Identifying and Eliminating Toxic People From Your Life

Sarah Zink
3 min readMay 2, 2017


Before I jump into this topic, I want to clearly identify what I’m talking about when I say ‘toxic people’. Toxic people really exist on a spectrum — at one end, they are simply annoying or frustrating; however, at the other end, they can be emotionally, mentally, spiritually and even physically dangerous to you.

Another important aspect of dealing with toxic people is to acknowledge is that toxicity is relative to each person — we are all toxic to someone — and that each of our tolerance levels for toxic behavior varies. Only you can determine who/what/where/when toxic behavior exists and when it’s time to eliminate those relationships from your life. Your ability to successfully navigate your way out of toxic relationships and away from toxic people is a critical skill that will enable you to have a powerful life and move in the direction of your dreams.

So, what are some types of toxic behavior? I’ve got a list of more than 30 types of toxic people that I’ve built over the past 15 year of teaching communication and behavior workshops, and here are what I consider the top five:

  • The Volcano (aka The Jekyll/Hyde) You never know what type of mood they will be in, and — even then — they will flip on you quickly.
  • The Non-Homicidal Sociopath These are emotional vampires and energy hogs, and are — by and large — incapable of empathy.
  • The Drama Queen These are the hot mess’ of the world. They are walking crisis’ and emotional wrecks.
  • The Social Bully (aka The Mudslinger) These will shame you publically for your choices in food, beverages, clothing, relationships, etc. They offer backhanded compliments or make hurtful remarks and they say, ‘Just Kidding’.
  • The Punisher (aka Emotional Blackmailer) They will tantalize you with promises of what they will do for you if you do something for them, or will punish you for perceived wrongs by withholding love and attention. They are experts in the silent treatment.

So how do you break away from these folks?

  • FIRST: I believe that you have to acknowlege the fact that you are choosing (in many cases) to be with these folks. Either because of your socialization to ‘be nice’, or because you’re addicted to helping toxic people, or because — consciously or not — you believe that that is the best you deserve.
  • SECOND: Begin to practice the art of ‘disengagement’. Stop returning phone calls, texts and emails. Sit with different people. Go to activities with different people. It might require you to change many things, yet in the long run, it’s worth it.
  • THIRD: Seek out those people who behave in healthy ways, who are better, faster, stronger and smarter than you are. When we hang out with these people, we grow.

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Sarah Zink

Renaissance woman. Powerful, not willful. Not a fan of ppl in general. Master quilter, classic jazz singer, author & angel card reader.