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Top 30 Toxic People Characteristics


What Is Toxic Behavior?

If you know someone that you find hard to deal with and causes a lot of problems and conflict in your life, this may be a sign that you’re dealing with a toxic individual. Toxic people make you feel uncomfortable and physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted after spending time with them. They can also make you feel insecure, bad about yourself, or even worthless. And if you don’t know how to handle them and prevent their toxicity from affecting you, they can create a lot of unpleasantness, negativity, and stress in your life and even cause you physical or emotional pain.

The problem is that recognizing toxic individuals can sometimes be very hard since a lot of toxic traits can be subtle. Identifying toxic people is especially difficult when the toxic person happens to be a member of your family, your closest friend, or your partner since you want to see the best in them, which more often than not, causes you to overlook their toxic behavior.

Moreover, these people are more common than you might think. For instance, did you know that about half of Americans admitted experiencing emotional abuse by a partner, and 48.8 percent of men and 48.4 percent of women reported experiencing psychological aggression by a partner (1)?

Additionally, one survey carried out by Korn Ferry, which included approximately 2000 professionals, has shown that 35 percent of the participants identified their boss as their greatest source of stress at work (2)

There’s one important thing we’d like to emphasize and that is that when talking about toxic traits in people, we need to make a distinction between a “toxic trait” and a “toxic behavior.” The major difference between the two is that traits, toxic or non-toxic, are often inborn, while behaviors are actions we can control. For instance, a person’s self-centeredness is a toxic trait, whereas gaslighting is a toxic behavior.

relationship problems

What Are The Most Common Examples Of Toxic Behaviors?

The most common examples of toxic, or unhealthy, behaviors include:

  • Lying
  • Manipulation
  • Gaslighting
  • Stonewalling
  • Giving someone the silent treatment
  • Hostility
  • Being controlling
  • Avoiding taking responsibility
  • Inconsistency
  • Belittling

Now, let’s take a look at some examples of toxic traits.

Top 30 Toxic People Characteristics

1. They Affect Your Self-Esteem

Toxic people enjoy making others feel bad about themselves since this boosts their fragile ego. They simply don’t like when others feel happier or are better than them. For example, when you’re feeling proud of yourself because you’ve achieved a goal or success, they’ll make sure they undermine your self-esteem and make you feel like you’re good for nothing. Or when you’re feeling happy, they’ll do whatever they can to dampen your spirits and ruin your happiness with snide comments.

2. Being Manipulative

What most toxic people share in common is being manipulative. They’ll do everything in their power to find out what your deepest insecurities and fears and secrets are, and then, they’ll use them against you to get what they want from you or make you act in ways that suit their needs.

Toxic individuals are also very skilled at twisting your words and making you feel guilty for things that are not your fault.

3. Self-Centeredness

The only person a toxic individual cares about is themselves. They don’t care about how their words and actions affect other people and think that they’re better than the rest and therefore deserve the best in life.

Toxic people prioritize their needs and feelings over those of other people. They’re not ashamed to demand your full attention or ask for your help or support a thousand times, but when it’s you that needs their emotional support or help with something, they either pretend to have other more important things to do or they simply disappear and are nowhere to be found.

4. Negativity

Some individuals tend to see the world as cold, dark, and cruel. They can’t seem to see the good in life and be positive. No matter how nice you’re with them, they’ll always find something to complain or criticize you about or dampen your spirits with the snidest and most sarcastic comments. It’s like they’re always trying to see the worst in others and can’t find joy in anything.

Being around such a person can make it difficult for you to be positive and enjoy yourself.

However, it’s worth mentioning that in some cases, negativity can be easily confused for symptoms of depression. So, it’s important that you have a conversation with someone and get to know them better to see whether they’re really being toxic or they’re suffering from depression.

5. Passive Aggression

Someone who displays passive-aggressive behavior expresses their dissatisfaction and negative feelings indirectly instead of having an open conversation about their problems. Instead of showing that they’re angry or hurt, they’ll make snide comments, sabotage your efforts, or do something intentionally to make you feel upset, hurt your feelings, or just make things inconvenient for you.

6. Being Judgmental

We can all be judgmental once in a while, but toxic individuals can’t help but be judgmental all the time. They judge situations, events, and of course, people without considering their feelings or circumstances for no logical or obvious reason and talk negatively about anything they don’t approve of, like, or agree with. They can judge a person, even if they’ve never met them before.

