I have had more people come to me with their problems during my lifetime than I can remember. It just seems to be a fact of my life. Most of the time, I find people usually just want someone to validate them & say things like, “I understand” or, “I’m sorry that happened to you!” It can be draining, but I can handle that.
Then there are the emotional vampires like narcissists who only want a listening ear. Unlike other more functional people, they don’t want validation. They don’t want advice. They want to treat someone as their emotional trash can, dumping all of their negativity onto that person in order to make themselves feel better with no regard to that person’s feelings.
For a long time, I didn’t realize one of these two types of people was just using me & being toxic. Eventually I figured out some ways to tell the difference & I hope sharing them will help you.
If someone needs to vent, often they have respect for your time. They will ask if you have a few minutes because they need to vent. You are free to say not now & their feelings won’t be hurt. The more toxic the person, the less likely they will do this & the more likely they also will take up a LOT of your time. As an added “bonus”- they won’t apologize for taking up your time when they realize they have been talking for hours.
Someone who is venting wants a solution. If there isn’t one, they are frustrated about that fact. A person who is toxic has no desire for a solution. Instead, they simply ramble on & on about their issue, & every time a possible solution is offered, they offer reasons why that solution won’t work.
Similarly, the toxic person also isn’t open to constructive criticism. If they have done something wrong in the scenario they are discussing, they don’t want to hear about it. They get defensive or make up excuses as to why what they did was ok & the other person was all wrong. Healthy people are open to constructive criticism & will own up to any mistakes they have made.
If you are the listener & you try to show the speaker in this situation the perspective of someone else, a healthy person is willing to consider that. A toxic person isn’t. They don’t care about the other person’s perspective in the slightest, only about their own.
When the speaking person was clearly wronged, you can see the difference easily between a toxic person & a healthy one. The toxic person will not only be upset about what happened, but will play the victim. In other words, they will accept no responsibility for any wrong they have contributed to the situation, they will claim life is so hard & unfair for them, claim they had no other option but to be in this painful situation & more.
Toxic people in these situations also are notorious for dumping a barrage of issues at once on their listeners. They don’t seem to notice that the listener has become overwhelmed, either. They just keep on talking. Healthy people don’t do this. They vent about one issue, sometimes two, but that is all. They also notice if their listener is feeling overwhelmed.
If you have the misfortune of one of these toxic types treating you as their trash can, my heart goes out to you! Just remember, you have every right to set boundaries. You can leave the room or hang up the phone. You can refuse to take their calls if they call you often. And yes, you even have the right to end the relationship. Protect your mental health!