Life is a jungle. One way to come out on top is to recognize the predators and adjust your defence in accordance to their style of attack. It’s easy enough to handle Poisonous Personalities when they’re new people you meet or acquaintances. You can elect to disassociate yourself from them with little consequence. But what if they’re part of your family? What if they’re a member of a close knit group of friends you’ve had your entire life?
Perhaps you’ve tried ignoring their hurtful actions. This can work for a time but it creates a new issue, the seeds of resentment get all they need to dig their roots deep into your psyche.
You might find yourself replaying the situation over and over again, trying to understand why a person close to you would want to hurt you.
The quotes I use below as examples of each Poisonous Personality type are real comments I’ve had thrown my way. If we were animals in the wild we wouldn’t passively surrender ourselves if a predator launched an attack. So why is it that as humans we sit back and take the punches? Are we afraid to disrupt the constructed façade of a social network we consider near and dear to our hearts? Are we worried that if we speak up nothing will ever “be the same” again? Well maybe it should be different.
The Six Poisonous Personality Types
The Bullying Buffalo
Types of Attacks: Out of all the poisonous personalities, this one is definitely the most direct! Your classic elementary school bully all grown up. Their attacks catch you by surprise because their callous comments seemingly come out of nowhere. You might be wearing one of your comfiest pairs of track-pants for example when all of a sudden a Bullying Buffalo comes at you with, “Wow those pants make you look fat! Don’t wear them in my presence again”. Um, I’m sorry what? I know, I know it sounds like a fake comment but I assure you it’s not. The Bullying Buffalo rarely has their social nicety filter on. Their comments are rude, uncalled for, and over-the-top but like all of the other Poisonous Personalty types the Bullying Buffalo can be put in their place.
Your Best Defence: Keep your cool. Don’t fight fire with fire because the Bullying Buffalo thrives in a dramatic environment. Show your disgust at their rude comment with your facial expression and respond with a focused question, “Why did you think that hurtful comment was appropriate?” Likely they’ll come back with something like “Well I’m entitled to my opinion.” That’s when you can finish them off with “Next time when it comes to _________ (in this case my fashion choices) I would appreciate it if you kept your opinions to yourself”.
The Fake Fox
Types of Attacks: There are two ways to know you have a Fake Fox in your midst. Either you will hear how they love talking about you behind your back from credible sources or you will catch them in the act because their faker skills don’t rival those of Regina George. A Fake Fox likes to pretend they’re your biggest fan and saves their criticisms of you until after you’ve left the room. They compliment you to your face and pretend they agree with your life decisions even when those sentiments couldn’t be further from the truth. For example to your face they might say something like “Your building is nice, central, and walking distance to everything important. I love what you’ve done with the place.” and then behind your back reveal their true sentiments, “I can’t believe they prefer living in that tiny condo in the city when they could have a beautiful house here! Their area is so congested. How can they be happy there?”. Even though their method of attack doesn’t get to you right away like the Bullying Buffalo’s jabs do, the Fake Fox is just as hurtful. Finding out someone close to you is deceiving you and only pretending to be supportive stings just the same as a direct bullying remark.
Your Best Defence: The Fake Fox puts you in a difficult position. Since they saved their attacks until you weren’t there to hear it yourself they can easily deny every saying anything hurtful. Have you heard the saying An elephant never forgets? Well in this case I suggest embracing your inner elephant. Don’t call them out on what they’re accused of saying behind your back, instead hold on to that valuable piece of information. Now you know that you most likely can’t trust this person 100%. You’re also privy to their true sentiments so you can strategically drop that knowledge bomb in conversation and leave the Fake Fox sweating thinking about how you might be on to their back-stabbing ways..
The Jealous Jellyfish
Types of Attacks: This predator undermines your good-natured actions with hurtful comments. They make you fearful of saying too much about anything going well in your life because they’ll respond with moodiness and snide remarks. Their jealousy is draining and puts a strain on your relationship. A few years ago, I attended a close friend’s birthday party and when it came time to open gifts I was attacked by a Jealous Jellyfish. My friend opened the card I had hand-made for her and began reading my long and thoughtfully written message. Afterwards she excitedly exclaimed that I always made the best cards. Our mutual friend and Jealous Jellyfish chimed in (loud enough for the table to hear) with “Of course Sofia had time to make a nice card. She just sits at home all day”. In fact I was fresh out of school, stressed out of my mind, and feverishly job-hunting so that I could help pay a mountain of bills. But that’s how it is with the Jealous Jellyfish, even when they know your situation isn’t perfect they’ll find something to latch onto. The one thing you have that they don’t, in this case more time at home, and try to make you feel bad for it..
Your Best Defence: The easiest strategy is to laugh a jealous comment off and to next time be more careful about bringing up things that are going well for you. But how is that fair? It will only weaken your relationship if you can’t be honest with someone close to you about things you’re proud of or happy about. Don’t apologize for shining bright! But do encourage the Jealous Jellyfish by letting them in on your secrets to success. In the case of my thoughtful card being undermined I responded with, “Actually I didn’t have time to write a long message in the card, I made time. I enjoy writing nice sentiments for people I care about, even if it means waking up extra early so I don’t lose any job-hunting time”. This type of response puts the Jealous Jellyfish in their place and shows them that they too can prioritize their time differently and work towards their goals instead of undermining the efforts of their friends.
