How to Deal With Toxic People

We’ve all met them: they are the people who drain you of energy instead of enriching you, the people who pull you down instead of pushing you up, the people who require more then they can provide; the negative, wining, needy, manipulative people who can turn a happy day into a living hell.

I call them toxic people. One thing I notice is that no matter how good our people skills are in general, most of us have problems with dealing effectively with this kind of people. Even those with really sharp people skills often get caught up in the polluting relationships (personal or professional) toxic people create.

The good news is that there are effective ways to deal with toxic people. Working as a communication coach, I came to realize there are certain patterns of behavior and communication which work really well with this kind of persons. Here are the most significant of them:

1. Avoid toxic people

I believe the best way to deal with toxic people is to not deal with them at all; to avoid them. In some cases it may not be an option, but more often than not, it is. This is why I encourage you to really think about the options you truly have with every toxic person in your life.

It is common to think you have to deal with someone, when you actually do not. It is also common to believe you can get a toxic person to change while interacting with them. My experience is that unless you are a professional, you will not get them to change and trying it simply is not worth it.

2. Anticipate toxic people

It is harder than usual to get out of relationships with a toxic person. Toxic people tend to have this ability to make you feel bad for avoiding them and to attach to you like a leech. This is why it’s important to be able to spot them quickly, and start avoiding them before the relationship truly develops.

The best way I know to do this is to come up with a list of clues which you believe might indicate a toxic person. Then, every time you meet a person and a significant number of these clues are there, distance yourself from that person.

3. Set firm boundaries

Toxic people will often use you, one way or another. The may complain to you all the time while you listen hopelessly (?), or they may constantly get you to get them out of trouble. This is where boundaries come in. Boundaries are reflections of what you are and are not willing to do.

Setting firm boundaries means not allowing toxic people to use you in any of these ways. It means refusing to listen to them complain, refusing to get them out of trouble. When you have firm boundaries, there is basically nothing bad any person can do to you.

4. Get over your guilt

Most toxic people are very skilled at making others feel guilty when they don’t do what they want. This makes it particularly hard to set and maintain firm boundaries with them. But, there is a way out of this dilemma: getting rid of your guilt. It is your own guilt which toxic people use to break down your boundaries.

When you can set and maintain boundaries with them without feeling guilty, the weapon they have against you is gone. Realize that your guilt is irrational, pointless, and it is used against you by toxic people. This is the best way to get over it.

5. Do not defend yourself

When you avoid toxic people and you set boundaries with them, they frequently resort to accusing you, complaining and playing the victim in an attempt to get you to change your behavior.

One of the worst things you can do when this happens is to defend yourself. It is usually a futile action and it only keeps an immature dialog going which eventually helps the toxic person get what they want. You won’t get anywhere with them by defending yourself and your actions.

Unfortunately, toxic people are everywhere. And they tend to attach themselves to those persons who are kind and have the most to offer. When you have the people skills to deal effectively with toxic people, you have the option to respond to their attaching in the best ways for you.

As for helping toxic people change their ways, I encourage you to leave/pass this task to the professionals in this area.

PS: I now blog and share advice over here. Connect with me.

Image courtesy of Jesse Drapper


  1. I find the key is to always focus on objectives and effectiveness as a way to bring things back to a meaningful focus.

    • Sir, I love the way you think. That’s my essential rule for dealing with toxic people: ignore everything else and focus on the practical goal.

  2. These days,number 1 is my favorite option. Avoid them! I’ve rid myself of the toxic people in my life and I have no regrets. Of course there are still toxic people that I have to deal with in the workplace, but their impact on me is minimal since I go home at the end of each day & forget about them.

    • Mine 2 Nea,

      I know it may seem cruel or selfish, but avoiding toxic people is really the best thing you can do for yourself. And often, for hem as well.

    • As much as it sux, I have found myself having to rid of a few toxic friends. Makes no difference how long you’ve ‘hung out’. Toxicity maneuvers over time, and if that person chooses that path, they leave you with little choice. And the times they could care less. Life is all about THEM. They transition from “victim” or ‘normal person’ to a manipulator and selfish / cruel. Just stay away.

  3. You said it before I could. Just avoid them. Avoid those people who bring nothing but bad karma. Stay around positive progressive folks who are about something. It about begin uplifted and encouraged. If your friends aren’t doing those things. Guess what? Change your friends.

    Because the downfall of any man or great woman in history, was not his inability to think for himself, No that wasn’t it. It was his inability to pick and choose the right people to surround him self with…Just look at Caesar and Brutus.. case closed.

    • Well said Jonathan,

      It’s hard to do something great with your life when you have toxic people in it pulling you down. This is one of the essential reasons why I think it’s better to dump them rather than try and save them.

    • It’s truly sad that some people choose to be this way, but unfortunately, the “toxic” person appears in all aspects of life — school, work, friendships, even relationships. While it is most helpful to avoid this person as not to depress and anger yourself, what’s to be done when this simply isn’t an option?

      Boundaries, like you said, are a great place to start. This way, their toxicity has as much effect on you as you allow them to!

  4. The best way to deal with toxic people is of course to avoid them as much as you can.

    This may not always be possible though, it is conceivable that you may have personal ties to a toxic person through close ties (old friend/family)for these situations I think #3 is a great hint. Keeping a certain distance. Let them know you care, but that you are not about to be drawn into thier world of negativity and toxicity.

    • Hi Steve,

      This concept of ties with a person is interesting. Say a person is an old friend or family member: does that mean you have to deal with this person even if they are toxic? I think not. It’s important to distinguish between real ties and imaginary or self-imposed ones.

      • It’s tough with family, though. My sister has historically been very toxic (even since childhood). This past summer she did something that caused me to decide I needed to create some boundaries and really stick with them in order to protect myself. Her response…well, if you don’t do what she wants, she ices you out and will not speak to you. This is what she has always done and I don’t really know how to handle this.

        • My mother in law is very toxic and when she has a bad day she tends to come over and unload herself an when you don’t agree with her she starts to pick at you and your way of living and mothering your children…. Then when you explode she is the victim…..dealing with her will be a life long style for me…. I realize now that she gets off on really pissing me off . I just set some boundaries with her and my kids and it has taken over my days the mean and unnesecary coments that she has made. I would live to avoid her altogether but it’s impossible.

