Toxic People VS Toxic Behavior: Examples

Here in Season 1, we are exploring the question "Am I the Toxic One?"

For our first subtopic, we are investigating the differences between toxic people and toxic behaviors. 

In our last post we explored the theoretical differences between these two. In this post, we are going to illustrate some of those differences with some real-world examples. 

We are going to look at two different folks: Cindy, who is a toxic person, and Jessie who is not a toxic person but does engage in occassional toxic behaviors. Both Cindy and Jessie are going to be independently planning parties for the friends and coworkers.

To plan the party each of our characters will have to complete three major tasks: 

  1. Select a date, time and location for the party
  2. Get decorations and food for the party
  3. Tell party-goers about the party and collect RSVPs

Let's take a look at how Cindy, our example toxic person, manages: 

Cindy begins selecting the time, date, and location by reflecting exclusively on what is convenient for her. She decides to hold the party at her friend's house but she doesn't confirm that this is ok with her friend.

When it's time to tell the party-goers about the event, Cindy sends out a single email announcement. She then goes around to all of her coworkers and friends and makes them feel guilty for not seeing this one communication. She uses guilt and other manipulation tactics to get a large number of people to agree to go to the party. 

For the decorations and food, Cindy picks stuff that she likes without considering what other people might like. She makes a list of things that need to be picked up. She then proceeds to force a coworker to drop the things they were working on to go and pick up these things without any advance notice. 

Now let's take a look at how Jessie, our non-toxic person, manages:

Jessie picks the time, date, and location by reflecting on what is most convenient for everyone. They decide to hold the party at a public park because that is best for everyone. They then proceed to confirm the reservation at the park for the selected date and time. 

When it's time to tell the party-goers about the event, they send out three email invitations in the weeks leading up to the event. Jessie regularly shares how excited they are about the event with friends and coworkers. Jessie learns that one of their friends has a doctor's appointment at the same time as the party. Jessie uses guilt to convince their friend to reschedule the appointment despite it being an important doctor visit. 

Jessie picks food and decorations based on what most people would like. They manage to pick up the decorations themselves, but vents frustration at a coworker about not picking up the food too. Jessie then proceeds to manipulate the coworker into helping get the food despite the deadline the coworker is under. 

There are a couple of major differences between the process Cindy goes through and the one that Jessie goes through. 

  • Cindy regularly engages in a lot of different toxic behaviors. These are widespread and maladaptive
  • Jessie engages in some toxic behaviors, but they are not dominating the Jessie party planning experience. 

From this, we can generalize some of the differences between toxic people and folks who occasionally engage in toxic behavior. 

  • Toxic people engage in toxic behaviors by default and they get in the way of living a quality life. 
  • Folks who occasionally engage in toxic behaviors regularly have interactions that are free from toxicity. Their problematic behaviors do not significantly undermine their quality of life, but they do sometimes alienate the people around them. 

Both kinds of folks have at least some problematic behaviors that need to be worked on, and both struggle with creating unnecessary problems in their relationships and in achieving their goals. We also say that sometimes both kinds of folks engage in the same behaviors (both Jessie and Cindy occasionally used guilt to get others to act a certain way). 

If you are wondering "Am I the toxic one" you might ask yourself: do you relate more to Cindy or to Jessie? 

You can find a more in-depth discussion of these examples over on our podcast and on our Youtube. If you aren't following us over on Instagram, go ahead and give us a follow @empowermentthroughthought


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