How do psychopaths deal with toxic people

Toxic people - and how they poison those around them

Do you know that? You have contact with someone and afterwards you feel somehow tired, exhausted, maybe also depressed or irritable. Your gut instinct is advising you to avoid this person. You are probably dealing with a so-called “toxic” person, that is, someone who literally “poisons” their surroundings little by little - mostly in a creeping and initially inconspicuous manner. Toxic people can be encountered anywhere - whether at work or in private. It is all the more important to recognize them and their poisonous goings-on at an early stage and to learn to distance oneself from them.


Toxic people usually have pronounced personality traits in the form of the so-called "dark triad"1 on. This is what scientists call the combination of three rather destructive human traits that often appear together: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Narcissism manifests itself in a pronounced self-exaggeration or overestimation, an extreme greed for admiration, coupled with the inability to accept criticism of oneself. “Machiavellians” are power-hungry people who mercilessly manipulate others in order to achieve their own goals. In doing so, they often act completely pitilessly and literally go "over dead bodies", in other words about moral and often also legal limits. If narcissistic and Machiavellian people also have pronounced psychopathic traits, they are particularly cold-tempered, pitiless and empathy and, in their ruthlessness, know neither human values ​​nor taboos.


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The "dark triad" makes the poison


Toxic people manage to achieve their own goals amazingly well. They are often well received at first, appear charming, fascinating and overall positive. Their ruthlessness is initially misunderstood as assertiveness and "power", their pitylessness as "coolness". In addition: Hardly anyone can stop them. Because although their share in the total population is comparatively small, their effect is often resounding, since everyone else is so decent that they don't know how to put an end to the evil goings on.


Basically every person has the approach to develop toxic manners - everyone who has at least a bit of self-knowledge will be able to identify “dark” parts of themselves. Whether someone develops into a toxic personality ultimately depends on the extent to which the respective proportions are expressed, on socialization and upbringing. These factors will usually decide whether the positive (socially acceptable) or the negative (toxic) personality traits will ultimately gain the upper hand.


How to recognize them ...


Those who recognize the typical traits of a toxic person find it easier to beware of them and their toxic effects. It is only important that you do not characterize everyone who behaves in a socially unfriendly manner as a toxic person - maybe the person in question is just going through a difficult time or has been particularly angry about something. Really toxic people display the same behavior patterns over and over again for a long time, they

  • do everything to get their way - including lying, (emotionally) blackmailing, humiliating, creating feelings of guilt ...;
  • know everything better;
  • criticize, rush, tease, bully, play people off against each other;
  • present themselves permanently as victims of others in order to get someone on their side;
  • apologize for nothing (because you are not to blame for anything, it's the others!);
  • start quarreling over little things;
  • are cross-border and intrusive;
  • completely hog others, especially in close relationships;
  • behave in general anti-social, inconsiderate and destructive.


Conclusion: Not everyone is directly toxic just because they behave badly from time to time. Only when certain behavior patterns occur over a longer period of time can one really speak of toxic people.


... and how its poison works


Most people who get into the negative sphere of action of a toxic person typically feel exhaustion (toxic people masterfully suck the energy out of others), doubts about their own perception / their own mind (the toxic person repeatedly presents the facts so convincingly the head that in the end one no longer knows what is real and what is deception) as well as feelings of guilt and the need to justify, because a toxic person manages to make the other person feel responsible for their misery through repeated whining, eternal reproaches and constant complaints be.


Beware of poisonous colleagues


If you have a toxic person on your team or even have to share an office with such a person, you need particularly good equipment to arm yourself against the poison to which you are exposed for around eight hours a day. The closer you are to a toxic colleague or boss, the worse. So you automatically have trouble not to be infected by their toxicity (and consequently to infect more and more other people with it). Because the mirror neurons in the brain ensure that the toxic behavior of someone else gradually rubs off on you2. That means: toxic behavior is contagious!


But how do we manage to prevent this infection? By recognizing the “toxicity” of these people as quickly as possible and then making a conscious decision: I neither want to be unbalanced nor infected by the toxic person. That already causes a certain "basic immunity". Once a toxic person has been identified, the following applies: Keep as much distance as possible, only have the most necessary conversations and only communicate on the work level. If this is difficult or impossible, one should consider calling in the supervisor or the works / staff council; they may be trained in dealing with toxic people.


In love with a toxic person?


A love affair with a toxic person is particularly fatal. The Cologne relationship expert Tanja Grundmann, who wrote a book about toxic relationships, compares in a radio interview with the Südwestrundfunk3 the toxic relationship with a rollercoaster ride between "extremely beautiful and extremely terrible moments". Such a relationship is a mixture of “love, quarrels, closeness, hatred and threats of separation”. According to Tanja Grundmann, people who have a “feeling of lack, a deep longing” are particularly susceptible to toxic personalities. First you experience that the new partner can compensate for this deficiency - but a toxic person cannot guarantee this over a long period of time. Typically, the toxic partner questions everything exactly when you think you have finally "arrived". "You fall into insanely deep pain and have the feeling that only the other person can fix it," says Grundmann. And: “We do everything we can to get that feeling back. This is the moment when we become vulnerable and manipulable. "


Tanja Grundmann and other experts4 According to such a toxic relationship means constant stress, which the person concerned more and more exhausted. Often, partners of toxic people also get physically ill. Tanja Grundmann describes the main problem with this type of partnership as follows: “I don't know if it's the worst thing that has ever happened to me or if it's the best relationship ever. One asks oneself: Is what we do absolutely insane or are we pioneers in partnership research? "


Constant stress up to total exhaustion


Tanja Grundmann wants to help those affected by first helping them to identify whether they are in a toxic relationship at all. For this she provides on her website5 a questionnaire available; if more than four of them are answered with “yes”, then “love” is in truth pure poison.


Most of those affected find it extremely difficult to end a toxic relationship because they are caught in a vicious circle of love and suffering. Expert Grundmann emphasizes that in such a case you need compassionate people who help you “to understand yourself again and to“ excuse yourself ”. Only those who treat themselves indulgently can “regain their strength”. And only then can one specifically think about delimitation and separation decisions. If this is too difficult for you alone, you should seek help from a therapist or a counseling center.


By the way: Anyone who believes that they can “detoxify” their toxic partner, that is, they can heal, is usually wrong. Toxic people can only get rid of their fatal characteristics themselves - provided they recognize themselves and really want to change. Promising: coaching or psychotherapy. If necessary, the partner could then provide support or work on the recovery as part of couples therapy.