The Ultimate Guide to Letting Go of Toxic People

This article gives you a glimpse of what you can learn with Shortform. Shortform has the world’s best guides to 1000+ nonfiction books, plus other resources to help you accelerate your learning.

Want to learn faster and get smarter? Sign up for a free trial here .

What are the tell-tale signs of a toxic person? What should you do if you’ve become involved with someone who exhibits toxic behaviors?

You’re going to encounter toxic people in your life. With some of them, you’ll even form close and intimate relationships. Sooner or later, however, their toxic traits will come up to the surface and may even negatively impact your life. 

Keep reading to learn about the importance of letting go of toxic people and how to recognize toxic qualities. 

How to Deal With Toxic Types

If you hang out with toxic people who see the world through a negative lens, have ulterior motives, or try to bring you down (consciously or unconsciously), you’re doing yourself a disservice. Toxic people are often unaware of the toxic effect they have on others: They’re so consumed by their problems and insecurities that they don’t realize all that negative energy is spilling onto others. 

If you want to be happy and successful in life, letting go of toxic people is the first step on this path. Take inventory of your friendships: Are your friends supportive of your personal growth? Do they have goals of their own? Are they open-minded and committed to lifelong learning? Are they genuinely happy for your success? If not, they’ll drag you down, and you should limit or eliminate your time with them. 

Perhaps the most common toxic type is someone who is extremely pessimistic and who spreads negative vibes. Vibes are contagious—if the people you’re with are thinking negatively and behaving in a toxic manner, their negativity will rub off on you. For example, if you hang out with someone who is constantly complaining, criticizing, gossiping, moping, and so on, you’ll probably end up in a bad mood, even if you are a positive person. These people can be anyone from friends and coworkers to family and partners. So if you continue to be around these people, you’ll be unable to maintain good vibes. However, letting go of toxic people isn’t easy: It’s heartbreaking to cut off someone you are close with from your life, but it may be necessary for your own well-being. 

If you’re honest with the other person and explain the toxic behaviors and their effect on you, they may be understanding and willing to change. Experts make a number of suggestions on how and how not to deal with toxic behavior:

  • Do use “I” statements to explain their behavior and how it makes you feel. For example “When you criticize my appearance, it makes me feel self-conscious about myself.”
  • Do walk away if they refuse to address your concerns.
  • Do offer compassion, but don’t try to fix them. It’s not your job to be their psychologist.
  • Finally, don’t let them convince you that they’re the victim. This is a manipulation tactic to make you stay without them having to change their behavior.

TITLE: Good Vibes, Good Life
AUTHOR: Vex King
TIME: 14
READS: 39.3
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: good-vibes-good-life-summary-vex-king

The Most Dangerous Toxic Types

“Negative Nancy” may be the most common toxic type, but it’s not the most dangerous one. In his book The Laws of Human Nature, Robert Greene describes the 10 most dangerous toxic types and how to deal with each (if no more specific directions are given on how to handle each type, you should avoid them altogether). 

Type #1: Extreme perfectionists. At first, perfectionists appear hardworking and dedicated. If they yell at people for their performance, this can be excused because they care about doing a job right, which is admirable. 

In reality, however, these traits stem from a desire for control. Perfectionists can’t delegate or depend on others, and anything they lead is disorganized because they can’t create a reporting structure, as everything has to go through them. While initially successful, they often later suffer from health problems and burnout. They eventually fail and blame others. 

Greene recommends avoiding working for them.

Type #2: Exaggerated rebels. At first, rebels appear exciting, and they appeal to everyone’s adolescent desire to be free of authority. Their humor can be mean, which can be excused as authenticity. In reality, however, these traits come from a desire to feel superior. Likely, as children, their parents disappointed them and as a result, they can’t stand authority or criticism. In the past, they probably ended relationships on bad terms.

Type #3: Oversensitives. At first, these people seem thoughtful and sensitive, and often considerate, intelligent, and slightly sad. In reality, however, they take everything personally. Their parents probably didn’t give them enough attention and care, and they’re constantly reminded of this when they encounter others. In the past, they probably ended many relationships, and they always think they were the victim. Eventually, they’ll get touchy and brooding. 

Avoid oversensitives because they hold grudges and seek revenge.

