Science of People - Logo

41 Toxic Personality Traits To Spot in Yourself And Others

The victim who blames everyone but themself. The person who only talks about themself. The martyr who makes sacrifices themself for you, even though you didn’t want them to. 

Do you recognize any of these personality traits?

We all know toxic people, and many of us have some toxic traits ourselves.

In this article, we’ll go over the top 41 toxic traits so you can learn to spot them and let go of them.

What Are Toxic Traits?

Toxic traits are harmful behavior patterns that cause emotional harm to oneself or others. They typically stem from deep-seated issues and can damage relationships. Most toxic traits come about from a lack of self-awareness and ignorance of how one is impacting others.

Why Do People Act Toxically?

While there are a ton of different toxic traits, toxicity tends to stem from one or more of the following:

  • Insecurity: A lack of self-esteem can drive people to overcompensate in all kinds of ways.
  • Past trauma: What was once a helpful survival strategy has now become a dysfunctional coping mechanism.
  • Fear of vulnerability: Many people are terrified of sharing their hurt or their feelings and will go to great lengths to avoid doing so.
  • Lack of understanding of impact. Many people haven’t built their empathy muscles and have no idea how deeply their behavior is impacting others.

The Top 10 Toxic Traits

Before getting into the whole list, let’s go over a quick summary of 10 of the most common toxic traits to look out for. If someone has one of these traits, it can be very difficult to form a healthy relationship with them.

  • Playing the victim: This is when someone thinks that everything is happening to them and everyone is out to get them. They are unable to take responsibility for any of their choices or circumstances, and nothing is ever their fault.
  • Takes everything personally: These folks assume that everything is a personal attack. Trying to give them feedback is nearly impossible because they think you’re trying to hurt them.
  • People pleasing: People pleasers hide their own personalities and preferences to try to get other people to like them. It’s hard to trust people-pleasers because they will sacrifice their own truth in pursuit of external validation.
  • Entitlement: These folks think they deserve more than everyone else. They think their life should be easy and they shouldn’t have to work for anything.
  • Guilt-tripping: Guilt-trippers are folks who will manipulate you to do what they want by evoking guilt in you. They’ll say things like, “I knew you didn’t really care about me.”
  • Creates drama: These folks are always gossipping and stirring up unnecessary conflicts. If you are close to one of these folks, you’ll get caught in an endless spree of emotional chaos.
  • Holding grudges: Some folks can’t forgive and let go. They’ll hold on to that time four years ago when you lost your temper and secretly hold it against you.
  • Boundary violating: Some people will constantly push your boundaries over and over and over again. It can be hard to feel safe and respected with such folks.
  • Passive aggressiveness: These people are afraid of conflict, and instead of ever having a difficult conversation, they will subtly take out their hurt on people by not laughing at their jokes or giving silent treatment.
  • Martyrdom: Martyrs feel the need to prove their worth by sacrificing themself. These people will seek out unnecessary suffering and wear it as a badge of honor. They can be hard to relate with because they’re constantly trying to save you, whether you want them to or not.

Now, let’s dive into the full list!

List of 41 Toxic Traits

Below are 41 of the most common and harmful toxic traits.

See which traits people in your life display and which ones you might also display.

Not Speaking Out

Toxic traits are not always action-based. Not speaking out goes hand in hand with insincerity.

Not speaking out can look like this:

  • During work meetings, you stay quiet even though you have ideas and solutions to contribute. 
  • At parties, you hold back on sharing your takes out of fear of being “too much.” 
  • On group vacations, you go along with what everyone else wants to do even though you don’t want to. 

Did you know you can be nice AND assertive? Assertiveness is a trait of confidence and self-assurance without the use of aggression. 

Being assertive does not mean being rude or brash with others. It’s about saying yes to yourself in a respectful way. Check out the nice person’s guide to being assertive!

How to tell if you are toxically not speaking out: You feel afraid to share your desires and opinions. You struggle to say “no.”

How to start speaking out: Start small on things like food and plans. The next time someone asks what you want to eat or what you want to do when you hang out, share an authentic desire!

How to handle someone in your life who doesn’t speak out: If you know someone who never speaks out, ask them for their honest opinion on a topic (even something like “cats or dogs”). Then, listen kindly and ask questions.


Perfectionists display toxic behaviors that are often controlling with their ultra-high standards and over-willingness to achieve perfection. Nothing is ever good enough.

Does this sound like you or someone you know?

This is a problem many creatives face. And a reason why their work never sees the light of day.

Type A Personalities are most likely to be perfectionists and are prone to overworking themselves and having high-stress levels. Thankfully, the Type A Survival Guide can help!

How to tell if you are a toxic perfectionist: Nothing you do is ever good enough. Nothing anyone else does is good enough, either.

