“Don’t let negative and toxic people rent space in your head. Raise the rent and kick them out!” Robert Tew, author
One of the comments I get frequently from coaching clients is “I think I’m a nice person but I seem to attract negative, toxic people!” “Is it me?” they ask. Well, in a way, yes! In fact, toxic folks do have a great radar for honing in on the right people!
There are a couple of reasons that toxic folks could be drawn to you. One is that they feel threatened by you in some way. Your positive attitude for example or your abilities. Alternatively, they may view you as an easy target. Either way, they will attempt to undermine you, or control you by limiting your happiness and causing you to doubt yourself.
In other words, every one of our personal characteristics has a plus and a minus side. For example “easy going” can be viewed as “potential victim” by some. If we overuse these strengths they can become weaknesses and make us vulnerable to negative people. For instance one of my strengths is that I like people and am open and friendly. I have a tendency to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume they are well meaning until proven otherwise. I have learned to slam the boundary down at the first sign of snarky, controlling or negative behavior. Obviously, these folks learn to control this behavior when dealing with me or decide they no longer want to hang around me. I need to be OK with the fact that not everyone will like me!
What great traits might you have that are drawing negative people to you? By learning to recognize warning signs of toxic behavior and putting up firm boundaries, you can keep your great traits AND minimize your exposure to negative people. Here are some ideas!
- Willingness to listen. Negative people really take advantage of this! They will burden you with their problems constantly whether in person, text or phone! They don’t want advice, they don’t want to change and they don’t want to hear anything about you! These folks NEVER respond to subtle cues! You need to deal with them head on; be polite, but direct and firm with your boundaries. Avoidance will cause you to feel anxious and controlled by these people.
- Trusting. You trust people with your innermost hopes and dreams. If you share your dreams with toxic people, they will be ready with a word (or many words!) of discouragement! Be mindful who you share with, even if they express interest and ask you about your plans. It is your choice; you don’t owe anyone anything.
- Positive. Do you see the best in every situation? Although this is a great way to view life, toxic people can really find a home with you! Do you hold on to friendships with such people because you believe they will change? Do you brush off their put downs and selfish behavior and spend time with them anyway? If your instincts are giving you the message that this relationship makes you feel bad or sad, listen to it.
So, don’t let personal strengths attract the wrong people into your life to take up residence! Equally important, don’t let these people stop you from being who you are. Learn to recognize that some people do not have your best interests in mind. Learn to be proactive and deal with them head on. This is the way to true personal freedom!