Opinions

5 Toxic Behaviors No One Should Tolerate In 2017

Humans always try to build relationships over the course of their lifetime. Relationships with parents, partners, siblings, workmates and so on. But we all know that relationships are famously difficult. People argue and they fight, even when they care for each other,  and it’s little wonder that there are many of us who have trouble recognising the line in the sand—and yes, it’s there—when normal turns into toxic.

Not all relationships are toxic. People who grow up in families where relationships are strong, love is openly expressed, boundaries are minded, and respect is the operative word have a built-in alarm system when connections go darkly south. This is opposite for people who came of age in fractious households in which adults used abusive language or manipulative tactics to manage the family.

These insecurely-attached people don’t have a solid mental model of what a healthy, thriving relationship includes—and the behaviors it doesn’t. This year, it should be our aim to gert rid of all toxins in our lives. I have made up a list of five toxic behaviours everyone should recognise and no one should tolerate. It doesn’t matter who’s behaving in this way and the rule is no tolerance, whether it’s a spouse, a lover, a parent, a sibling, a friend, or a co-worker.

Making sure that you don’t normalise any of these behaviours is the first step. The second is holding the people who behave in any of these ways accountable.

1. Stonewalling

It’s been called the most toxic pattern in a relationship and it’s common enough that it’s earned its own acronym in research: DM/W or Demand/Withdraw. Escalation is built into this conscious withdrawal and refusal to talk since the person who wants the discussion will ratchet up her (or his) demands the more the partner withdraws. There’s a gender bias—men are more likely to be in the withdraw position—but women stonewall too.

Stonewalling is controlling and manipulative and has nothing to do with being shy, inarticulate or being tongue-tied about emotional connections. Don’t make excuses for a stonewalling partner, especially if the behaviour is accompanied by contempt. There’s a reason marriage expert John Gottman calls it one of the four Horsemen that doom a relationship.

2. Personalising criticism

Things go wrong in life: mistakes are made, vases get broken and bumpers get dented, dry cleaning doesn’t get picked up, and you forget key ingredients at the grocery store because you left the list on the counter. But when your partner or friend uses that moment to attack you—beginning sentences with the words “You always” or “You never”—you’re no longer in a healthy territory. Using a simple mistake to segue into a recitation of your flaws is verbal abuse, no matter how familiar it sounds to you.

3. Gaslighting

A term is taken from a play from the 1930s and a movie made of that play, gaslighting involves convincing someone that an event never happened or words were never uttered in an effort to make her feel she can’t trust her own perceptions and even, in extreme cases, to doubt her own sanity. (I’m using female pronouns but men can be gaslighted, too.)

Unloving and abusive parents often gaslight children—denying that they said what the child heard or that they did what the child witnessed—which can have lasting effects, among them a normalisation of this kind of denial. Gaslighting is by its nature predatory since the person doing the gaslighting is using your own self-doubt and insecurities as weapons against you. There is never any situation in which this behaviour is acceptable.

4. Threatening—whether veiled or not

This sounds pretty obvious but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t always hear the underbelly of the words, “If you don’t…. then I will….” Relationships in which there is one person who has more literal power in some area of life—that could be a parent or a spouse who makes most or all of the money or even any relationship that has some other imbalance—often incorporate this kind of behaviour seamlessly.

Threats don’t exist in a vacuum; there are usually other ancillary behaviours such as marginalising the person, denigrating her or treating her with contempt or using personalised criticism that facilitates the aggression and makes the person being threatened to normalise the behaviour. This kind of emotional grandstanding isn’t okay even when it doesn’t include a physical threat. You hear me?

5. Scapegoating

When things go wrong, people feel better if there’s some kind of explanation and, alas, for toxic folks, blame is one way of connecting the dots.

Blaming one person for whatever goes wrong has the added “benefit” of permitting you to evade any personal responsibility. That’s why it’s easier for a parent to focus on the so-called troublemaker in the family than to address her or his own failures as a parent. Scapegoating also helps people who are easily angered or thrown for a loop by random events to process what’s happened—even though it does require a really twisted version of illogic.

Making sure that you don’t normalise any of these behaviours is the first step. The second is holding the people who behave in any of these ways accountable.

You Might Also Like

  • Kenny D Osonwa

    Informative

  • cornel austin

    Noted.

  • Correct one

  • comrade segun

    Nice info

  • WillieBravo

    Well said.

  • Cornel Nwankwo

    Nice information admin
    Nice one

  • Mezzy Gilbert

    Hmmmm

  • Olovo Obinna

    Lol….actually the names u guys used…nice info admin..i will have them in mind