The Judgmental Jaguar
Types of Attacks: This type of predator is the most effective at getting under your skin and staying there for the long term. They pass judgement and criticism instead of compliments. If you tell them you’re really happy with the new furniture you bought for your condo they might reply with “But when are you going to move into a house?”. They cross the line on a regular basis and seemingly can’t hold their tongue, “Have you ever thought about getting your nose done?” and “Why didn’t you get braces when you were younger”. They won’t stop at judging you and your life decisions, they’ll also criticize your family and friends, “You don’t want to end up like your mom though? You want to work don’t you?”. If only I had a picture of my livid face from when I heard that one.. The phrase seeing red comes to mind.
Your Best Defence: The thing with this type of predator is that they’ll never be satisfied. Even if you take their criticism to heart and aim to please, they’ll have a new judgy comment waiting for you next time you meet. What I find works best is coming to your own defence while at the same time putting the attacker in their place. For example when asked why I never considered plastic surgery to “fix” my nose I replied with: “I’m proud of my Greek nose. My parents raised me to love my body just the way it is.. If you have a charismatic personality you don’t need to chase an artificial idea of beauty”. In my response it’s made clear to the Judgemental Jaguar that they didn’t succeed in making me feel “unpretty” as TLC would say. Also my beliefs in regards to plastic surgery are mentioned which lets the Judgemental Jaguar know that we’re not likely to see eye to eye on this issue and continuing to nag on it won’t yield their desired outcome.
When my stay at home mom was attacked I replied with, “Actually my mom had many jobs. She was our teacher, our nurse, the head chef, the maid, the gardener, the household therapist and above all else our bestfriend. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the time and dedication my mom invested into raising me. I only have the fondest memories of my childhood. When I have children, I know my husband and I will decide together what makes the most sense for our family”.
In other words stay out of it Judgemental Jaguar! The idea is to help the Judgemental Jaguar get a sense of your core values so that in the future they’ll understand you better. Hopefully they’ll curb their nagging once they realize which issues you’re unlikely to budge on.
The Bragging Badger
Types of Attacks: At first you might think this person is just a little full-of-themselves and their boastful nature is innocent enough. That could be true of a regular boastful person but the Bragging Badger wields a sneaky method of attack.
They use their well-timed boastful remarks to undermine your successes.
For example, if you excitedly proclaim to the Bragging Badger that you managed to save enough Airmiles to book a night in Niagara Falls they might reply with, “That’s nice.. We’re planning another Europe trip for the fall. It’s going to be amazing!”. Or if you tell the Bragging Badger how you had a lot of fun over the weekend working on some DIY elements for your upcoming wedding they might reply with “That’s cute. We went all out on decorations. I got so many compliments on our floral arrangements!” Someone who truly values your friendship will genuinely acknowledge your comment before bringing the focus back to themselves. They’ll really hear you, ask questions about what you just said, and never use their own good fortune to undermine your personal wins.
Your Best Defence: Don’t buy into the Bragging Badger’s attacks and let them belittle things that you are proud of or excited about. The Bragging Badger thrives on attention. They long for you and everyone else to gush over their achievements. Curb your enthusiasm when they get into their Bragging Badger moods and they’ll start to fizzle out.
The Emotionally Manipulative Minx
Types of Attacks: The Manipulative Minx wields guilt as a weapon and takes advantage of your love for them to keep getting away with their subtle attacks. They get their way by making you feel bad for doing something perfectly reasonable. They work hard to make you second guess yourself about something you were thrilled about before speaking to the Manipulative Minx. For example if they know you have important plans on an a day they hoped you would visit they might say something like “That’s too bad. I’ve been so lonely lately. To tell you the truth I feel really low and I had already picked up your favorite for dinner.” The may even lie to get their way or to curb your self-assurance. “It’s funny that you ended up with (insert your partner’s name here) because they once told me they would never be happy dating someone outside their faith”.
Your Best Defence: Stay true to yourself and trust your instincts. That’s the best from of defence against the Manipulative Minx. If you start caving to their demands they will only keep them coming and you’ll find yourself resenting the fact that they were able to guilt you into changing your plans, or your mind about something important. Learn to expect their tactics and take a firm and consistent approach when replying to their subtle attacks.
It’s unfortunate that sometimes even with your best efforts to anticipate and defend yourself against Poisonous Personalities certain individuals still succeed in getting under your skin. If you find yourself dreading occasions when you’ll have to spend time with them, or feeling sick with stress, anxiety, sadness or anger after your encounters it may be time to seriously consider cutting that person out of your life. Before it gets to that point you can certainly try to candidly discuss their behavior and how it effects you but the truth is many of these Poisonous Personalities can’t seem to help their actions. Even when numerous people call them out on their inappropriate behavior, they’re unwilling or unable to change. If that’s the case you’ll have to decide if they’re worth the toll they take on your psyche.
Remember you need to look after yourself. No one else will do that for you.
It’s up to you to know your limits. Often times the standards you hold others to are the same standards you hold yourself to, which is why it can be so damaging when someone you love, someone you respect and treat with kindness, leaves you feeling blind-sighted and raw from their damaging attacks. Hang in there! I feel you and I would love to hear all about how you handle the Poisonous Personalities in your life.