Six toxic behaviours: How to recognise them - HR Future helps people prepare for the Future of Work and is South Africa's leading print, digital and online Human Resources magazine.

Six toxic behaviours: How to recognise them


According to Jodie Gale, MA, a psychotherapist and life coach in Sydney, Australia; it’s common for people with toxic behaviour to: create drama in their lives
or be surrounded by it; try to manipulate or control others; be needy (“it is all about them all the time”); use others to meet their needs (such as “narcissistic parents”); be extremely critical of themselves and others; be jealous and envious of others, bemoaning their bad fortune and others’ good fortune; abuse substances or harm themselves in other ways, and be unwilling (or unable) to seek help from loved ones, a therapist or a recovery programme.

It’s not that the whole person is toxic. Rather, their behaviour is toxic or your relationship with the person is toxic.

“Often the person is deeply wounded and for whatever reason, they are not yet able to take responsibility for their wounding, their feelings, their needs and their subsequent problems in life.”- Gale

They may over identify and act out the parts of who they are, such as the victim, bully, perfectionist or martyr, she said. “They act from these parts trying to get their needs met, albeit in an extremely unhealthy way.”

Six toxic behaviours to look out for in yourself and others:

1. Superiority: Spurgeon an extraordinary 19th Century Orator warned against seeing ourselves as superior to others according to our race and place (ethnicity, tribe, social and class status);
2. Lack of Conscience: the conscience is underpinned by our value system. Unhinging ourselves from appropriate absolutes of what is right and wrong will be destructive to individuals, families and society as a whole;
3. Hiding your truth: Marc Chernoff says, “people cannot connect with you if you’re constantly trying to hide from yourself. And this becomes a truly toxic situation the minute they become attached to your false persona. So remember, no matter what age, race, sex, or sexuality you are, underneath all your external decorations you are a pure, beautiful being, each and every one of us are";
4. Lack of emotional self-control: an inability to manage your emotions is toxic to everyone around you. Yelling at the grocery store clerk for the long line, screaming at an employee for a small error she made, or losing it with your daughter for spilling juice on the floor;
5. Being envious of everyone else: don’t let envy (or jealously) get the best of you. Envy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own; and
6. Obsessive negative thinking: It’s very hard to be around people who refuse to let go of negativity, who incessantly see life through a gloomy lens.

Bringing about change:

1. These behaviours are sinister and buried in parts of our personality that are bruised and disfigured. They are hard to see on your own;
2. You need courage to go there and amazing friends and colleagues who can be both truthful and compassionate with you;
3. Do some walking in other people's shoes, where you can see yourself as others see you;
4. With the help of a coach start looking at what is driving your behaviour. Start by uprooting the negative thoughts that are driving your toxic behaviour; and
5. Get feedback, positive reinforcement with help fuel your appetite for transforming your behaviour.

Iain Shippey is a Partner at Change Partners.

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