Type #4: Dramatics. At first, these people seem exciting, humorous, energetic, and fun. In reality, however, they’re seeking attention. As children, they discovered that they had to exaggerate and dramatize their problems to maintain their parents’ attention. In the past, they had confrontations in relationships, and they always acted like the victim. 

Avoid getting enmeshed with dramatics. If you do get involved, it will be difficult to get out, because they’ll make you feel guilty. 

Type #5: Fountains of ideas. At first, these types appear to have good ideas and you’ll be tempted to get on board and back their projects. In reality, however, these people never complete projects. They want power and attention, but they’re scared to pursue their ideas because it takes effort, and they always give up. As children, they probably had disorganized parents and never want to be in a situation in which they’re judged again. In the past, they probably haven’t completed anything but will blame others for this. 

Avoid getting involved with any of these type’s work

Type #6: Free lovers. At first, these types seem unrepressed and capable of appropriately mixing professional and personal boundaries. In reality, however, they see all their relationships as sexual. As children, they were probably sexually abused, and sex becomes about validation. If they don’t get enough validation, they can get depressed.

Type #7: Spoiled royalty. At first, these people seem regal, calm, and confident. In reality, however, they want to be pampered, and they’re good at getting others to do it. You might find yourself doing them favors. As children, their parents probably spoiled them and protected them, and they may have acted helpless to get this treatment. If they don’t get what they want, they behave childishly, such as by throwing a tantrum. 

Type #8: People pleasers. At first, pleasers appear considerate, accommodating, and charming. In reality, however, this niceness is a defense mechanism. As children, their parents were probably harsh and they acted deferential and polite to avoid judgment or punishment. These types usually resent having to act this way and are often passive-aggressive and good at lying. They may secretly wish to hurt whoever’s above them.

Type #9: Rescuers. At first, these people seem like godsends—you have a problem and they want to help you. In reality, however, these types want to control you and tamp down your independence. As children, they often had to take on a caregiving role. 

Type #10: Moralizers. At first, these people seem eloquent and moral because they’re angry at injustice. In reality, however, they have no sense of nuance. They’re judgmental and everything is black and white. As children, they were sometimes punished for their desires, which resulted in repression. They secretly want whatever they speak out about against.

TITLE: The Laws Of Human Nature
AUTHOR: Robert Greene
TIME: 103
READS: 233.8
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-laws-of-human-nature-summary-robert-greene

Final Words

Letting go of toxic people isn’t easy, especially when it’s someone close or dear to you—it can even be a family member! However, if their behavior doesn’t change, you must eliminate or minimize communication with them as much as possible. 

The first step to letting go of toxic people is to learn how to spot toxic qualities. Once you know what to watch out for, you’ll attract less toxic people into your life because you can see them from miles away. 

If you enjoyed our article about letting go of toxic people, check out the following suggestions for further reading: 

Games People Play

You probably know someone who regularly blows things out of proportion, or who insists on having the same argument over and over, or constantly tries to one-up other people. According to Dr. Eric Berne, a pioneering psychiatrist who broke away from the Freudian tradition, those are just two of the games that people play in work, love, sex, and friendship.

Games People Play is Dr. Eric Berne’s 1964 classic about the many ways that we habitually relate to one another through “games.” These aren’t fun, harmless social games, though—they’re subtle, largely unconscious patterns that harm us and our relationships. Berne explains how most of us don’t even notice our games, and how we’re missing out on the fulfillment of game-free living.

The 48 Laws of Power

In The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene asserts that whether you like it or not, you’re part of a never-ending game of power. You’re either striving for and wielding power, or you’re a pawn being played by someone more powerful than you. You choose your role.

This book is for those who prefer to be players rather than pawns. To turn you from an amateur into a master player, Greene has codified 48 laws of power based on historical examples of people who’ve excelled or failed at wielding power, with glorious or bloody results (or both). Some key principles you’ll learn: use your enemies, keep others dependent on you, say as little as possible, take credit for others’ work, and don’t get your hands dirty. You can choose to apply or dismiss these rules, but you can’t escape them.

The Ultimate Guide to Letting Go of Toxic People

Want to fast-track your learning? With Shortform, you’ll gain insights you won't find anywhere else .

Here's what you’ll get when you sign up for Shortform :

  • Complicated ideas explained in simple and concise ways
  • Smart analysis that connects what you’re reading to other key concepts
  • Writing with zero fluff because we know how important your time is

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *