates a willingness to ignore your feelings or some other type of bad behavior, pay attention. As the old adage goes, when someone tells you who they are, believe them. This is key for discovering the patterns of behavior that are toxic and will hurt our relationship later on.
Some red flags to look out for:
1. They build themselves up by putting other people down. If they can't feel good without the sense of superiority that comes along with putting you or someone else down, safe to say they've got nothing good going on in life. This is a useful red flag to pay attention to because they're likely to do it to you when you're not around.
2. They make you work to please them or make them happy. This is a big red flag. A lot of times, people want to make you work for their approval because they're testing your compliance in the relationship. They're weeding out people who will stand up to them so they can eventually surround themselves with people they'll push around. Once they do that, they can never be challenged, never feel wrong, and have relationships only with people they control.
3. You feel bad every time you're around them or right after they leave. This one is big. Pay attention to how the person makes you feel. Toxic people will turn their relationships into transactions instead of exchanges and they'll make you jump through hoops before giving you a reward. This isn't healthy for you or your relationship.
4. You always feel the need to defend yourself around them. Toxic people have a way of making you always have to defend yourself. If you find yourself having arguments with them in your head before you encounter them, or making up excuses for something you did or will do, safe to say, it's time to take a step back and ask yourself the two questions mentioned above.
5. They treat others badly in front of you. Toxic people love to make a spectacle out of everything they do. They love to make a big scene when they put people down, and when they do something good, they make sure everybody knows it. But healthy people are kind enough to pull someone aside and have a quiet, direct, assertive, one-on-one conversation with them so nobody can see that there's a problem. Keep your eyes on their social media feeds and their relationships with other people, if they're constantly attacking other people publicly, safe to say you've got a toxic person on your hands.
Red flags are important guides that can help us understand who we're dealing with when we know what to look out for. Sometimes they're behaviors, sometimes they're just gut feelings. In the end, you'll have to go with your gut.