If you have ever been bullied before, you know how it can crush your soul.
You feel weak, ashamed, and unworthy.
After all, why you??!!
And maybe this bullying hasn’t ever stopped!
You are still being bullied as an adult. Subtly. Non-stop. Humiliatingly.
If those 5 lines resonated with you, then this article can help you. If you are an adult who is being bullied (or even a teenager) this can help you understand bullying, bullies, toxic people, and toxic behavior.
That can help you break free from this vicious cycle of losing self-respect and being mistreated.
It’s an excerpt from my book The Social Guide to Handling Toxic People: Become too Charismatic to be Bullied and too Charismatic to be Resisted. I will leave more information about it at the end of the article.
I am Bullied as an Adult by Those Toxic People
In this chapter, we will meet some toxic people. Some real toxic people! I bet you have met some of them in your own life. And maybe you did but don’t know.
We are doing this because of two reasons.
The first one is because we need to study evil as we stated earlier. The second one is because those types we are going to discuss are wide-spread and chances are many of them are in your life right now.
Let’s dive in.
Note: I made a video about this type. You can watch it instead of reading. Here it is:
Clowns are supposed to be fun though some people find them scary.
Laughter is good. Jokes are relieving. A hilarious sense of humor can be priceless. Good-natured humor can help us cope better with stress. And speaking of social interactions, humor can help us have a good time, effortless conversations, and better connections.
So, all in all, humor is good. However, good things can be used in bad ways. A knife can be used to cut onions or to kill people.
And this is where some toxic people abuse humor.
They use it to cover up their insecurities. They use it as a tool to masquerade hostility and aggression. They use it as a socially accepted type of bullying. And they give it a name and say that it is another type of humor with all the benefits of good-natured humor. But they are lying. They are lying to you and probably lying to themselves, too.
What do they call it?
And oh, before I continue explaining why sarcasm is toxic, there is this famous lie that if you can’t tolerate sarcasm, then you are too insecure and too sensitive.
Sarcasm, as we are going to define it, is yet another (subtle) type of bullying. And if you can say that people who can’t tolerate bullying are sensitive, then I will wholeheartedly declare that people who can’t tolerate sarcasm are also sensitive wimps.
Sarcasm is scatological humor
There is a difference between sarcasm and witty humor.
Sarcasm is more about making fun of people. It plays on people’s insecurities. It’s a way to tear down someone or of a group of people, for whatever reason, indirectly. A sarcastic comment, if you look at it a bit deeper, is nothing but an insult.
There is nothing funny about someone calling one of his friends, in front of a group of friends, “creepy nerd,” and then adding an insulting joke about nerds while making his friend feel small and insecure. All that while knowing that this nerd friend is socially awkward and is probably insecure about being called a nerd, for it asserts his insecurities about his social skills and likability.
That’s bullying. And the so-called nerd is mistaken if he considers this as normal behavior of his “friend”, especially if the comment made him upset deep down. And he will be in deep troubles if he doesn’t stand up for himself and silent that dick, for he will send a message to everyone around him that he is the type of person who can be pushed around and would do nothing but nervously laugh. Let alone that his mind is going to give him a hard time because he didn’t stand up for himself; his self-esteem will get a hard hit.
So, who are those mean clowns? And how to spot them?
They are toxic people who abuse humor and turn it into sarcasm to project their insecurities onto other people. They use humor to bully others. They usually have a good sense of humor. Many of them can effortlessly make other people laugh. But they use their abilities in a dark way.
They are the ones who make mean comments and make fun of one of the people in the group. And they are usually, but not always, found inside groups. After all, to really damage someone, they need to have people watching.
Those comments usually hurt the person who receives them. I was shocked by the number of the threads online about how to handle such people who make a mockery of you in public. Those comments indicate that people are really hurt by them but are unable to express their refusal to this mockery for the fear of either losing their so-called friends or the fear of being labeled sensitive. That is why I have said that this type of humor, which is referred to as sarcasm, is nothing but a form of bullying masqueraded as humor.
If it hurts you, it’s bullying, especially if you feel –after the situation finishes– that you should have said something.