7. Dishonesty

Honesty is a virtue that toxic people lack. It’s a word that doesn’t exist in their vocabulary. To get what they want from you or avoid being held responsible for something bad they said or did to you, a toxic person won’t hesitate to tell you all kinds of blatant lies. And if you catch them lying to you and call them out on their behavior, they won’t think twice about lying to you again. They simply rely on lying to get their way.

8. Controlling Behavior

Controlling behavior is a common characteristic toxic people share. They simply enjoy controlling others and feeling like they’re superior to the rest.

A toxic person may try to control your personal relationships, your whereabouts, and who you’re hanging out with.  They may try to interfere with your decisions and even insist that you should pursue a different career. They simply know how to prevent you from living your life the way you want to.

9. They Lack Empathy For Other People

Most toxic people lack empathy for others. They’re unable or maybe they don’t bother to understand others’ feelings, thoughts, and needs. For instance, a friend that lacks empathy may not notice that you’re going through a rough time in life and need their help or emotional support.

10. Arrogance

It’s normal to feel proud of yourself when you succeed in achieving a difficult goal or get promoted, but toxic people who possess this trait are unpleasantly proud. They think and act like they know more and are more important than other people, which is why they may often be rude to others and behave in a condescending manner. For instance, a conceited co-worker may behave like they are the smartest and most competent person in your workplace and not be willing to collaborate.

11. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a type of psychological abuse that toxic people commonly use. You know a person gaslights you when they attempt to make you doubt your logic, judgment, perceptions, and even sanity. These people are very skilled at making you question your own reality and doubt yourself. Toxic people usually use this form of psychological manipulation when they’re trying to gain control and power over you.

12. Cynicism

Someone that is cynical believes that people are dishonest and just interested in themselves and their goals and interests. They also think that one has the right to fulfill their goals and pursue their passions to the detriment of others and use other people’s feelings to their own advantage.

13. Having Trouble Controlling Their Anger

Have you ever felt like you had to walk on eggshells around someone out of fear not to provoke their anger? Well, this is exactly how toxic people make you feel. They can become angry really quickly and more often than not, even the most insignificant things can make them lose their temper. And when that happens, it’s hard for them to control their anger. They may say hurtful things to you, insult you or your loved ones, and yell at you. What’s worse, they hardly ever apologize for their behavior, and even when they do, they’re not sincere.

14. Playing The Victim

People that constantly play the victim role act this way for different reasons. They usually play the victim with the intention of gaining your attention or sympathy, influencing or controlling your feelings, opinions, and actions, or justifying their bad behavior or abuse of others.

Rather than accepting responsibility for their actions or trying to change their unfortunate circumstances, they prefer to play the victim role and make others perceive them as victims worthy of their sympathy.

upset couple

15. Superiority

People that possess toxic traits may see themselves as more important, smarter, better, or stronger than the rest. Such individuals usually behave in the following ways:

They prioritize their needs, feelings, and desires over those of others.

They criticize and badmouth those that have different opinions from theirs or call them out on their behavior.

They pretend that they like someone and are nice to them, but they talk behind their back when they’re not around.

16. Greediness

When I say a “greedy person,” I’m not referring to someone who has a gargantuan appetite or an excessive desire for food. After all, there’s nothing wrong with that, although it can be an annoying and undesirable trait. The type of person I’m referring to is someone who has a strong and selfish desire for power or money. These people will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, and, more often than not, they do that to the detriment of others.

17. Being Argumentative

Some people seem to enjoy arguing. An argumentative person may pick a fight with you over the smallest and most insignificant thing just for the sake of arguing. And most of the time, they don’t care about resolving the argument. In fact, they don’t even care about winning it.

18. Being Sneaky

A sneaky person behaves in a secret and usually dishonest way. They may pretend that they’re nice to you and respect you while concealing their real intentions for their own benefit. For instance, a sneaky friend may try to please you by criticizing and badmouthing people you both know just because they need to get an important piece of information from you. Or a sneaky co-worker may try to sabotage your work by deliberately “forgetting” to pass on an important order or instruction from your boss.

19. Bossiness

Toxic people that possess this trait are always telling people what to do. They want to exert dominance over other people and be in charge of every situation. For instance, a bossy co-worker may try to take charge of a project that was assigned to you or even undermine your manager’s leadership.

