When it comes to relationships, romantic or other, we are often quick to find fault or point out what the other person is doing wrong, but seldom look at our own behaviour.
It can be difficult to admit that we are perhaps not as perfect as we like to think. The reality is, we all have flaws, embracing and accepting them is where growth happens.
There is no such thing as the perfect person or perfect relationship, rather how can we keep improving ourselves to be a better person, partner, parent, or leader if we are not willing to look within?
Usually when we hit a speedbump in our relationship and emotions are running high, we can very quickly get stuck in the blame game and blame the other person for everything that’s wrong or what they have done to us. We try and change them to suit our lens or perspective in the world when in fact stepping into their world and seeing it through their eyes takes courage and bravery to be vulnerable and admit our flaws or that we are not always right.
So how do we spot toxic traits in oneself? The first step is in understanding what toxic behaviour or traits look like and the impact they can have on others.
- How would you define and identify toxic behaviour/traits in a person?
Toxic traits can range from being in your face, deliberate behaviour such as lying, screaming, shouting, to more subtle undertones that include being unsupportive, being manipulative, needy, judgmental, controlling, self-centered to physical, verbal and emotional abuse.
It is any form of behavior that causes distress in others through negative words and actions.
- We hear “she is too toxic” or “I don’t want to be around a toxic person” a lot. How can one know when they are being toxic?
It’s not always easy to identify toxic behaviour in another person so the best place to start is within yourself and how you feel in situations or when spending time with people in your life.
Do you sometimes feel confused and unsure of yourself when you are in the company of a certain person(s)? Do you sometimes feel drained or full of anxiety? Do you constantly feel the need to help them causing to feel resentment and then guilty for feeling that way? Do you find it difficult to say no and then explain why or justify your reasons? Do you feel your boundaries are not being respected or that you are “walking on eggshells” around them? Do you feel like you can’t be yourself around them and are changing your behaviour to fit in or avoid bad vibes or conflict?
These feelings a sign that something does not feel right for you about this person or situation and it’s important to understand why and the impact it is having on you.
- What is a decent way to pull away from a toxic person? Would you advise a person to try to have a conversation before distancing themselves from a toxic person?
Having a conversation with someone who is portraying toxic behavior does not always go down well and can lead to more toxic behaviour and conflict or ruin the relationship entirely. If you want to keep this person in your life, then you may need to have a courageous conversation and put down firm boundaries with this person. Boundaries can include things such as: putting some distance between you, limiting the time or types of interactions you have, unfollowing them on social media and being very clear on what you behavior you will/won’t tolerate from this person.
If you don’t want to keep this person in your life, then you can choose to let go of them and move on with your life. You need to do what is right for your own wellbeing.
- When one notices toxic traits in themselves, what would you suggest them to do to try to make things better?
Pay attention to how others respond and react towards you. Are they perhaps avoiding you or making excuses as to why they cant see you? Listen to things people say, often they will say things in a joking way because they don’t know how to say it to you directly. If you think you may be behaving badly, ask a few people close to you to give you honest feedback that you can then use as insights to work on yourself.
If you need support in the process, reach out to a professional near you that can hold the space for you while you work through this process to change yourself.
Paula Quinsee is a Relationship Expert in Johannesburg. She teaches individuals and organisations how to cultivate healthy relationships at home and in the workplace to create a human connected world. Paula is also the author of 2 self-help guides: Embracing Conflict and Embracing No as well as an international speaker and advocate for mental health and against gender-based violence. For more info: www.paulaquinsee.com