6 Toxic Behaviors That Push People Away


Humans are, by definition, social animals, therefore we feel the need to form bonds and relationships. It’s in our nature and it represents an important focus in our everyday lives, yet sometimes, it seems to go wrong and we are left alone, in the aftermath, to think about what has happened and what could we have done differently so as not to lose a certain significant person in our lives.

Toxic behaviors can usually lead to damage in relationships, professional success, personal well-being, therefore is impacts almost every aspect of our existence. The first step toward improvement would be recognizing them, both in us and those around us, so that eventually, the real work toward changing them can begin.

So what are some of the harmful behaviors that drive people away?

1. Negativity

Whenever we get into the office in the morning or meet a friend for dinner or come home to our loved one after a day at work, we tend to start or infuse the conversation with negative comments: “Hey, did you hear about that awful car crash on Ninth Street?”, “Did you see the news last night about the new economic crisis about to hit?’, “Oh my, I had such an awful day at work, my boss was so horrible…” It seems we feel the need to concentrate on the negatives first, so that, eventually, we will build up to the good, if any. Otherwise, if we show up and just blurt out “Let me tell you all about the wonderful gift my husband bought me last night”, “Honey, I got a promotion and my boss named me employee of the year”, it would just seem like bragging or showing off. We feel awkward in sharing good news and those around us feel awkward in listening to it. But why is that?

It seems that our general view of the world tilts toward negativity — what is the proportion of good news vs. bad news on an evening bulletin? What subjects make the first page of newspapers? Society is inclined toward this kind of behavior, and while venting, complaining and whining are all normal actions, condoned and accepted as mechanisms of expression, excess will determine people to distance themselves from the source.

Obsessing about negative thoughts brings everyone down, constant bitterness and sarcasm will make the environment unbearable, holding on to past traumas or building up negative emotions are sure paths toward being abandoned by everyone.

If you recognize these in yourself, work toward seeing the upside — start a journal and write down one thing you are grateful for each day, spread good news you have heard or that has happened to you, cheer someone up if they are having a bad day — and if you recognize it in someone else, either try to help them change their perspective or distance yourself from them, otherwise it will end up consuming you as well.

2. Victimization

Some people feel like the world is out to get them — if the ATM is out of cash, it’s a tragedy that could only happen to them; if they are late for a meeting, it was a world conspiracy that the bus drivers were on strike that very morning; if they don’t get the promotion, someone worked behind their backs and asked for a favor from the boss, and they were cheated out of what was rightfully theirs. They have an endless number of complaints and apparently, there’s nothing they can do about the bad luck that keeps landing on their heads, so they go on and on about it until others feel the need for space and put some distance between them and the crybaby.

If this scenario sounds familiar, maybe you have a tendency to play the victim or know someone who does. While it is true there we cannot control many aspects of our lives, a negative and helpless attitude prevents our ability to take action and stops us from making progress. Warrant a proactive attitude from yourself and others and break the cycle of lamentation.

3. Excessive reactivity

The inability to manage your emotions makes everyone feel ill at ease. Whether it’s crying uncontrollably when something doesn’t go as planned, yelling at someone for making a mistake, raging and kicking the coffee machine for having a malfunction, being an emotional rollercoaster puts people on their guard and makes them wary of getting too close to you — because they never know what will happen next and they eventually grow tired of walking on eggshells around you.

Everybody gets their patience spread thin sometimes, and we all fly off the handle once in a while, but if it becomes the norm, rather than the exception, you should try exhibiting some emotional intelligence and take control of your wild emotions.

4. Cruelty

The inability or refusal to feel empathy, to exhibit compassion and to put yourself in someone else’s shoes creates situations where people feel the need to walk away, so as to escape the source of their discomfort. Negative criticism, judging people, being superficial, not respecting other people’s boundaries, these are all indicators telling those around that they can no longer pay the price for this relationship and would be better off without you. Society has evolved and the majority of people can detect a bully or an oppressor early on and, thus, choose to not allow their lives to be influenced by such toxic behaviors.

5. Jealousy and envy

These traits make the person who feels them just as uncomfortable as those who notice them. It’s alright to admire or desire to have the same possessions, position, traits as someone else, but if this inclination becomes all-consuming and determines you to make nasty comments, gossip, scheme and plot, it will poison you own mind and soul, as well as make others take distance. Strive toward achieving the same level of success as others, but through healthy means and by adjusting your expectations — sometimes, we must accept that we are not meant for the status, title, goods we covet.

6. Need for constant validation

When you seek constant validation, you allow others to define your own worth, instead of analyzing and discovering it for yourself. Trying to boost self-esteem through outside measures of success, accomplishments and the opinions of others is a bad idea that leads to low confidence and even depression. We would better focus on the journey, the process, the path, rather than the results and what others think of us. We should find our own value, better ourselves, improve in some way (hobbies, courses) for our sake, and then watch as the world takes notice and appreciates.

Whether you detect them in yourself or someone else, these toxic behaviors can be changed. It takes willpower and discipline, but it’s a skill, therefore it can be learned, practiced and perfected. Start small, take it slowly, but concentrate on it every day, and if you feel the need, ask for help.

At TRISOFT, we support self-development, positivity and a nurturing professional and personal environment. We aim to encourage our team members to ascertain the presence of toxic behaviors in others and themselves, and take steps toward abolishing them. It only takes a bit of work and perseverance; true story ;)