I have written a lot about toxic people and relationships. I even wrote a book.
One of the critiques I would normally get is that I don’t write about signs someone is toxic. I understand how people want a simple blueprint to identify who is toxic and who is not.
But it is not that simple.
The human psyche is more complex than that. Plus, sometimes when we read such lists, we tend to overgeneralize and see the worst in the people around us.
That being said, I recently started putting many toxic behaviors in categories that are easy to identify. I did this as an attempt to articulate what is toxic about someone quickly and more accurately.
The more you work on your emotional maturity, the more you will see toxic behavior for what it is. But it is not always easy to articulate that into words.
So, that is what I want to do in this article. I want to help you save your energy, sanity, heart, and time by avoiding these types of people.
We will discuss 7 types and how to recognize each one. Note that someone can be more than one type. They can have traits from multiple types.
Generally speaking, think of these types as categories and spectrums. And most importantly, walk away and set boundaries without feeling guilty for doing that.
Let us get started.
#1 Peter Pan
This is the friend who does not want to grow up. They avoid responsibility like the plague.
They are usually not in a good position in their lives. Maybe they are unemployed, addicted to something, hanging around bad people, or just wasting their time doing nothing useful.
And they don’t want to stop any of that. They want to stay where they are, get as much cheap pleasure as they can, and avoid as much responsibility as possible.
Their maturity is not appropriate for their age. You will see a 32-year-old with the same mentality, lifestyle, and responsibilities as a 21-year-old. Their life is the same if it is not getting worse.
Those people are avoiding the inevitable responsibilities one has to shoulder when they decide to grow up. They don’t want to sacrifice their hedonistic, irresponsible, and impulsive behaviors.
So, they choose to never grow up.
If you hang around them long enough, they will drag you down. They will see you improving your life and upgrading it. And they will try to drag you down to stay with them.
Even if they don’t do that directly, their toxic lifestyle will eventually bring problems to your life.
If you really want to do something with your life and grow, you need to make sure the people around facilitate that. Those who are no longer on the same mission as you must be let go.
Make sure your friends have the same values you want to live your life abiding by.
#2 The manipulative magician/witch
Some people confuse competence with confidence. It is a human error to do that, especially if you are young.
But manipulative people know how to exploit that error well. It is a psychopathic trait to appear so confident and charming to convince people you are competent to get them to do what you want them to do.
Just like magicians, those people know how to create an illusion. They use their words, voice, facial expressions, body language, and big egos to project competence.
They talk so well that they convince you and others of whatever they say. They are good with words, but they are full of shit.
Their words usually get them what they want. The mistake they made is now yours. They take credit for your work. They portray themselves as mortals and victims while making you appear as a heartless predator.
They cast a spell with their dishonest words to get what they want.
But once exposed, they deny everything but move to find other victims who will believe them. And because they are incompetent and have shitty characters, the only thing they can rely on is their words, being cocky, and projecting fake competence.
Stay away from them. See the overcompensating, incompetent, and insecure person that they are and ignore their words.
#3 The hypocrite joker
As humans, we value honesty, reliability, and consistency for valid reasons.
They ensure our safety, prosperity, and advancement. And we punish (or avoid) people we can’t trust and who are not consistent with who they say they are.
We punish and avoid them because the damage of betrayal is incalculable. Plus, trust is the best resource we have as humans.
A hypocrite, two-faced friend violates everything about trust. And I am talking about people who are deliberately enemies disguised as friends.
Look, we all have a social self. We adjust, to some extent, to the community and the social context we are in.
Every social situation requires some level of intelligence. You cannot go to your corporate job in pajamas, and you cannot crack a joke at a funeral even if you are naturally funny all the time.
That being said, some people are so deceitful that they are willing to change who they are depending on who they are interacting with to get what they want or to hurt you.
They backbite you, gossip about you, and even spread negative things about you. And they usually backbite others and gossip about them.
If someone bad-mouths someone in front of you, they are likely to do that to you when you are not around.
Those people don’t really wish you well. Stay away from them.
In fact, stay away from gossiping altogether. And watch how people present themselves to you and to others.
As a caveat, don’t cast a moral judgment on the person to the point where you feel morally superior. That will corrupt your heart. Just walk away and protect your energy and sanity.
#4 The pessimist philosopher
This is someone who covers up their negativity, pessimism, and failure as wisdom. Then they use that “wisdom” to justify their position in life.
More specifically, they use it to justify why they should not take responsibility, change, or even grow up.
They are intellectual Peter Pans. However, their intellect is dark, biased, and used as a justification.
For example, they will lecture you for hours about how relationships/marriages are useless. They might use studies, data, personal anecdotes, psychology, science, pseudo-science, or whatever it takes to justify their position in life.
I have a friend who was once trying to lay an argument for why it is better to be unemployed (not working at all) than to work a job that barely makes ends meet. And then he started explaining why it is a waste of time and money to travel to another country and work for a better salary and in a better environment.
He claims it is even worse because you will start from zero again.
In my country, dedicated, serious young people do one of these two things. They don’t just sit there and do nothing.
When you examine his life and look at where he is and what he is doing with his life, you will see a philosopher whose life is deteriorating.
He does not live up to the claims he makes. And those he critiques are actually people who are making progress. If you listen to his arguments closely and watch how he lives his life, you will see excuses and justifications.
He has failed, which is fine, but he is using big words to justify why he shouldn’t do anything and how those who are doing something are crazy and unwise.
The dark side of this is that those people will (likely) try to convince you that they are right. They will try to make you subscribe to their beliefs.
They want to justify their misery and make as many people join them in that miserable pit hole where “intellectual and seemingly-wise concepts are discussed to justify why we should not leave this pit.”
See them for who they are. Avoid them.
#5 The know-it-all philosopher
This type is a bit different than the previous one, though they share some similarities.
This person knows everything. They are sure they know everything. And to make it even worse, they also believe they can never be wrong about anything.
Arrogance on steroids!
They have too big an ego to realize the limitations of their knowledge. And they never admit they are wrong about something (unless that benefits them).
I once was training in a gym. A new guy who supposedly was the new “coach” made the gym hell for everyone.
He would interfere with everything you do. Stand up like this, don’t do that, do this exercise, lower the weight, use more weights, and do some cardio! That was everything that came out of his mouth while walking around, trying to ensure everyone was doing as he said.
I had a few arguments with him until he left me the hell alone. He did so in a passive-aggressive, silent-treatment kind of way. But I couldn’t care less and was relieved he doesn’t talk to me anymore.
He would never accept feedback or consider that the other person might know something he doesn’t. He showed me the worst form of deadlifts and denied that deadlifts train legs.
Worst of all, he would interfere without being asked for help, even when someone is doing the workout correctly (just because he has another version for this workout he believes is more correct).
By the end of the second week, almost everyone left.
It was not a very lively gym, to begin with. Now, the few people who come no longer do. It is literally me and 3 other guys. We are the only ones who come regularly.
And just yesterday, I received the news that the gym is closing now because it is not generating any income. What is funny is that that same “coach” is trying to get us to a new gym I think he owns or manages.
This was a guy who was painful to deal with.
He knows everything. He is so sure he knows everything. He has no doubts he is wrong. And his ego prevents him from seeing how damaging that is.
The more someone claims they know everything, the less they actually know. In fact, they know very little that they are not even aware they do not know.
You don’t want to be around such a person. They will hurt themselves and you if you stick around.
#6 The entitled king/queen
This is an upgraded version of the previous type.
This person is not only egotistical about their knowledge. It is their knowledge, looks, success, money, fame, lifestyle, and existence on this earth.
They are deluded, narcissistic, and compensating snowflakes.
They literally see no one but themselves. And their sense of entitlement is staggering. They make bad friends, are even worse family members and are the worst partners ever.
They are worshiping a false god, which is themselves; therefore, they are deluded and misguided.
Their capacity to see outside of themselves is nonexistent. All they focus on is their own gains and being glorified.
As soon as you recognize this level of arrogance and ego, walk away. If you smell it a mile away, run to the other side.
Recognizing it can sometimes be tricky. We sometimes confuse confidence for competence and think that this arrogance and huge ego are indicators that this person is competent and good.
They are not. They are indicators this person is arrogant and is in trouble.
Yes, in trouble! Arrogance backfires sooner or later. It is just a matter of time before this person collapses.
Don’t stay around for the fireworks when that happens. You will likely get some of their bad karma.
The manipulative magicians are usually this type’s best friend. They are drawn to each other.
In fact, they use each other for mutual (pathological) benefits. The magician carefully inflames the king’s ego. The king uses the magician’s abilities to gain more power and status.
They are like the tyrannic king and his evil, intelligent right hand.
If you see this coalition, stay away even further. Those people are not good friends material. And of course, they are not good relationship materials.
Let them have their ego crisis away from you.
#7 The self-identified rabbit
Rabbits are prey animals that have many predators. They can do nothing but run or get eaten.
Because they have a lot of predators, they are in a lot of trouble most of the time. And they are helpless in the face of these troubles. They are either chased or dead.
Now, some people identify with this identity in their lives. They portray themselves as victims.
There is always a predator out there to get them. They are always suffering, in trouble, and facing unfortunate and unjust circumstances.
They are as helpless as a harmless rabbit who is being chased.
You don’t know what to do with them. A part of you sympathizes with them and feels the pain they could be going through. But a part of you senses that something is wrong.
Here is what is wrong.
Those people voluntarily give up their power. They actually can do something about their situation. They are not fully victimized.
They don’t need protection or a shoulder to cry on. They need to get up and take responsibility for themselves. Taking serious actions without half-hearting them is what they should do.
But because this sounds judgmental, you dismiss this thought. You continue being there for them.
But they are always suffering. A new problem. An old, unresolved issue. Something they could’ve done, but they hadn’t. Whatever it is, you know they are not doing their best and that they enjoy (or even become addicted to) the empathy they get from others.
And all of that consumes you, and you should top it.
They are not real rabbits. Let them have their drama if they want to. But save your energy and stay away from them. Do not let your compassionate heart tell you otherwise.
That sounds judgmental and bad. But there you go. I said it so that you don’t have to. Just stay away to protect your energy.
I hope this was helpful
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This post was previously published on medium.com.
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