          • Mary, I have the same problem. I live about 40 mins from my mother in law and sister in law but they are always call my husband and tell him to do everything for them or spend money for them and go home or go to party with them without me. Anytime I go home to visit them my my husband they are always treat me less then a dog but the point is my husband is never accept that they are mean to me, pick on me and never feel happy with me eventhough I’m always kind to them buy present for them on their bd and holidays. This year, i’m pregnant and I told my husband that I have to stay away from them because I don’t want them to give them a chance to stress me and that will effect my baby too. I just bought a book from Barn and NOble that teach me 10 ways to deal with those toxic people. You can either ignore them, stay away from them or learn all the very mean sentence that you can say back to them make them feel bad or yell at them any time they toxic you. Or try to be humor turn it to be a funny thing when they pick on you or just keep laughing like what they said to you are nothing they would feel bad. Like what I said above, I’m avoiding to see my in law family but I know there are some special day that I can’t avoid so I’m learning all the mean sentences that the book teach me to said it back to them when I see them again. I think it will be hard at first but I won’t give up I will keep saying mean things to them like what they do to me. Good luck to you and us who have toxic people around that we can’t avoid. I’ve learn one thing from my experience that the more you step back the more people step foward and attack you and the more mean thing you are doing to them then the better life you will have. Can’t be a nice person to those people.

  5. Eduard, this is great advice. Unfortunately I only recently started on a path towards conscious living, and many of my previous friendships are somewhat toxic, to varying degrees. I live with one now, who is especially crazy, and I am learning to set boundaries with her and not feel guilty about it. Honestly, it’s really tough. Knowing that we were once close friends (and still are, though I doubt it will continue to be the same once I move out) also makes it tough. But I try to constantly remind myself that I’m a changing, evolving person, and she is still stuck in the same place. So it makes sense that personalities change and boundaries change.

    Having boundaries makes it INFINITELY easier to deal with – she at least respects my boundaries, which include my need for personal time and desire to pursue green activities. I have told her I can’t listen to her problems all day b/c they stress me out, and she has held off on spilling too much. I also told her I needed more support, that I felt she was critical and judgmental, and asked it out of friendship.

    So far she has not accused me of anything directly, but still desires a lot of attention. Another tactic I use, since we live together, is if she keeps talking without stop, I find a moment to just leave. Go make dinner, clean my room, work on my blog. If she annoys me, I recognize it and leave. And that has also helped tremendously.

    It does sadden me a little that I’ve grown much more to see that we cannot be the same friends we once were. But that is the past, and I am eager for a better future.

    Sorry this is so long, thank you for writing this.

  6. How am I supposed to avoid my toxic coworker? He’s not extremely toxic, just a little bit. It’s when he starts complaining about me that really ticks me off. And he’ll search for any reason to make it my fault. And sure, I could always do something better, but his assumptive reasoning and absolute refusal to listen to me once he jumps to conclusions, and then getting pissy at me if I object to this b.s., it just makes me really angry. I think I should take your advice of not defending myself. It’s utterly useless. But I still want to tell him to shut up. =/

    • The basic thing to apply is saying no. If this colleague asks you to go to lunch with him, say no. If your manager puts the two of you in the same team on a project, say you’d rather work with someone else. You won’t always be able to avoid him, but you will more often then one might expect.

      Of course, your colleague will eventually realize you’re avoiding him, which is something I believe it’s important to accept. You don’t need to be loved and cherished by everyone.

  7. Nahum Correa Ruvalcaba says:

    This Article, is true, very true.

    Dealing with this kinda people besides it is hopeless, it is a Total waste of energy and time, too.

    It’s unproductive.

    I had found with a coworker, i had, that being toxic it’s part of a manipulative behavior.

    So, the best thing you can do, that I didn’t do at that time is just simply: set a big boundary between me and that creepy guy with a huge Drama Queen Syndrome.

    Puff !!, if i had only found this homepage at the begging.. if only… if only… but, i think i learned something from that experience, I learned that work is work, and if poisonous emotions get between a relationship, it is time to set a big boundaries.

    And what’s more important… to be ready to not respond or not taking care of any complaint, since I’m recalling my right to not take care of other people, since they, supposedly are taking care of themselves.

    I’m recovering from a hard, nice guy syndrome, and reading quality stuff like this i now found great ways to live a great life without feeling any guilt …. because, im living it because i paid the price, so it is not my fault if the others neglect to pay it.

    Being aware of this kinda leeches isn’t easy but we must keep our guard up when we see the emotional warning our emotions bring to us in the presence of this nasty people.

  8. nice article!

    the question is, what to do when this toxic person is your business associate?
    it’s gotten to the point where I’m afraid that his lack of care and professionalism is going to hurt the business and drive the clients away.

    The thing that sucks the most, is that we used to be friends before starting in business together.

    It kinda sucks when someone with an obvious nice guy syndrome has to deal with something like this.


    • That’s one tricky spot to be in. My advice is set very firm boundaries with your business partner and divide your responsibilities so you deal one with the other as little as possible. Each one does what they’re good at and you interact mostly to fit the pieces together.

      In the long term, you may want to consider changing your business partner. I know it can be a hard move to make, but unless you want to die of a heart-attack at 44, it will probably be worth it.

      • thanks for the advice!

        this is mainly what I have been thinking about; I have already limited my interactions with him (including not work related). next step is to go solo, however, it seems that I have trouble getting over the ‘feeling guilty’ phase and I always give him one more chance to prove that I’m wrong (and he never does!)

        • I have just left a business partnership with a toxic partner who’d previously been an acquaintance. It was never right but when business went well, it was easy to overlook. And when business went downhill, it wasn’t. Guilt kept me in the relationship too long and I regret that wasted time. Trust your instinct and your observations.

  9. Wow, what a good article. #5 spoke to me in particular. I’ve just recently had a conversation with a friend who I’ve realised can be quite toxic. I’ve spent the days since wondering if I should have defended myself more against her paranoid accusations, but I’m kinda glad I didn’t. Thanks for sharing this article, it’s validated my decision somewhat. 🙂 I’ll sleep a little better tonight, I think.

    • Whoa, paranoid people! 🙂

      I’ve dealt with a few of them myself. At that point I tried to persuade them and make them see things from a rational perspective. Now I know better and I believe that defending yourself often only feeds their paranoia.

  10. Lafayette says:

    Wow, what a thoughtful piece. I’m impressed.

    I have less than five toxic people in my life at the moment and I managed to get rid three of them but the other two were almost impossible to get rid off. If I were to do it, 2012 will happen in a few days.
    What I did for those three is but cutting off the relations that I have with them completely. I just terminated any form of communication with them. I threw away their phone numbers and deleted them from my fb friends. If I happened to stumbled upon them, I just acted like I didn’t see them or worst made 360 degrees turned. I know it gave a vibe of cruelty but I just can’t help it.
    In those moments, I just waited for the right time for them to piss me off which was easy because it happened to me way too often. Then one day, I just simply walk away while they still whining and complaining. And I haven’t spoken a single to them until now.
    At first I felt guilty and afraid in case if I might need their help and favour in the future but I just stick with my guns. I just don’t care anymore. I just need to draw the line.
    Whenever they tried to have a chat with me I just completely ignored them as if they were not exist. During the meeting when they try to interrupt me to ask questions I paid no attention to them and just got on with my presentation. Every one around me, including my boss gave me a look on why I’m behaving like a jackass but I don’t care. as long as I do my job then I’m fine. They just don’t know the story with all the details.
    I don’t know how long will it last or maybe I will just give in and befriending those people agin.

    • “I just waited for the right time for them to piss me off which was easy because it happened to me way too often.” – that made me laugh 🙂

      Yeah toxic people do give us reasons to ditch them quite often. I think the sooner you do something when another treats you badly, the better it is.

  11. What a fantastic article. I’ve been studying for months on how to best do #3. I found a book called “The Intimacy Factor” to be extremely indispensable in the practicalities of setting boundaries.

  12. Diana D'Orazio says:

    This helped me so much. I have recently had to deal with people making unreasonable demands on me. Ironiccally they were still complaining and being nasty when being accomadated. Setting boundaries in a nice way brought out rage in these few toxic customers, however I will gladly release them from my services if they are still unsatisfied. I do have to work on not feeling guilty about it. Can you suggest any books on this subject?

    • Hi Diana,

      Oh yes, toxic people don’t like it when you set boundaries. But there’s not much they can do about it if you remain firm. Last time I checked, killing people was a crime 🙂

      • but you would still be dead…

        If a person was so toxic, so irrational, that their behaviour was past the point of bullying and into extreme agression, what do you do? If no specific threats are made, but there seems to be a real possiblity or harm, what options do you have?

        • Jesus, what are you doing still dealing with such a person in the first place? Get the hell out of there. Cut off contact, completely.

          • It is my in-laws. We have been refusing to take calls or visit, but they show up at our house, leave crazy notes… The more we limit contact, the worse they seem to get. Is it like when you try to get your kid to stop picking their nose in the sense that it WILL get worse for awhile, but eventually get better?

      • Toxic people, if they want to bother you, can interfere with your online presence, harass you at friends places, many harass ex girl-friends, spread rumours about you, do nasty things, lie about you to your boss, workmates, friends, relatives.

        They don’t like being told you don’t want them around, however politely.

        What does one do then?

  13. Great article, this is helping me deal with family members that are “trying” guilt tactics on me.


    • Ooooh, I’m glad it’s helping you Terri.

      • Hi there, I am dealing with one main toxic person in my life and it’s a biggie I’m afraid. She is my step-daughter..this is a newly blended family situation where it’s been about 5 months of living all together although we had about a year and a half being around each other previous to that time. We started out hitting it off beautifully but wow has it ever gone south! She is so jealous and resentful of me it’s crazy. She is one of the MOST toxic individuals I’ve ever met to be a teenager. She is all of 16, and unfortunately was raised as a child treated way too much like a small adult by her father because the mother was a horrible alcoholic and drug abuser. Not a parent at all, more of a child the kids were raised by nannies etc for the most part..father is a successful physician so money has never been an object therefore she has been tremendously spoiled as well. She lies and takes my things, gets very mouthy and sassy, refuses to listen and plays the poor pitiful victim to Daddy quite well. Please Help!!!!

        I am a very compassionate mom by nature although I have absolutely no issue with setting firm limits with children of any age but this is just nuts!
        My own daughters are 15 and 10…and this step daughter has a younger sister who is 14 just fyi..she is not as bad however neither of them are used to ever being corrected and constantly accuse me of being rude and blowing up when I can approach things as softly as possible it doesn’t matter!

  14. Sure, these are great steps to follow if you want to avoid “toxic” people. However… ignorance, greed, and apathy are some of the biggest problems in today’s society. Just something I thought was worth mentioning.

  15. These are great tips. I’m always amazed at how toxic people try to twist things around and blame, blame, blame. They try to lay the guilt on others and try to erode your very sense of who you are. This is a very unhealthy destructive dynamic and it’s best to flee from these unfortunate types. The average nice person often really can get quite emotionally beaten up dealing with the toxic’s guilt and shame inducing antics. Run from them…they can hurt you emotionally, spiritually, and physically by even making you sick. RUN!! They rarely change and most often need a professional to do so. The best thing people can do is avoid them which may cause them to hit rock bottom to finally get the help they need,

  16. Thanks for your sharing.
    I also think that the best ways to deal with toxic people are to avoid them as much as possible and set firm boudariesWE must ignore them and make us become useless before them.

  17. I know of a person who is living across the hall from me who is living with a woman who i have known for 20 years. Over the past three years i have associated myself with them both. The person who is living with her is whinny, complaining most of the time about something, has temper tantrums, is controlling, is manipulative, is dishonest and has called upon me when in need of help often. I can go on but i think you have enough to go on.

    Over the past three years i have worked with him doing painting jobs. In addition i have had to endure hes all of the above STUFF. On three occasions i have walked away from them for a short period of time due to feeling drained and exhausted. On a number of occasions i have felt depressed, stressed out, burned out and more. When i detach myself from them i find that my life gets grounded again and my energy levels start to rise again. When i have detached myself for a short period of time ( up to a month ) i think to myself that by then things will be different and that he has taken a look at himself and made some adjustments or changes in hes make up. Each time i reconnect i find that after spending time with him or both of them the same ole STUFF repeats itself.

    Looking at things presently i have been working at a plant he is an employee at. The company requested my services through a temp agency the plant goes through to hire people. I have worked there for the past two months. What has transpired while working there with HIM is more STUFF. We are painters and in order to get to work since no buses travel out that way, i have to obtain a ride there and back with him. Every night on the way to work i have to listen to hes STUFF and as well on the way back home. Due to the fact that we both work together we also take our breaks and lunches at the same time. In order not to offend him or create a situation where he will take personally, i am with him during the breaks and lunch period. Of course more of hes STUFF carries on during these breaks.

    On Friday June 10th everything built up to a climax and i blew my lid. People in the plant who were close by heard this outburst by me ( i am not happy about it to say the least). This outburst came about at the end of the work period, when once again he wanted what he wanted without looking at what i wanted. Everything has to be accepted in how he thinks there is no compromising at all when it comes to him. So this out burst continued when in the car leaving the plant and i let him have it. I know that yelling never solves anything but i also know what i had to say needed to be said. When i got home after an hour i went across the hall and i apologized to him for yelling.

    What i need input on is this: My contract with the temp agency the plant goes through, to obtain my services ended on June 11th ( the very next day i discovered when looking for the term form they provided me ). Looking at all that i have had to endure over the past two months, do i continue to work with him? or would it be best to walk away and seek other employment on my own? Looking at all i have shared what would be in my best interest? I know i can find work elsewhere since i am a professional painter with a unblemished work history as a painter.

    Your opinions or views would be interesting to read,

    Thank You, Wayne

  18. Wow that was exactly what I needed. The most hardest thing to accept is the toxic person in my life is my sister. Before reading this I didn’t have term for her other than “Bi***” or “evil”, now I know she is “toxic”. She loves taking jabs at me saying I could use sit ups or my butt is big (even though I weigh just 120lbs) and immediately tagging a picture of me on my FB wall in my bikini! When confronted she puts the guilt on me that I didn’t ask her nice enough to take it down. And on and on followed by insults to me and then shutting me out and removing me and my husband from her FB friends. This is a common scenario.

    I have always tried to defend myself and explain my behaviors (provoked by her) only to provoke her more. I always tend to be the kind hearted one in our family and it’s is a huge target for her. I always felt that by defending myself she would understand that she was hurtful. But as you stated it is pointless, especially since she is intentially manipulative and hurtful and already knows this.

    My question is when this type of behavior starts from her what should I say to her without totally ruining our family? That is if she starts talking to me again.

    • Tell her you are temporarily “disowning” her as your sister until she learns to behave like a “mature” adult.

    • I have gone through the exact same thing with 3 sisters, all very generous with the insults about my weight, my home is too small, my car is too old, my hairstyle or clothes are not in style, etc. When I distance myself, it has to be because I’m jealous of them, I’m a troublemaker with emotional problems, etc.. They never own what they do. One by one the all unfriended me on FB. I’ve decided to detach myself from all of them for good. In doing so, I have finally found the energy to go back to college, finish writing a novel I started ago, stop smoking, etc. You don’t realize how toxic family / people a stealing energy and joy from you. The best thing you can do is distance yourself, even if it’s just long enough to pull yourself together.

      • I can relate to your story. Thanks for posting it. It so true, the toxic people can in effect steal your energy that you could be using to building your life. Congratulations on your accomplishments!

  19. Great article, the problem is that the toxic person is my Mother. She’s dealing with a self-esteem issues and childhood abuse, along with physical pain from ailments. She is constantly complaining, arguing, pointing out the negatives, and in general is just really frustrating to be around for any length of time. I’ve nearly given up, but I know that’s not the right thing to do with my mom. I love her, and I try to show her the positives of situations and show her that every problem is just a situation seeking a solution… all to no avail. I’ve diminished my contact with her as much as I can for my own good- with a fair amount of guilt on my part. I love her very much, but I really am at an impasse as to where to go next. She has asked me to visit her counselor with her in the next couple of weeks, which I’m more than happy to do, as it may help repair the relationship. The problem is that I’m afraid to be 100% open because she does not take criticism in the least. How can I tell her that her son really wants nothing to do with her because of her negativity, self-absorption, and anger?

    • Hi David,

      My situation exactly, except that my mum is not seeing a counsillor, cos she reckons she doesn’t need one.

      I sympathise with you.


      • Daniel,

        I’m happy to report that my mother is now taking another step toward her own well being. She is now going to see a psychiatrist. Daniel, I can really understand how frustrated you would be if your mother won’t seek help. If I can, let me offer one piece of advice that helped me. I sought counseling myself. Through some advice and guidance, I was able to better cope with my mother. In addition, when I told her I was seeing a counselor, I explained that he would like to talk to her with regards to me. That helped put her more at ease, since it wasn’t “about her” so to speak. He then helped me guide her to the fact that she needed further help without seeming like we were ganging up on her or making her feel bad. I hope this helps. Best wishes to find your solution.


  20. nazneen says:

    This was an excellent article.I have big problem with my in-laws MIL..I dont know why she is so jealous of me…Actually I pity her spometimes coz she tells me of all her sufferings and all..But she is very negative esp about money…Nowadays ,I simply try to ignore her as much as possible but can u giv me some advice on how to ignore her snide remarks and insults especially when we live with her and my hus does not support me in the least

  21. Eduard,

    You have perfectly described one of the colleagues i have to work with (really have to). I will definitely use your advices!

  22. Jane Doe says:

    I unfortunately have become one of those people you would classify as toxic, basically as a result of a deep seeded inferiority complex. I’m so self destructive that it’s affected every aspect of my life. I don’t have the money to get professional help so I’ve been trying to find help online, but all I find are articles on how to avoid toxic people NOT how to overcome toxic behavior. Do you have any suggestions for those of us who would like to overcome toxic behavior without insurance?