What to do if you are a toxic perfectionist: What’s the area of your life you are most perfectionist in? Let’s say it’s writing. Then, pick up a book and see if you can read with the goal of only seeing the good in what the author wrote.

How to handle a toxic perfectionist in your life: Invite them into an activity where imperfection is the goal, like finger painting or improv comedy.

Toxic Positivity

Have you ever been around someone who fakes happiness? They say things like…

  • “It’ll be fine, don’t worry.”
  • “Just be happy!”

When you can tell, there is a repressed swamp of pain right underneath the surface.

It’s completely normal to feel negative feelings, and it’s called emotional diversity1,for%20mental%20and%20physical%20health.!

The best way to combat toxic positivity is to accept all your emotions. Check out 10 Ways to Overcome Toxic Positivity for more info!

How to tell if you are toxically positive:  Do you view certain emotions as “bad?” Do you push down your anger, grief, or sadness? 

What to do if you are toxically positive: Give yourself permission to experience and express a full range of emotions, not just positivity, understanding that all feelings are valid and can coexist.

How to handle a toxically positive person in your life: listening ear for your problems, without the immediate redirection to positivity.


Dishonesty degrades mutual trust, the foundation of all relationships. Philosopher Immanuel Kant believed if everyone lied, nobody would believe anything they were told! 

Lying during job interviews is shockingly common. According to social psychologist Ron Friedman, 81% of people lie during job interviews. This technique may sound like an easy way to snag a position, but it may be counterproductive for you and your employer.  

Keep an eye out for The Fibber, toxic deceivers in your life that ring your intuition alarm bells when you hear them speak. 

Have you ever wondered what happens to your and others’ body language when lying? A common tell is a distancing cue when liars physically distance themselves by stepping back or leaning back in a chair. Learning to spot deception is an essential life skill; check out the Lie Detection course to learn how to spot lies, read body language, and build honest relationships. 

How to tell if you are a toxic liar: Reflect on the following:

  • Are there moments where you find yourself straying from the truth for no significant reason?
  • Do friends or family members often call you out for not being truthful?
  • Have your lies led to negative outcomes for others or yourself?

What to do if you are a toxic liar: Try going a day without telling even the tiniest of lies. Notice your impulses to fib and stretch the truth. If you want to take it a step further, try reading this short book about lying.

How to handle a toxic liar in your life: If you catch them lying, don’t pretend what they say is true. Hold to your own principles and create distance if needed.

Want to learn how to deal with difficult people? Watch our webinar below:


Showing up as anything other than your authentic self is a surefire way to put up a wall between yourself and everyone else.

Insincerity can look like this:

  • Faking your way through social interactions.
  • Self-censoring during conversations.
  • Craving fame and popularity over a genuine connection.

But how can you “just be yourself”? What does that even mean? If you’re wondering this, you may be having an authenticity crisis.

Being vulnerable can be scary, but we need to dig deeper if we want genuine connection.

How to tell if you are toxically insincere: Keep a sincerity journal. For one week, write down instances where you feel you may not have been genuine. Note what prompted your insincerity and how it made you feel afterward. This will help you identify patterns and understand the extent of the behavior.

What to do if you are toxically insincere: Try the following:

  • Assume intimacy with people before you have it by talking to strangers like you would talk to a friend. During your next job interview, treat the interviewer like an existing colleague!
  • Realize that everyone may not like you, which is fine—relevancy is not a numbers game.

How to handle a toxically insincere person in your life: When you notice insincerity, address it by expressing how it makes you feel and why honesty is important to you. Remember, though, you cannot force someone to change; they must want to change themselves.

Here’s an example of comedian Andrew Shulz calling out an interviewer for being insincere. If you do choose to communicate your feelings, it’s probably helpful to be a bit softer and more nuanced than this example!

Playing The Victim

Playing the victim is a mindset many of us don’t even realize we are adopting during difficult times. It’s a defense mechanism many of us employ to escape responsibility or get attention.

But living as a victim is one of the most disempowering perspectives you can take because it assumes that life happens to you and you have no say in your circumstances.

The best way to combat playing the victim in your personal life is to improve your mindset and habits by taking responsibility and being honest with yourself. Get away from any victims! 

In a work environment, set clear boundaries, keep a detailed record, and consult human resources. Use the toxic coworker survival guide!

How to tell if you are a toxic victim: Do you ever catch yourself saying, “It’s not my fault!”—especially in response to feedback? Do you enjoy it when people feel bad for you? Are you unsatisfied with your life circumstances but do nothing to make a change?

What to do if you are a toxic victim: Challenge your victim mentality by taking responsibility where you can. Start with small situations where you might typically blame others and instead ask yourself, “What role did I play in this, and how could I have changed the outcome?” 

