Toxic people are sneaky. They smoothly insinuate their way into your life, and before you know it, they're stealthily spreading their poison. In college, I had a "friend" who stole my favorite red formal dress right before she dropped out of school, and then I found out she slept with my boyfriend. I didn't see any of that coming. Everyone has had a relationship with a bullying coworker, a passive aggressive frenemy, or a self-absorbed significant other that has left them wondering, "What the hell did I see in this person in the first place? How did this thoroughly unpleasant person become part of my life?"
More often than not, it's because they looked good. My terrible friend was a cute, perky little blonde with a sharp tongue and a seemingly endless supply of great weed. She was a blast. The toxic person in your life probably came oozing charm, gift-wrapped in a pretty little package which you happily accepted. In her new book Red Flags: How to Spot Frenemies, Underminers, and Toxic People in Your Life, author Wendy L. Patrick, a career prosecutor who has worked on trials ranging from first-degree murder to human trafficking, draws on 20 years of experience to help readers detect toxic "people who do not look dangerous and make you feel good." These are the people who slip into your life smooth as buttah, only to wreak havoc, leaving you feeling manipulated, brokenhearted, or exploited.
With the help of Patrick's insight and advice, the plan is to kick these poisonous parasites to the curb before they can inflict serious emotional, physical, or mental damage. As Patrick writes, "When you are able to separate the dangerous from the desirable, you will be better able to protect yourself ... and enhance relationships in every aspect of your life." Read on for a list of truly toxic people that you need to get rid of ASAP. Your future self will thank you.
The Navel-Gazing Narcissist
If your significant other or best friend spends all their time contemplating their own perfection, it leaves no time for you. And although it's hard to believe, narcissists are difficult to spot at first (possibly because you're blinded by their beauty). "In addition to playing up their physical appearance, narcissists also exhibit attractive facial expressions, verbal humor, and confident body movements — all of which enhance their appearance and perceived status," Patrick writes. We're biologically wired to want these people, but that doesn't mean we can't rise above our baser instincts. The people who love you should focus their attention on you, not their own reflections.
The Over-Familiar Frenemy
Fake bitches are just the worst. The problem is that you sometimes don't realize how shallow and manipulative they are until they've gotten what they've wanted and left you high and dry. Case in point, my college "friend" above. As Patrick insightfully writes, frenemies "make great companions. They charm and beguile you as they take from you what they want." Her advice is to examine the focus of the friendship, taking great care to notice whether this particular person is "only complimentary and affirming when they have something to gain." The only thing your real friends want from you is a little time and attention. Anybody else needs to be kicked to the curb immediately.
The Cyber Stalker
The amount of personal information we share on the Internet is terrifying. Most people don't safeguard it like they should, because we all secretly love it when a Facebook post gets a zillion likes. People like Patrick "worry about the predators lurking in cyberspace, looking for provocative screen names and exhibitionist selfies, searching for victims to target." Hearing how amazing you look in your vacation pics is great, but beware overly admiring followers, friends, and contacts. As Patrick points out, there's no way to know if the person who has viewed your profile 50 times in the last day “is on the other side of the world or in the cubicle next to you in the office.” Do not sacrifice your safety for Internet popularity.
The Professional Bully
A bully can show up in any area of your life — in the form of a domineering coworker, an overly aggressive partner, or a bossy best friend. At first it can feel good to have an intimidator on your side. But as Patrick points out, "Expecting someone who is overly aggressive in one situation to be gentle with you is wishful thinking. Bullies are equal opportunity offenders." Meaning that if a partner or friend is super aggressive with the wait staff, while driving, and at work, eventually they're going to turn that nasty behavior on you. Don't wait around for it. You don't need any dictators in your life, so ditch the dominators.
There's something inherently seductive about a mysterious person. For a while, trying to figure out what fuels their mood swings and secretive behavior can be intriguing. But as Patrick writes, "Secrets are relationship saboteurs. It is hard to read people who deliberately keep you in the dark about certain aspects of their lives." If someone is habitually evasive and withholding, eventually you're going to believe they're hiding something dark and terrible. And you may just be right. Let the enigmas go on their mysterious way and focus on the people who reciprocate your honesty and openness.
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