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6 Types Of People To Keep An "Emotionally Safe Distance" From

If you want to guard your heart, be careful around these kinds of folks.

What About Your Friends?

Something that I've heard many therapists say before is, because a lot of parents don't know how to appropriately and responsibly discipline their children, not only do they end up breaking their spirit before they become adults, but they can infect their natural sense of courage and inborn sense of creativity too. As a survivor of childhood abuse, I will wholeheartedly agree with that. Yet, if there's one thing that I would add to that insight is, poor discipline tactics (coupled with plain ole' lazy parenting skills) can also prevent babies, toddlers, children and adolescents from 1) understanding what different emotions are and 2) how to process them whenever they have them.

That's why, whenever I'm dealing with a client who has young kids, something that I recommend is they invest in a childhood emotion chart (like this one here; if you're an adult who thinks you need one, you can check out one here). Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to guard our heart, a definition of heart is "center of emotions", and I truly do believe that the more in touch with our feelings we are, the more we can understand which emotions we should nurture, which ones are helpful or harmful—and which ones are alerting us to when someone isn't an individual who needs to be in our close, intimate and sacred space.

That's exactly what this article is devoted to. Because our emotions are so precious, if there are six kinds of people who you should consider a threat to your overall emotional health and well-being, these would have to be it. Hands down.

1. Manipulative People

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Manipulation is a form of control. It's one of the things that I deal with often when I'm counseling married couples. If you've got an overall sense of what manipulation looks and lives like, but you'd appreciate me providing you with some clear character traits, I've got you. Manipulative people like to guilt trip folks. Manipulative people play the victim whenever they are called out on their ish. Manipulative people rationalize their BS while many times deflecting away from accountability while trying to make you (or someone else) the cause of their poor decisions or offenses. Manipulative people will do things you want them to, ONLY when they desire to get something from you in return. Manipulative people are mad passive aggressive (you can check out an informative video on how passive aggressive folks get down here). Manipulative people "play dumb" in order to gaslight you (in other words, when you confront a manipulative individual, they might act like they don't know what you are talking about in order to shake your sense of clarity or confidence). Manipulative people live for playing mind games. Manipulative people, in a nutshell, are the absolute worst.

Chances are, you know at least one truly manipulative individual. Because they want to put you on a set of puppet strings, it's important to not get heavily invested in them on the emotional tip because that is how they are able to control you so well. And what if you're already married to a manipulative person or you've got family members, co-workers or other people you deal with daily who fit this bill? Boundaries. Firm boundaries are good. Purchasing the bookBoundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life (and/orBoundaries in Marriage: Understanding the Choices That Make or Break Loving Relationships) can provide you with some a-ha moments to get you on the right track.

2. Opportunistic People

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There is a particular guy who was in my life for many years. We had so much in common and our chemistry was so strong that I actually fell for him pretty hard. It wasn't until I realized that he was a total opportunist—not just with me but many others—that I recognized that a lot of his, how shall I say it, "participation" in our dynamic was more about what he could get out of me than actually wanting to be in my life simply because of who I am as a person.

Coming to this realization was pretty painful because it can be hard to accept that opportunists are basically chameleons; they will adapt themselves to whoever and whatever in order to get what they want. Then, once they've gotten what they need, they're out.

It was around this time last year when I penned the article, "6 Signs A New 'Friend' Is Nothing But An Opportunist". I wrote it so that you could know how to guard your heart when it comes to meeting new people (on the heels of that, also check out "Allow These Things To Happen Before Calling Someone 'Friend'"). Yet make no mistake about it, there's a pretty good chance that someone who you are already quite familiar with is only around to take advantage of what you have to offer as well. One way to test this is to reflect on how much they take vs. how much they actually give. If the former far exceeds the latter, I'm pretty sure you know what that means, right? And what you need to do in response to that newfound revelation…right?

3. Hypocritical People

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Boy, if this year ain't been nothin' else—and it already has been A LOT—it's definitely a series of crash courses in race relations; especially when it comes to learning how, for example, many evangelicals see things. Personally, because I went to a "Christian" school that provided disciplinary action for interracial dating, had a Canadian economics teacher who would call his Black students "nègre" (which I believe is the n-word in French) and where two of the most popular students in the school had parents who had picaninny figurines all throughout their house (figurines that the mother actually named after a lot of us)—I know all too well how whites can say they love the Lord, that they "love" Blacks and that aren't racist…even though they are very much so racist people. Because their churches are segregated, along with their lifestyle, race relations and social injustice (check out "Social Justice Is a Christian Tradition---Not a Liberal Agenda") are things that they don't think much about. Until events like what's going on currently in our society happen.

