This was first published on familyshare.com
Hindsight is 20/20 they say, and it’s funny how often at the end of a bad relationship, we wonder why we didn’t see the red flags sooner. Were they there? Should we have seen them? How did we miss them?
The truth is, we see what we want to see most of the time. At the beginning of any relationship, we are primarily looking for the good, especially if we want it to work out. We do this at work and in our personal relationships, but there are a few early warning signs it might help to flag when you see them. This may save you from unrealistic expectations and a real disappointment. It might also mean protecting yourself and using some caution around people who could be toxic.
Here are five behaviors to watch for early in a relationship:
1. They speak ill of others and relish in gossip
If they are critical and judgmental of everyone around them, they will be critical and judgmental of you, too. People who focus on the bad in others usually suffer from a subconscious fear of failure themselves. In this state they find it temporarily makes their ego feel safer if they focus on the bad in others. If they cast others as the bad guy, it makes them feel like the better guy. Anyone who speaks ill of others on a regular basis has the potential to be trouble in a relationship. They may not have the self-worth and wisdom to be able to give the love and support you deserve.
2. Every situation is about them
If you notice that everything is about them, how they feel and how it affects them, you must label what you are hearing as “selfish focus.” Again, people who have a fear of failure and low self-esteem are selfishly focused on themselves most of the time. If that is their focus, they won’t be able to see situations from your point of view very easily. Just because someone is in this space one day, I would not write them off as toxic, but if it’s a pattern all the time, make note of it as another red flag.
3. They’re frequently upset and irrational
If someone gets triggered into an unbalanced upset state easily and often, and once their logic seems a tad off, that can be a big red flag. Mature, balanced people understand that feeling upset is a choice and nothing (or no one) can make you that way. You are in control of your choices, attitudes and behavior. You are responsible for how immature and over the top your frustration or anger gets.
We find some people tend to have over-the-top responses, drama and irrational thinking. This behavior is important to flag because one day it may be you they are upset at, and this immature behavior makes it difficult to talk things through and resolve them. If they aren’t able to see things from another person’s perspective, logically see what happened and why and talk about things without drama and emotion, they will have some unhealthy fighting behavior that could be directed at you eventually.
4. They don’t trust you
There is a universal law that says we see the world as we are. This means anyone who doesn’t trust you, accuses you of cheating, is dishonest or has ill intent might think you would act that way because they would. It’s not true 100 percent of the time, but it is worth looking into. Those who would never be dishonest rarely are suspicious of others and are often taken advantage of. If someone is constantly accusing you or others of bad behavior, that could be a warning sign they aren’t trustworthy.
5. Their moods and reactions are unpredictable
If you are never quite sure which version of this person you will get today and there is a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde feeling to the two sides of their personality, that could be a red flag. Toxic people are often moody, unstable and even may have borderline personality disorder, one of the more difficult mental illnesses to deal with. These people rarely admit they have a problem and rarely seek the help they need to have healthy relationships. If a person is normally very calm, kind and rational, but on occasion has a blow-up that is way different from their normal personality, you might not really know them as well as you think.
When dating, starting a friendship or thinking of promoting someone at work, you want to make sure you see the other person in stressful, upsetting situations and watch how they cope first. Everyone behaves fairly well when things are going great. You don’t see their unbalanced behavior until things get scary, unsettled or threatening.
Just keep your eyes open and don’t be afraid to love some people from afar.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and 12shapes.com. She is the author of the book “Choosing Clarity” and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.