    • Jane Doe, you should get the book “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle and especially pay attention to the chapters about “the pain body.” He gives a lot of good info about how to dissolve it and connect with your Higher Self.

  23. Let’s not forget about relationships that are strained when a toxic teen lives under the same roof. My boyfriends daughter and I seem to be diametrically opposed. She is an expert at the art of covert abuse, also known as passive aggressive behavior. It’s as though she requires that there is dissensions in our lives. She lies when convenient for her, she blames me or her dad or worse, her grandparents. She mumbles under her breath just loud enough so choice words are heard. The hard part of it all is that I do love her dad so much, but when she is home my heartrate goes up, I get anxiety and feel as if I cannot be myself, and unfortunately I spend most of the time trying to avoid her. On rare occasions our coexistence can actually be delightful. But its more grief because this is no way to live. Contributing to her issues, her mom moved away when she was only four years old. While her dad is at work she stays with her maternal grandparents. This time is my reprieve. I would love for things to be better between us, because I don’t like entertaining the thought of leaving.

  24. I just shed myself of two of these types of people recently. Boy, they really DO have it down to an art–the making you look like a bad guy thing. I felt guilty for awhile after dumping these people but reading this really made me realize…I was being so taken advantage of it was nuts. Weird thing is, I even saw zillions of red flags pop up early on in the relationships with these people. This is a really good read–everyone should read this and heed the advice, and pay attention to those red flags!!

  25. Hi, so glad I found this site… I have a toxic colleague who leeched on to me when I first started working there about a year and a half ago… following a meeting last week she took something the wrong way, started swearing and being nasty.. ever since she has been gossiping, sucking up to other colleagues although thankfully, my boss sees through her. She always has some big drama going on, bitches about the boss and gets defensive if people try to make suggestions to help her. She now has a vendetta against me and mopes about with a face like a slapped bum wanting people to feel sorry for her… she makes out I’m bad because I don’t want to talk to her, after how she has acted I wouldn’t want to but I am perfectly civil in work… I just don’t want to get sucked into her soap operas. I just hope she drops herself in it and gets fired!

  26. Okay, so I am sitting here at work, completely and totally listless and like a sappy, wet, overcooked spaghetti. I have two co-workers that are completely toxic. One is the office secretary and thankfully I was able to get away from the other. Ive been nothing but nice to this woman since Ive started on last year. I am the kind of person who comes in, says goodmorning and if you dont look for me, you wont find me in the halls, or kitchen etc. I stay to myself and eat at my desk and do my work. If I have to get up i will smile at you in passing. If i pass you 50x I will smile 50x. I like light conversations. As is appropriate. Anyway, long story short… this miserable secretary is like the mean girl at school. Short hair, short in height …always making faces, never is direct with any comment, but always talking about you to them or them to you. I caught her on the phone talking about me and I confronted her. Told her she was very classic and i walked away. But now every time i hear her voice i feel tired. I want to sleep and i just feel like she is talking about me all of the time now. I dontknow what to do.

  27. What if That Toxic person is your Boss?

  28. Wow Eduard, this is a great article. Thank you! I was beginning to wonder how to distinguish between helping others and picking up the slack for others. I love the term toxic people…I was also beginning to wonder about myself, thinking that maybe I was being selfish or just a bad friend, but the more I think about it,…I realize the older I get, I am able to spot one taking advantage, or just pulling me down & I just don’t have the tolerance I once had for it. I love my family and taking care of my husband and daughter. They are my first priority and it’s what brings me joy & within the past year, those toxic people, “friends”, have really begun to weed into my life, really pulling me down. Many I have made aquaintances with or friends with the past few years have begun to depend on me so much. A friend that I have been friends with since Elementary school also, I find myself avoiding for toxic reasons & I have had so much guilt over that, but I loved what one person said in their comment is that things change and boudaries change. She lives in a different state with her family, but always insists on visiting. I probably wouldn’t mind so much if everytime hadn’t have been a stressful time for me. For years, every single time she came over (when we lived close) she let her kids (who I do care about) do anything they wanted in my house and EVERY single time something of mine got been broken…(hole in the wall, the cat door, my daughers toys. The last straw for me, was when her son broke my guitar.) The mature thing would be to confront her, but no matter how much I think of what to say, it would hurt her & her children. I really am not a picky person, and those are just material things which led me to doubt myself. In the past she has been a great friend in so many ways, but it seemed the negative started outweighing the positive and it was stressing me out. Her personality is also very different and I just don’t know how to cope with it anymore (she is one to push buttons and doesn’t know when to stop…and it takes a lot to push my buttons)She has been this way ever since I have known her…I’m so sad I just don’t have the desire to be friens anymore, but at the same time I would be relieved. So strange for me to say that becuase I have always been one who does not like change,…but like I said before I just don’t have the tolerance for certain things anymore. I have just recently stopped answering the phone of a friend who always needs rides somewhere, or money. Her husband who she is separted from, gave her a car & she turned around and sold it. Eduard, thank you again!…time for me to stop having this constant guilt, and weed these toxic people out!

  29. singlemom says:

    I would love some advice. My ex remarried in the last year and his new wife is a toxic person. She was always quite mean, snotty, etc but since they married things have exploded. Unfortunately my three children live with them 1/2 time. They are desperately unhappy when they know they will be with their dad and step-mom and there are weekly issues that occur involving my kids and their dad & step-mom. I don’t speak poorly of them to my kids but when my children tell me the terrible things being said to them, and about me, I have tried to give them some suggestions such as, “Why don’t you say, ****, it makes me uncomfortable when you talk about my mom that way.” ect. These types of statements usually provoke a war so I no longer know what to tell them. What am I supposed to say when my kids come to me? I have tried to tell my ex that I will communicate only with him regarding our children, yet will receive a barrage of nasty emails from his wife if something displeases her (could be anything). When something happens at their house she tells my kids and tells me in email form, sometimes nasty phone messages, that I’m doing terrible harm to their family by my “sabotaging” her. ???? How can anyone get anywhere with someone like this? I’ve noticed over time that her version of things generally don’t resemble the reality of the situation in any way, making it difficult to even respond. I try not to respond to her because I’ve found that only acts as gasoline on an already unpleasant situation. Despite my requests to communicate only with my ex, they both find that idea highly offensive and I am once again “the problem.”
    Help! How do I deal with this situation, and more importantly shield my kids from experiencing more of these painful episodes?

    ps when they try to tell their dad about their difficulties with his wife they get a sermon about how loving, compassionate, nurturing she is. They no longer do this – they don’t know what so say anymore.