All of this shows up a lot whenever the topic of politics comes up. Just recently, a friend of mine was telling me about a friend of theirs (who is bi-ethnic, by the way) who was going on and on about how Trump is a "man of God" and we should support him because of that. I said to my friend, "Isn't it interesting how Obama was considered to be the antichrist by so many of the same people who think Trump is a Christian?" Trump. The man who, when he was asked what his favorite Bible verse was, he couldn't come up with a single one. Trump. The man who teargassed protestors in order to take a picture in front of a church even though the church leaders didn't want him to. Trump, the man who, even though the Bible says, "Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy" (Psalm 72:4), he is doing any and everything BUT that. (Let's start with "Trump administration still wants to cut food stamps" and "Trump Administration's Harmful Changes to Medicaid". Ugh.)

A hypocrite, by definition, is someone who says one thing and does something else. A part of the reason why so many people of color—Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans—are currently in harm's way in this country is because a lot of folks apply one set of rules for one set of people and something totally different for others. A wise person once said, "I am cautious of people whose words and actions don't match their words." While all of us tend to do hypocritical things from time to time, an all-out hypocrite is a walking contraction, most of the time. They can't be trusted because of this. Guard your heart and mind in dealing with this type of individual. Not some of the time; all of it.

4. Emotionally Cryptic People

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This will probably be my shortest and most potent point. What in the world do I mean by "emotionally cryptic"? Those are the people who you never really know where you stand. Why is that? Because they don't know either. They don't express their true feelings. They are hesitant to say anything that you can hold them accountable to and for. At the end of the day, it's like they totally get off on you playing a guessing game about how emotionally invested they are in you. The really sad part about this is, they are mysterious and ambiguous on purpose because they want you to remain in a state of perpetual confusion so that you'll be too puzzled and baffled to call them out and leave them alone. If someone immediately came to your mind, build up some walls, sis. They absolutely DO NOT have your best interest at heart. Pretty much ever.

5. Inconsistent People

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I can't remember if I shared it on this platform or not, but a few years ago, when I decided to assess why I kept going through some of the same kind of drama in my friendships with women, I had to accept two things. One, that I had envy issues with some of them (due to how they looked or how guys perceived them to be). Two, a lot of them were emotionally unstable and highly-inconsistent (a few eventually went to therapy to figure out why). Those two things are a HORRIFIC combination if you're trying to maintain any kind of healthy relationship. One day, we'd be all good. The next day, either I'd be low-key jealous or they would be in a mood that I didn't see coming. It would result in emotional roller coaster rides that were not only unfortunate but borderline toxic.

Once I put some real effort into to getting my self-esteem together, it caused me to take ownership for where I was contributing to the drama and then set some healthier boundaries in my relationships. As a result, these days, when folks are hot-and-cold all of the time, I tend to put some space between us.

Inconsistent individuals will have you out here walking on eggshells, constantly censoring yourself and feeling more like you are babysitting someone instead of hanging out with a true peer. Matter of fact, the older that I get, the more attractive consistency is to me, even if someone consistently does something I don't necessarily like. At least I know what I'm dealing with at all times and prepare myself, which is something that I definitely can't say for folks who are totally unpredictable who are always catching—and throwing—others totally off guard.

6. Non-Committing People

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In some ways, I saved the best for last. Do you know how much heartache would be spared if many of us emotionally distanced ourselves from people who are commitment-phobes? I'm not just talking about when it comes to romantic relationships either. I've had friends who will make abstract plans, not commit to an actual time or place, and then shoot blanks—over and over again. I've had bosses who would claim that they would take my job performance seriously enough to promote me but wouldn't actually say when I could expect to see any chances—for years on end. Hmph. Don't even get me started on family members who have not kept their word and broken all sorts of promises, a billion times over (hence, "Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members").

The reason why the word "commit" is so important, in pretty much any type of relational situation, is because it speaks to building trust between two people. It's about doing what you said you would and the other individual being able to fully rely on you because of it. People who honor their commitments are not only mature individuals, they are people who show that they respect whomever they are making a commitment to, no matter how big or small the commitment may actually be. If you've got people in your life who you can't realize depend on or believe, while you might not be able to banish them from your world, definitely keep your emotional defenses up to some extent. Non-committers are chronic disappointers who can really hurt your feelings. The good news is they only can if you let them, though. For the sake of your emotional safety, please make sure that you do.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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