20. Being A Chronic Interrupter

If you know someone who has the annoying habit of constantly interrupting you while you’re speaking, they may be a chronic interrupter. There are various reasons why these people may talk over you or cut you off in conversation. They usually do that because they want to gain control of the conversation, change the topic of discussion if they don’t like it or if it doesn’t benefit their interests, or assert their knowledge and opinions as more important than what you’re saying. No matter what the reason may be, this behavior is rude and disrespectful.

21. Recklessness

Reckless people show a lack of care about the negative effects of their actions on others as well as the danger their behavior may cause to themselves or other people. They simply act without taking into consideration the results of their actions. Recognizing that you’re dealing with a reckless person is important since if you can’t do that, they can easily encourage you to do something that may negatively affect your relationships, self-esteem, or overall well-being.

22. Never Apologizing Or Not Apologizing Sincerely

Some people don’t like taking responsibility for their actions. They may say or do something that hurts your feelings, but rather than admitting they made a mistake, apologizing to you, and showing that they regret behaving towards you that way, they’ll act like nothing happened or try to make you feel like it’s your fault. Even if they apologize, they’re not sincere, and their apologies usually sound like this: “I’m sorry I said those things to you, but I was really tense/I did that for your own good.”

23. Being Impulsive

It’s always wiser and better to think before you act. But people who are impulsive never do that. They do things without planning and considering the effects their actions may have on themselves and other people. They commonly make impetuous decisions and it doesn’t take them long to regret doing that.

24. Envy

Envy is a common negative personality trait many toxic people share. An envious person neither feels nor shows happiness over someone else’s happiness, contentment, or success and they feel an intense desire to have the same.

25. Being Inconsistent

Dealing with an inconsistent person can be quite difficult since you never know whether they’ll be kind or cruel. These people don’t behave in the same manner whenever a similar situation arises. They’re highly unpredictable and you never know which version of them you’ll get, even when you’re kind to them and have their best interests at heart.

26. Rudeness

Some people lack manners. They are rude to others and can say hurtful things to someone without worrying that they might hurt their feelings. No matter how nice to or compassionate you are towards them, a rude person won’t give a damn about disregarding your boundaries and disrespecting you.

27. Being Thoughtless

A thoughtless person never considers how their words or actions may hurt your feelings or upset you. For instance, a thoughtless friend may let your other friends in on a secret you told them in confidence.

28. Stinginess

Being careful about how you spend your money is one thing. And being utterly penny-pinching, lacking generosity, never buying your friends a drink when you go out, or refusing to pay your part of a restaurant bill is a completely different thing. Individuals who fit this description are stingy. They’re unwilling to spend money and even share their possessions with others. Even if they’re a close friend of yours and you desperately need money, the chances that a stingy person will help you out are very low.

29. Pickiness

We can all be picky from time to time. But toxic people are picky all the time, which makes them difficult to please, and more often than not, handle. Picky individuals also have a hard time dealing with situations that are outside of their comfort zone, new, or don’t suit their standards. For instance, a picky friend may insist that you always hang out in places of their own choice, or if they’re picky about food, they may refuse to eat a meal that you prepared for them since it contains ingredients they haven’t tried before.

30. Rigidity

Someone that is rigid is inflexible, stubborn, and difficult to make to change their opinion on something. They have a hard time adapting to new or difficult situations or when things don’t go the way they planned. For instance, a co-worker that’s recently joined your team may have trouble adapting to your team dynamic and avoid cooperating.  They may even try to change your team dynamic so that it better suits their needs and desires.


What Is The Most Toxic Personality Trait?

We believe most of you will agree that the most negative and toxic character trait of a toxic person is controlling behavior. A toxic individual, be it a friend, family member, partner, co-worker, or acquaintance, who displays a controlling behavior may try to isolate you from your loved ones by badmouthing them and telling you lies about them or convincing you that they are a bad influence on you. They may also try to limit your access to money in order to limit your ability to interact with those around you.

A person displaying controlling behavior may try to control every aspect of your life. For example, they may insist you constantly inform them about your whereabouts and who you’re hanging out with. They may try to interfere with your decisions and choices and even go as far as telling you what clothes you should wear, what food you should eat, or how you should talk and behave around them or others.

If you have someone in your life who treats you these ways, know this is a form of psychological (emotional) abuse and requires immediate action.

Stephanie Reeds