  30. Veronica Ryan says:

    My daughter and I have been dealing with a toxic mother daughter pair for almost 5 years. We tried avoidance; we tried meeting their demands for friendship out of Christian Charity – but the boundaries were never respected as long as we entertained those two at all. When they were finally moving away we thought we would be rid of them. No they haunt. They accuse. They insult. They demean. We should have kept to step 1 in full force from the beginning.

  31. Is there professional help i can get – i live with someone like this and it is getting to where i am scared of him. Nothing bad has happened yet but i get angry and he gets so angry. he has started getting very confrontational instead of reactionary. we literally fought the whole day. he started drinking (he’s been doing that a lot lately too) and by the time bedtime came i couldn’t sleep in the bed with him i was too upset. he got so angry that he laid down and passed out. (he lays in bed when he gets really angry & usually passes out somehow.)

  32. guilt tripped says:

    I am so glad i found this page. i really need to work on step one a lot more because at this point my mother is the most evil person i know. i let her over step my boundaries way to often and every word out of her mouth is nails on a chalk board to me. nothing but complaints, insults, lies and let downs. my problem is she plays victim when i start to stand my ground against her complaints and i feel guilty. then she starts in on me and i start to get defensive. one BIG ENDLESS CYCLE that has turned me into a self-loathing, depressed human being. and she walks away feeling much happier leaving me to have to work and take care of my kids in a depressive state. i just need her out of my life i’m better off without the negativity bringing me down. my boyfriend agrees 300% more then i do i’m sure! ty

    • Guilt tripped! My mother is EXACTLY the same. I felt like I was reading about myself when I read your paragraph. What’s worse is that my daughters father is also exactly the same. I can’t get rid of my daughters father but is it so bad to cut your mum out? I tried it before and we went to counselling and I realise in one session that she couldn’t even listen to the counsellor and would never change. She is the cruelest person I know and will suddenly EXPLODE and lay into me with things no normal mother should say to her child, then I cry and she’ll say something like – “I am concerned about your mental health”!!!! It’s because I’ve allowed her to hurt me for so long that I am feeling so depressed! Meanwhile she does and says and goes wherever the hell she likes, truly the most intrinsically selfish person on the planet. I worry about her effect on my daughter too. Help!

  33. To Guilt Tripped. When you have toxic family members sometimes the only
    way to survive is to have nothing to do with them. My aunt (mother’s sister)
    has been an ultra toxic person since she was a child; taking delight in
    creating nothing but animosity and problems for everyone in the family.

    Thirty years ago things finally came to a head when she tried to break up
    my parents’ marriage and we haven’t had anything to do with her since.
    We are happier and we don’t think of her.

    Do what’s best for you and leave toxic people behind, even if they’re family!

  34. The toxic person in my life is, unfortunately, my sister. She has been this way since childhood but, because she has always threatened suicide when she didn’t get her way, the whole family allowed her to get away with her hateful behaviors.

    She’s almost sixty years old now and is actually worse than ever. Just this past weekend I paid a great price for being late to pick her up for church. I won’t go into detail, but all you who have dealings with toxic people know what malicious venom they are capable of spewing. I can no longer let her do this to me so I have finally detached from her. I won’t treat her badly and she will always be in my prayers, but things will never be the same.

    And, guess what? Some family members have already started the laying on of the guilt. “But, it’s Christmas time!” “She’s your sister.” “You’re killing Mom.” Aaaaaagggggghhhhhh!!!

    I’ve tried my whole life to help her but to no avail. I’m glad to see here that I should leave that to the professionals! 🙂 Many thanks!! My heart goes out to all the others who deal with the toxic folks. Hang in there and leave the guilt behind!

    • Well, now I’ve read what appears to be my daughter’s playbook. I have a severe illness of depression which I have spent 25 years trying to get treatment for.

      But now I have a name for who I am and why my 37 year old won’t talk to me. My illness makes me “toxic”. She isolates herself from me when I need her the most. Her playbook is now clear to me – I am not sick with a “real illness” – I’m just “toxic”.

      I’ve raised six self-reliant adult children. I don’t need anymore therapy or medications – I need a rope to hang my toxic self… According to your article, there is no hope for me except to relieve others from having to be around me.

      I’ll never be posting or even looking for help again… When I’m buried – everyone will thank you…

      • I have compassion for the toxic people in my life. They are human beings too, and chances are it is not entirely their fault they turned out that way. They may have severe depression like you. I think those close to you do need to see the whole you. But they also need to take care of themselves. You need to show them the you that exists outside your illness. Show them you are trying. If they are not supportive even then, you are better off without them Just keep doing treatment and you will find other caring people.

  35. It’s true, Eduard.. exercise prudence and wisdom… you don’t need toxic people they try to bring guilt over you… I agree avoid them and let God take care of them..

  36. Virginia. Detroyer says:

    I feel that my siister is toxic and manipulative too. This is a good article, and has given me a new perspective on our situation. Thanks.