In general, those mean clowns are found in groups. They target a few members in this group and make fun of them and intentionally try to embarrass them. They choose their targets based on many factors, including jealousy, hatred (which is usually motivated by jealousy), how defenseless the person seems (which is one of the things this book deals with), and even merely by how their mean jokes, which reflect their insecurities, apply on you.
There is negative energy in their jokes. A negative vibe. As if they are taking revenge of you or purposely want to make you feel bad and get you destroyed. You can sense that.
Some sarcasm and teasing between close friends can sometimes be acceptable because it doesn’t have this bad vibe or evil tendencies (this is the only case sarcasm can be harmless, but not necessarily useful, especially in the long run!).
There is a desire to hurt you and to put you down and you can feel it. And they feel better when they succeed at making you feel bad; the negative energy turns into a sense of relief –as if they have accomplished something of importance to them.
They can be loud and outgoing. You know, the type that usually makes the entire group laughs all the time. Or they can be the silent type that unexpectedly, and explicitly, drops a sarcastic comment about you. Remember, let go of the stereotypes.
And last but not least, narcissists and manipulators and other types of toxic people can use this strategy along with their other abilities to harm you. However, some people specialize in this and don’t have other weapons to hurt you other than sarcasm. They are neither narcissists nor they possess any type of manipulative behavior. Either way, it’s not fun and you need to stop considering it fun.
If only enough people stood up for themselves against sarcasm, we would be better off. There is nothing worse than being bullied by people you might consider as your friends. And there is nothing worse than being called “sensitive” when you voice out your dissatisfaction with this type of behavior. You have the right to set your own boundaries. Do that and don’t settle to these resentment-filled comments.
And oh, by the way, this is also a good way to weed out the enemies and haters who are disguised as friends. They will usually use this strategy because it allows them to express their resentment and hatred and jealousy without exposing themselves.
Who are they?
Narcissism is one of the black triad personality traits.
They are people who are full of themselves. It’s believed that they have too positive an image of themselves. It’s too positive to the point of feeling grandiose.
They have a big ego, which makes them not only think highly of themselves but also think less of other people. They are living on a top of a mountain while literary looking down at other people. They are obsessed with the idea that they are perfectly flawless.
Because they are perfectly flawless, people ought to show them nothing but admiration and be amazed at the sight of them. And should you show anything less than that, you are immediately considered worthless. They define worthlessness as other people’s inability to recognize what an idol is standing before them.
And the fact that they consider themselves more important than other people actually makes them do their best to seem stronger, more attractive, more resourceful, and more competent.
A typical narcissist will strive for power and status-related achievement aggressively because their self-image depends on that.
And they are perfectly capable of being assholes and jerks. They can make you feel insecure just by the fact that they have more resources than you. If you have relatively high self-esteem and you are not made insecure by their shiny light, they still have something in store for you. Many of them, especially if they consider you powerful, will try to get you down (bully you) to make sure they are the shiniest object in the room. And oh, they do that very well because they are master manipulators (more about manipulation below) and they know how to find people’s buttons and push them.
How to spot them
Below are a few traits to look for. Make sure that you find as many as possible (most of them) to assume that someone is a narcissist or at least possesses some narcissistic traits.
- Full of themselves. I know a guy who literally goes around telling people that he is a king.
- Great first impressions. They appear charming and charismatic, at least initially. Not everybody who makes a good first impression is a narcissist. However, most narcissists have been able to hone this skill because it helps them appear powerful and have more fans. Also, from my point of view, because narcissists have troubled relationships that often don’t last, they find themselves in new relationships with new people and thus they have to charm those people to get new followers and even relationships.
- Obsession with statues and power, even if they pretend the opposite.
- Perfect social media accounts. We all post our good sides and our good times on social media. However, a perfect and flawless social media account may indicate that the person is deliberately trying to project a certain image. Also, pay attention to pictures, as narcissists usually have solo photos where they are the center of the photo. However, don’t take social media as a stand-alone sign and collect as many signs as possible.
- Looking down at other people. (Exceptions for high-status people).
- Bad relationships’ history. Especially romantic relationships.
- Horrible self-awareness. Not always. But take on account that self-awareness is a humble journey that includes calling one’s ugly names sometimes. Not something that narcissists find fun.
- Their ability to empathize is as horrible as their self-awareness. I believe that there is a correlate between self-awareness and empathy. You cannot relate to what people are feeling or going through if you are oblivious to many of your feelings and shortcomings.
How to handle them
You are going to learn a few strategies to protect yourself from toxic people in general in the next chapters. However, I am going to give you here a few ideas about how to handle narcissists.
- Walk away. Period. Don’t try to do the next, which is;
- Don’t try to change them. You won’t. Just walk away.
- Understand their manipulative behavior. We will talk about manipulative behavior below.
- Make boundaries. Self-respect. We will talk about this in the next chapter.
- Make your boundaries crystal clear. Goes along with the previous point. Say what you can’t tolerate and don’t tolerate it.
- Protect your boundaries viciously. Don’t just keep talking about your boundaries. Walk away. Making them know who they are dealing with.
To spot manipulators, you need to know what a manipulative behavior is and how to recognize it.
I actually feel sorry and emphasize with this type of toxic people more than any type. The closer you look, the more you realize that they are just wounded and are clueless about how to get their needs met in a healthy way that doesn’t include manipulation.
Acts of manipulation, in and of themselves, are not healthy. They do hurt. However, they are not always evil. There are some badness and evil associated with narcissism and sarcasm; however, manipulation, as a stand-alone behavior, is a scream for help and I personally understand where it is coming from (although I don’t accept it or justify it).
Here are 6 examples of manipulative behaviors that you need to be aware of. The more someone has of these behaviors, the more he/she is likely to be a manipulator –and the more wounded and/or unstable he/she is.
Blackmail, whatever type it is, is an unfair negotiation.
When it comes to emotional blackmail, as it is with every other type of blackmail, you give the blackmailer whatever he wants, not because you want to but because you would get hurt otherwise. Usually, they threaten to hurt you by taking something away that they know you care about.
This something that they know you care about, in most cases, is them and the relationship with them. Sometimes it’s their approval if they are in a position of authority. Sometimes both.
For instance, John tells Sally that he will leave her should she refuse to stop hanging out with her friends.
The mother who tells her son that she wants nothing to do with him should he go to study aboard.
John who sits Sally down and lists all the good things he has done for her, and how much he *loves her* and, accordingly, how she is in fault for disobeying him.
Equally, the mother who tells her son how much she has suffered to make him who he is today, and shamelessly reminds him of all the money she has spent on him, and then says that she loves him and cares about him although she may not, should he disobey her.
Reminding someone that you love them and care about them and the relationship is one thing. Reminding someone that you love them and using that as a way to manipulate their behavior is another thing –a toxic thing! Those are manipulative behaviors. This is blackmail, not love.
This is very similar to emotional blackmailing.
They play on your conscious. They make you feel guilty when you don’t do what they want.
It’s when the other person makes you feel like you have made a mistake by doing this or by not doing this. Again, it’s a way to control and manipulate behavior.
When they forget something at home, and you are extremely busy doing something very important to you, and they call you to ask you to get that thing for them. But you truly can’t leave the house for what you are doing is of utmost importance to you.
So, you say no.
And here comes the guilt trip. They will make you feel like you have done them wrong by not bringing them their stuff and that you have disappointed them. That you are selfish. That you have hurt them and that you don’t even care about them.
This is manipulation. They use guilt to force you to do what they want or to make you feel bad when you don’t do what they want.
Again, guilt works because they know you care about this thing they make you feel guilty about. It could be your identity as a good person who serves others. It could be their relationship with you and how you should never disappoint them. Manipulation, regardless of its different faces, stems from the same place, which is bribing you emotionally because you are invested emotionally (Hint: for those of you who think that the solution is to never invest emotionally, it’s not. You need to invest emotionally in a healthy way and in healthy individuals, a big part of what we are doing in this book by highlighting the dysfunctional attitudes in relationships.)
Generosity is a good deed.
However, there is toxic generosity and there is genuine generosity.
With toxic generosity, there are strings attached. You give to get; you give to manipulate the behavior and the emotions of someone –either to get them to do something for you or to give you something (physical or emotional).
Genuine generosity, on the other hand, is when you deeply care about someone and you genuinely want to help them. You give because you care. You give because you want to give.
When toxic generosity is not paid back, resentment is the typical response. And when the genuine one is not paid back, it doesn’t matter because it’s not the point anyway –the point is to help and to give.
Always be aware of people who are too nice.
This one is a silent contract.
It goes like, “I know you care about X and I know that you need it. I will stop giving you this X until you do what I say.”
It extremely sucks when the person who is deprived of this X is in a great need of it.
Sometimes this X can be love. And obviously, this happens in romantic relationships. It happens subtly. One partner starts pulling away and not giving the other partner what they really need. This partner doesn’t leave the relationship but only gives so little of what the other partner needs to manipulate them to do something.
In other cases, this X is approval. And this happens in families or in friend’s groups. It’s like, “we are not going to consider you one of us and we will not give you the feeling that you belong to us until you do this and/or stop doing that.”
Whatever the case, it’s manipulation. Again, manipulation, regardless of the intentions, is toxic because it’s an indirect way to force people to do something for us rather than honestly communicating our needs and fulfilling them directly and in healthy ways which don’t include this type of drama.
It’s your fault!
And because it’s your fault, you have to fix it. It’s your responsibility.
To put it simply:
Beware of anyone who refuses to be held responsible for their own actions, especially when it’s obvious that their actions are causing damage. Be aware of people who don’t want to be held responsible for their emotional baggage.
Those people will not accept the responsibility for their own mistakes and shortcoming, which is already bad enough because that will cost you time, energy, or even money if you are around them enough.
They might hurt other people and refuse to be held responsible. That is even worse. One must know what he is responsible for and be painfully honest about that.
But most importantly, they will not accept the responsibility for their own emotional baggage. When someone doesn’t accept the responsibility for their own emotions, they assume that their well-being is other people’s responsibility. And if their well-being is somehow fucked up, it’s someone’s fault and they hate them for it.
You may think that sometimes it’s actually someone else’s fault that your well-being is not so well. They have done quite the damage for you. They could be your family, a boyfriend/girlfriend, the government, a specific group of people, or whoever. And that might be true. But what you are missing here is that blaming is still a toxic deed because it’s about relinquishing responsibility and assuming the victim’s role (we will talk about victims in the next lecture).
Even if someone has been the reason for your suffering, it’s still your responsibility to pick yourself up and remedy the situation. That’s called maturity. Even if someone is somehow making you suffer emotionally, it’s your responsibility to walk away and to handle those bad emotions and overcome them to feel sane again. That’s called emotional maturity.
People who actively practice blame are neither mature nor emotionally mature. Remember that the most important requirement for being a toxic person is the inability to accept responsibility for your own insecurities and projecting them onto others. Well, it all starts with blaming someone or something else for what you are directly responsible for: your actions and your emotional well-being. Don’t be that way. And be careful of people who are this way.
The silent treatment
Lack of communication should never exist in healthy relationships. You should always be able to communicate and to talk about things, good and bad.
The silent treatment is about torturing the other person and giving them the cold shoulder without telling them why you are doing what you are doing.
Let’s assume that you are the toxic person for a while. You are the one who is going to use the silent treatment to manipulate and hurt someone else.
You are going to treat the other person as if they don’t exist and as if they don’t matter. All of that suddenly and without any warnings or any type of communication. Yes, the other person is aware that you are probably being a dick because you are upset about something or even upset because they have done something. However, they have no clue what that thing is. They are just left wondering what in the world they could have done wrong. And that’s the trick. Their insecurities, which you are probably aware of, will come to the surface and they will start blaming and doubting themselves. You know that they care about the relationship with you and you use that as emotional blackmail and as a way to make them feel guilt-ridden. And you know that under the weight of their insecurities, they are going to come kneeling before you and begging your pardon, majesty!
That’s a shitty way to treat someone you care about. Relationships are based on honest communication. And honest communication is extra important when something goes wrong. Remaining silent as a way to make other people pay for what they have done is a strategy that lacks honest communication and therefore manipulative and toxic.
Victims Are Toxic, too
Victims are the next on our list.
While seemingly harmless, they are still toxic.
Unfortunately, I will not be discussing them here. You will find more about them, and about how to handle toxic people, and about how to become socially powerful in the book. And you will be supporting my work as well 🙂