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When you’re done reading below, your heart will thank you later for reading: Relationship Red Flags: 4 Strategies People use to Never be Wrong.
These are the following definitions for the metaphor or idiom of a raised red flag:
1. To mark or draw attention for a particular purpose.
2. To provoke the attention of, alert, arouse.
3. Intending to or serving to emphasize or warn.
What is often interesting in these definitions is that someone raises the flag for a purpose. How do we understand red flags in relationships? Who raises the flag to draw our attention and what are we actually looking for as warning signals of possible danger or difficulty ahead in those relationships?
At a personal level, I do not think that red flags are only in romantic relationships, although when one looks at the divorce statistics we would all wish we saw the signs long before we said “I do” or made any life-altering commitments.
Needless to say, some of us still see the flags and never really do anything about it. In fact, we continue as if the flags were never raised at all. Red flags are vital in all relationships with friends, colleagues, work relationships, spiritual relationships—even with your therapist. Why? Because feeling safe is the fundamental bonding glue for healthy, interdependent relationships. People need to feel safe at every level in order to thrive and maintain health and well-being.
It is possible that the majority of mental health disorders can be viewed as symptomatic of dysfunctional and even toxic relationships where safety is compromised and growth is impeded
So, what are we to look for in our relationships where we choose to spend significant amounts of time in and where our awareness is required to make important decisions regarding where we work, where we socialise, where we create families, where we worship, where we share the very authentic vulnerable sides of ourselves.
There are several authors who write about red flags in relationships. Some have even identified as many as 57 red flags. Honestly, I have a hard time keeping track of five items of things to do in my head, imagine if I had a checklist of 57 items to look out for? Although, having said this, I often laugh that I would administer every personality test known to mankind to avoid toxic individuals simply because the cost to one’s mental health far exceeds anything any of these individuals can offer.
Sadly, even with the most sophisticated assessments, clinical training, and skills, nobody truly has 360-degree vision when we care for, or even are emotionally invested in, relationships. In fact, if people did not matter, we would only see one red flag and run like Forrest Gump!!!
So, what do we need to pay attention to? Now, please do not feel that these are 12 flags that must be met for us to know that a person is truly toxic for you. Or, on the other hand, do not just cut people out of your life when you see a piece of something red in them. As humans, we are fallible, and we are going to hurt and get hurt even by people who are not toxic.
What I have found useful personally is to focus more on the gut feeling we get when we think we first see a warning sign. I want to stress that this is the most critical guide that actually is built within our very being for the promotion of safety. I just love that we have a gut feeling—an intuitive recognition that something is amiss.
I cannot tell you how many times I did not listen to my gut and found myself in such a tumultuous cesspool. Why do we not trust that feeling? Sometimes, we were taught not to by the people closest to us, who themselves might very well have been toxic. We might have thought growing up that we were at fault, and so it was our responsibility to fix everything because we were the problem. So, if you worked harder to prove your worth, you would get that recognition you crave at work, or the love you desire from another.
Or maybe you were taught that you should be grateful for any morsel of affection and recognition and still settle in your life because less is your lot in life.
I don’t know what you, as the reader, have experienced in your life that has made you doubt what you see. Sometimes, we all need others to tell us that what we see is correct and that it is likely that the person you are dealing with is toxic. Sometimes, even when we get that validation from others, we forgive and make excuses and give it another go and then another, until a pattern of toxicity ebbs and flows in your relationship.
The message from me to you is: You are the Boss.
Yes—maybe you need guidance, validation, encouragement, empowerment, but ultimately you are the Boss of your life. You can trust your gut intuition, your inner knowingness, and your vibe, even if you have to do the ride a few times to truly know.
Now, you do not have to be a professional with professional training to detect or be aware of red flags. Even despite training, many are still prey to toxic people. Ask me and I will tell you this is so true. The gut sense that I am referring to is a bodily depth of response. It is a feeling and a knowing you cannot deny. You have probably always had it, maybe you were born with it. Maybe it has been refined through life’s experiences and life’s lessons of not trusting it.
What I have learnt is that when we trust our vibes or our gut, we are saying that even if we might be wrong, it is okay because we will take responsibility for our choices and decisions. A Boss is not a toxic person.
So, here are 12 red flags to be aware of and how to react like the Boss you are:
1. Toxic people never take responsibility.
Make sure, as the Boss, you take responsibility for your interactions, choices, and behaviours. You cocreate experiences and can choose how to respond to even the things that happen to you.
2. They are manipulative.
Do not force, threaten, or intimidate others to get what you want from them. A Boss is clear and genuine and does not engage in mind games.
3. They never apologise.
Part of taking responsibility is knowing when you did not make the best choices and also you are able to acknowledge that and repair. Making reparation is a Boss move; it signals your willingness to grow.
4. They are judgemental and critical of others.
Another Boss move is self-acceptance and self-compassion. People who are tolerant are not unethical. A true Boss does not have to make others inferior in order to feel superior. Constant criticism breaks people down and offers no safety.
5. They are inconsistent.
A Boss in their very essence is consistent. You know who you are and what you stand for and you do not change according to who you are with or your surroundings.
6. They do what is best for them first and foremost.
A Boss considers themselves and others and usually negotiates relationships from a balanced point of view. “My way or the highway” is never their way of relating.
7. They lack empathy.
A Boss has compassion and can see things from others’ point of view and often will consider the impact their behaviour or decisions will have on others.
8. They do not go out of their way to help.
If a Boss wants to genuinely do something good, it sometimes will mean giving up a little of what they want to do it. Yes, they do not completely self-sacrifice, but they make an effort in their relationships.
9. They are attention seekers.
A boss celebrates others’ success, encourages others to do better, and is not envious even if things aren’t going too great in their own lives. Another Boss move is to give attention and not be afraid of shining when they need to. Playing meek and humble is not the antidote to the always hungry attention seekers.
10. They give only when they can get.
Nothing for nothing, there are always hidden agendas and strings attached. A Boss will give without expecting but will also be clear in communicating what they need. They do not do things and remind the other later in order to get what they want. Remember, a Boss does not give in order to be seen as good—they give because they are good.
11. Toxic people are mean.
A good-hearted person is undeniably good. Yes, they might swear, get angry, even make horrendous mistakes, but those who know them know that they aren’t malicious or vindictively motivated.
12. Toxic people are unavailable.
Presence is better than presents. A Boss, whilst not available 24-7, are more times than not available and present. They listen and they share. They make time for what is important. They also do not hide behind technology or have you fit their timetable. They do not make excuses. They engage in reciprocal relationships.
The reason for writing as a Boss, trusting my gut, taking responsibility for my moves, and not contributing to toxic relationships is essential in creating healthy interdependent relationships.
I have journeyed like you have and know that we don’t need more pain than joy. But whilst pain is part of living, I can do my bit to steer toward safety. I am sure there are more than 12 red flags, and maybe you could add to the list, but there is no number we can assign to our intuition.
Know what you know with confidence, and if you feel too beaten but want to listen to your inner Boss, make a boss move and follow your intuition and get the help you need. There is no safer way to live except to trust yourself as your greatest guide through life’s journey.