  37. Been There says:

    Man I wish I would have read this years ago. I keep thinking I could fix people…never gonna happen…….My last girl friend was so TOXIC and would not respect any boundries she went through my sock drawer!!!! She would constantly check my internet history….very interesting if you like sailing and boats. And if I did not answer the phone on the second ring I was having an affair….She was always broke, alway in crisis, family gave her the boot…Kids a mess…..House a mess…..crazy thing about it I was married to a woman just like this for 20 years…..thought I would have learned the fisrt time……One major red flag……a toxic person will think you are the greatest thing on earth just to pull you in, then they stick thier fangs in and in comes the poison……Man Have I ever learned…back to therapy

  38. I think avoiding toxic people is essential. I have met several different people in the past, who can either be trusted or not. Especially in the pasr have I suffered from extreme abuse, verbally and physcially and also think that it’s important that toxic people use and abuse others for their own pleasure and enjoyment. At the end of the day, I think it’s essential to make sure that if your gonna make the right bunch of friends, to choose your friends wisely and to remember that some peeps are out there, old enough and big enough as they grow older to take responsibility for their own actions. End of 🙂

  39. I am happy to have come acros this article. I am currently “recovering” from a life-long toxic friendship. After decades of feeling I couldn’t escape the friendship, I have finally ended it. I have struggled with guilt for wanting out, guilt for setting boundaries on my time as an alternative for wanting out. I have exploded in anger time and time again, we have had long periods where we weren’t in touch, she has contacted me and we have started over. This has been going on for decades. I have accepted continuing a friendship that was unequal, demeaning and very harmful to me.
    I have been talked down to, ridiculed, I don’t think she has ever asked me an interested question regarding my life. She has been jalous of my other friendships, demanding to be part of every aspect of my life. I lost my parents at a relatively young age, not one comforting word, no display of interest during those many years of illness and grief. It was all about her. I have listed to her putting others down, I have listed to a display of stupitity and arrogance – if I tried to say something, oppose, defend others – she directed her anger at me.
    I have to take responsibility: I let it go on for so long. I remember the feelings of not seing a way out of it ,,, vividly. I felt like the worst person on earth for wanting an end to it, despite all the maliciouness. All those years with speculations and being treated poorly just because I did not take myself seriously and was afraid of the confrontation, I guess. What an incredible waste of life. And I am ashamed – how could I accept that behaviour from anybody?
    But before anything else, I am relieved. It’s been almost a year, but still I think of my former friendship once in a while. I can’t understand her or people like her. What is going on, what is she thinking about the lack of interest, the passive-agressive behaviour, the jalousy, the hatefull remarks . What was it about? I know when I am not being fair, attentive, a good friend. I am not afraid to say I am sorry ,,, I have my flaws and not so appealing traits – but I am aware, try to do better – and I would not dream of hurting anybody deliberately. Don’t people like her know it (lack of some sort of social skill, stupidity perhaps :-)) or is it deliberate, calculated …. meanness?

  40. My in-laws are very toxic, especially muy MIL…she just brings problems between my husband and I, and mu husband does NOT seem she is toxic. She insists to keep in touch with me, why? Are we friends? She has offended me several times in my own house…I am setting boundaries but she does not accept them and calls me all the time….i don’t answer her calls and she plays victim and with my husband and then we fight… it unreasonable to not call her or get her calls? I am just avoiding a toxic person but I am seeing as a bad DIL because of that!!!

  41. Reading these posts is very liberating for me. My mother is pure evil & I feel my real mother died years ago & have no idea who this horrible human being is. I am the daughter of a narcissistic mother & her latest stunt has left me numb. She left a msg. on our answering machine that she has a rare form of cancer & only has two months to live. What kind of mother leaves this horrible news on a recorder? And here’s the sick truth…she doesn’t even have a rare form of cancer & is not going to die in two months, it was a ploy to get me to run to her. She has an acid tongue & cannot stop herself from saying cruel things to me. As a result, my brother & nephew have taken her side to be angry with me. They are on the west coast, I’m on the east coast…thank GOD! I know I’m doing the right thing to finally be protecting myself & not fly out there, but the cruel words from family members really is what hurts the most.

  42. Ouch. Toxic people stared ommenting after the firstten comments or so! Amazing. I just skipped the complaining and scrolled to the bottom. I have taken harsh measures to remove family members, toxic family, and at first it was hard, but now I am so glad I did, I feel a big stress relief and feel peaceful. My boundaries is not having much interaction except for holidays. Good luck everyone.

  43. hmm, this article does not address when people (family) with “boundaries” decide to go out of their way to hurt you, then throw up their conveniently constructed boundaries, which include totally excluding you from the dialogue of their life, because they feel like you may have something negative to say to them.
    my aunt, the queen of boundaries, decided to report some false gossip about me to cps (child protective services). i see her once a year at christmas, she lives over 30 miles away from me, and had never been to my new home that i had lived in for over 2 years. instead of confronting me about the rumors she was being fed (by my violent, stalker ex husband), she reported to cps that she knew the exact time of day & night of my comings & going, and told cps that i leave my child home alone to go party & do drugs in the city at night.
    in reality, i had to work at night sometimes, and my roommate was always home when i left for work. i had to endure invasive home inspections & interrogations by cps, the embarrassment of having cps question my roommate multiple times, and had them pull my son out of class to be questioned, which drew the attention of school staff & created suspicions that i neglect my child.
    then my aunt showed up at my house unannounced, & declared she was the 1 who called cps on me. i tried to explain the negative impact she had had on my family, and she was dismissive, spoke of boundaries, criticized me for having some unfolded laundry on the couch, and some dishes in the sink, mocked my new boyfriend, insulted my five yo. child for still wetting the bed 1-2 times a month, then left. now she refuses to answer my calls, made another report to cps about me, & uses “boundaries” as a way to not have to hear any negativity i might express about her actions against me.
    a way to hurt people and keep on walking…

  44. All of this sounds good in theory but it is more difficult when you are dealing with a family member who is ‘toxic’.
    My grandfather, for example, is horrible, self-centered, and has financially broken my family more times than I can say by guilting my mother into things she doesn’t want to do. He has plenty of money and could easily hire people to clean the gutters or the ceiling fans but he’d rather save his money by making my mother and I come down(a 6 1/2 hour drive) to clean, barely feed us(which he resents doing at all), and make us work in a house that has air conditioning but he refuses to use(because it cost money) so we can sweat the entire time. He doesn’t appreciate anything anyone does for him, and he actually resents that I come now because he can’t manipulate my mother into doing even more to unsavory jobs. I was raised to respect my elders, but he should have been cast out from our family decades ago.
    My mother was trying to make me feel sympathy for him the other day because she’s inviting him to thanksgiving at our house so he won’t be ‘lonely’. I finally broke down and told her exactly how I felt about this man, that I looked forward to the time we wouldn’t have to deal with him ever again. He’s been cruel and selfish his entire life, he’s abused his wives, neglected and nearly starved his children, and had affairs with the money he saved from not taking care of his kids. I have no respect for this man.

