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A Crash Course on Avoiding Unwelcome People


A subject that gets a major blast of air time in sessions is clients picking unhealthy people and suffering the consequences. They either complain (rightly) about being mistreated or are desperate for advice about how to get out of unhappy relationships. I spend so much time explaining how to identify mentally unhealthy people that I thought it would help to blog about them. Here are three easy steps to use to evaluate whether people are emotionally healthy enough to let them into your life as friends or lovers.

  1. Notice traits. Avoid rushing into a relationship and instead give it time to evolve. While that’s happening, observe the other person. Stop worrying so much about whether or not they’ll like or love you and focus almost exclusively on what kind of person they’re turning out to be. By nature, are they kind, generous, and thoughtful not only to you—and this is crucial—but to everyone. Are they honest, sincere, and empathic? Do you ever notice a cruel, poor me or narcissistic streak? Take in everything, not only the traits that you like. It’s equally important to notice what you don’t like about them.
  2. Monitor patterns. If someone is late once in a blue moon, that’s one thing. If they’re more often late than on time, this is called a pattern. Here are other patterns to assess: do they follow through, are they accountable, stable and responsible, do they consider and try to meet your needs. Do they plan ahead, make sensible decisions, know how to be independent and dependent, problem solve well? Do they need to be right and win arguments or are they open-minded and apologize easily?
  3. Observe word/action match-up. Clients often tell me what a friend or lover said to them that shows them in a positive light. I’m far more interested in their actions than their words, especially if they show them in a negative light. But what I’m really focused on is whether they say one thing but do another such as claim they’ll stop drinking but don’t or promise to stop and not follow through. As I’ve written in my book Starting Monday, whenever people say one thing and do the opposite, this dynamic indicates that they have an internal conflict. 


I guarantee that in nine out of ten cases if you notice traits, monitor patterns, and observe whether someone’s words and actions are in sync, you’ll be able to screen out emotionally unhealthy people from wheedling their way into your life. Of course, someone may be unhealthy emotionally for other reasons, but these steps will help you avoid most of the characters who are draped in red flags and will only break your heart  and suck out most of your energy. Make it a practice to follow these steps as you move through life trying to connect with friends or lovers.