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Toxic Person: 6 Early Warning Signs You’re Dealing With One

toxic person

A toxic person. You’ve likely dealt with someone like that before. At your church, as a volunteer, on your staff, and as customers. A toxic person is, well, toxic.

An unhealthy or difficult person can infect your team like toxins infect the human body. After some exposure, everyone feels sick. The optimist in you and me hope a toxic person will become better. The good news is, sometimes they do.

Unhealthy people can grow healthier with the right care and attention in a healthy environment. But some toxic people just don’t. Some remain difficult, despite all attempts.

And as you know, if you don’t address toxic people—or worse, let them gain influence—they can infect your whole organization. Plus, they can diminish your effectiveness and take everyone’s focus off the mission.

So…how can you tell early on that the person you’re dealing with might be that person?

6 Signs of a Toxic Person

1. A toxic person comes on too strong.

In my experience as a pastor, the people who show up and want to make it headline news are rarely (I’m being generous here) healthy people. What’s perplexing is that the people who end up being the most toxic at the end of the relationship are over-the-top positive when they first meet you.

I have learned to be suspicious when people tell me on first meeting and first hearing, “That’s the best message I’ve ever heard in my life!” or “This is the best church I’ve ever been to anywhere.”

I find usually the people who are moderately impressed or even neutral on the first visit and warm up over time are the ones who are most healthy in the long run.

People who come on strong when they first meet you usually leave just as loudly.

2. A toxic person gives you advice during your first meeting.

Whether it’s a casual conversation or even a job interview, people who tell 15 ways you can improve your organization or your speaking often end up being toxic people.

Are there ways we can improve our organization? Of course. Can you improve your speaking? Sure you can.

But when someone leads off with loads of advice…well, that’s just not healthy.

When people I first meet start telling me about all the ways we can improve our church, I thank them and tell them point blank we’re probably not the church for them and offer to help them find a new one.