  45. What happens when all the people in your family are toxic? Do you just leave your family? Stay or leave? Either choice is bad.

    • JustDoIt says:

      Of course the only answer is to “leave”. Leave when you can do so financially. Otherwise, develop an exit strategy and give yourself a timeline: set goals for when you will leave (e.g. 6 months, one year). And while doing this, start researching coping methods. Go to your local book store or library and find self-help books which address this. TAKE CONTROL of your destiny. Do not let the toxic people who are only temporarily in your life control your future. You can do this. Good luck friend. 🙂

    • Leave. Then the contact you DO have with them is on your terms and, following the simple advice in the article and after that initial struggle for control if you do retain some contact, more rewarding for both sides. But beware, if you do keep in touch, there is always that opportunity they will take to reassert the game! It can happen though that you actually see them struggling to reform when they see your strength – you have actually helped that, but don’t relent!

  46. I always used to attract toxic people when I was younger, I couldn`t get away from them. My parents were toxic people. there`s only one way to deal with them, refuse to have them in your life!

  47. My mother is a narcissist. A cruel cruel stone cold narcissist.

  48. camille bernard says:

    This article was very helpful, but I also wanted to know, what do you do when the toxic people are Aunts in their late seventies and you’re supposed to be respectful, and oh, call on a regular basis. I was just wondering…

  49. Good points well made – concise and clear!
    We are not alone!

  50. What if you have come to a sad conclusion that you tried your best to be a good parent and have 3 children 2 who are adults and the oldest age 25 is a toxic person? It’s very sad….very hard to cut ties then. It’s s very draining unhealthy relationship. Disappointed

  51. Toxic people are all around! Users are everywhere. Out for themselves and what they want-all over the place. Set firm boundaries. See through them. They’ll try to undermine you. Distance yourself fast from these types. Sometimes it takes a while to get to see them. Trust your gut. At times you’ll be surprised. When you see who they are-dump them fast!

  52. Hello everyone 🙂
    *Its a lot to read sorry – I just need to vent!
    I’m currently going through a very difficult moment with my partner who sadly is the toxic one in the relationship. I’m not perfect myself but you see, he is a heroin user and for 8 + years he has made my life a living hell. Some of the closest people to me advice me I should leave him. Easier said than done! It’s not that I want to continue living this way, it’s just that I would feel horribly guilty because he has no family where we live. Throwing out like a dog would make me feel like a soulless and heartless being. He does not hit me, but he does harasses me every single day for money to support his heroin addiction. He has sold nearly every “valuable” item I’ve owned from money, tv’s, laptop, even shampoos and brand new hand lotions. He would sell anything that gets him some cash. He has turned into a skilled shoplifter and follows me from point A to point B when I try to avoid him. He goes to my mother’s house everyday to look for me and has even threatened to get back at me in the worst way if I don’t give him money. He does not work, does not help me with absolutely nothing at home. Yet, I don’t know why I feel I just can’t turn my back at him. I’m honestly don’t know if I’m waiting for a miracle to happen, but I know I’m stupid for allowing this to continue. I have a teen son from my previous relationship and a daughter with him (my current partner). My daughter loves her father but the other day she caught him shooting (his arm with heroin) and I think that was the icing on the cake. He went too far. My kids know or a least suspect he’s under some type of drug. They see him fall asleep while standing, and you can now notice the scars on the insides of his elbows and neck. We argue almost every day. I honestly don’t know what to do. I work all day and between work, kids, home and everyday struggles I’m falling deeply into depression. I’m trying to stay strong and keep my mind off suicidal thoughts. I’m not the only one going through this I know. Even if there’s not a right or wrong answer, I just want to vent…I’m on the very brink of losing my mind.
    Thank you for whoever took time to “hear” me out. Love you all! And if anyone is going through a similar situation, you’re not alone. I hope to one day get back with a more positive attitude.

  53. I had a friend who was toxic and I finally had to let her go. I thought of her as one of my best friends, so it was really hard. We helped each other through a lot of rough times and when my life started getting better, I don’t think she liked it. She wanted me to continue to be miserable like her. I do feel guilty on occasion, so this was a great article. She was always the victim, couldn’t seem to get along with anyone and always had a chip on her shoulder. She would verbally attack other people and I always defended her. Unfortunately, I may have enabled her. Eventually, she finally turned on me and tried to use guilt and manipulation on me. There was just no reasoning with her and it just got to be exhausting! I suggested taking a break, but she couldn’t do that. She had to attack me with a nasty e-mail and bash me on social media, basically killing our friendship. It’s funny, others tried to tell me she was messed up, but I always defended her. Wish I had listened to them.

  54. Random Person says:

    I know you’re right but it’s just so hard to ignore horrible people like that. I guess I’ll just try it out for a week or two and see if it works. Thanks

  55. I clicked on this particular article because I am actually afraid that I am a toxic person to everyone. I will do anything for anyone that I consider a valuable person in my life or even someone that has future potential to become someone really important to me. However, I do have communication problems and problems building relationships with people..and I feel almost always I am apart of a very unequal relationship where I care about a friend/potential friend a lot more than they care about me. I think I may just be kind of strange to people, or make people uncomfortable, but I do worry because of health issues that I am a toxic person. I am alone most of the time because socially I have these problems and I can’t explain why people treat me the way they do , I guess I explain away these problems by saying that there is something wrong with me that people do not want to be around..I just wish I could fix it. For example, I drove someone I considered a friend to another city with about 5 minutes notice because she missed the bus but she didn’t even say goodbye to me before she left for basic training about two months later..maybe she just forgot..I don’t know :/

  56. It took me awhile to realize my coworker was toxic, because she disguised herself as a loving caring person, while at the same time going out of her way to convince others in the workplace that I was a liar, a manipulator, negative. One day she’ll be nice the next day cold and moody and would project that onto me. I constantly found myself defending myself. Reading this article among others will hopefully help me deal with this toxic person who unfortunately I have to work with

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