How to handle a toxic victim in your life: When someone around you plays the victim, refuse to buy into their frame. No matter how much they see themselves as a victim, challenge yourself to see them as empowered and capable.


Cheating is when you break a set of agreements you have with another person.

Whether cheating while playing games or infidelity in romantic relationships, all forms are examples of toxic traits that destroy relationships. For instance, infidelity is the most common cause2 of divorce. 

According to social psychology founder Kurt Lewin, when it comes to playing games3, players are more likely to cheat the more anonymous they are.

In romantic relationships, cheaters tend to display the following:

  • They lie about where they go and who they are with. 
  • Their mood goes up and down. They are more happy and sad than usual. 
  • They get defensive when you ask who they are talking to. 
  • Increased phone use an hour before bedtime. 
  • Less frequent deep conversations, date nights, and sex.  

The signs may be subtle—either way, you deserve to have loving and trusting people in your life

How to tell if you are a toxic cheater: Do you feel like rules and agreements don’t apply to you? Would you rather win a game than play by the rules? Or that if your partner knew all of your behavior, they’d be devastated?

What to do if you are a toxic cheater: Think back to the times you cheated recently. Then ask yourself, “How would I feel if the other person were the one cheating?”

How to handle a toxic cheater in your life: Set a time to have an honest and calm discussion with the cheater. Express the impact of their actions on you and the relationship.  

Dealing with toxic people is never easy. But it can be especially hard at work when you are forced to spend time with people you might not otherwise. If you’d like some tips on how to navigate toxic folks in the workplace, you might appreciate this free guide:

How to Deal With Difficult People At Work

Do you have a difficult boss? Colleague? Client? Learn how to transform your difficult relationship.

I’ll show you my science-based approach to building a strong, productive relationship with even the most difficult people.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Taking Things Personally

Has a friend ever made a light-hearted comment that pushed your buttons? 

What taking things personally looks like:

  • You let the opinions of others dictate how you feel about yourself.
  • You have a habit of getting upset when given constructive criticism.
  • Your boss makes a harmless comment about your mistake, and you overthink the interaction.

How to tell if you take things too personally: If you feel like you can’t go a day without feeling like someone made you feel bad.

What to do if you take things too personally: The next time you get offended, reserve judgment and ask for clarification. “What did you mean by that comment about my performance? Was it genuine?”

How to handle someone who takes things too personally: When you need to provide feedback, frame it constructively. Instead of saying, “You weren’t thorough enough,” try saying, “You covered the topic well, and I think this project could be even more powerful if you added some detail.”

Seeking The Validation of Others

Like most toxic traits and behaviors, seeking the validation of others is a basic human tendency. 

Toxicity comes in when we make our mental health and emotional wellness solely on what others think of us.

Examples of typical validation seekers:

  • The coworker who constantly needs reassurance that they are doing a good job.
  • That one person who tries too hard to get everyone to like them by molding their personality to whoever they meet.
  • The friend that has low self-esteem and looks for their worth in other people.

How to tell if you are toxically seeking validation: Do you notice that your self-worth rises and falls like the stock market, depending on whether you are “good” or “bad” in others’ eyes?

What to do if you are toxically seeking validation: Can you practice giving validation to yourself? See if you can find a young part of yourself that is craving love and validation, and see if you can give that part what it needs.

How to handle someone toxically seeking validation in your life: Don’t take responsibility for their feelings. Be yourself with them, and if they spiral into needing validation, stay within your boundaries and don’t take on their emotions.

People Pleasing 

Is saying yes a habit of yours? 

Do you apologize a lot… Like a lot, a lot?

You may be a people pleaser! 

Thankfully, we have a comprehensive guide. Check out these tips to stop being a people pleaser

What to do if you are a toxic people pleaser: Next time someone asks something of you, don’t say yes right away! Instead, try “I’ll get back to you on that!”.

How to handle a toxic people pleaser in your life: Support their independence! Encourage them to make decisions based on what’s best for them, not just to accommodate you.


A stubborn and inflexible mindset makes you prone to toxic behaviors and generally unlikeable.

Do you know someone who sticks to their guns even when faced with contradictory evidence? They can be difficult to be around and make everything more challenging than it needs to be. 

According to the American Psychological Association, adopting a flexible mindset is the best way to combat this.

How to tell if you are toxically inflexible: Do you become anxious when routines are disrupted or when unexpected changes occur? Do you dislike trying new activities? Do you fear change?

What to do if you are toxically inflexible: Pick an opinion that you hold. Then, challenge yourself to write a few sentences that make a case for the opposite opinion.

How to handle a toxically inflexible person in your life: When proposing a change or new plan, first show understanding for their discomfort with change. Then explain the reasons and benefits clearly and give advance notice when possible.

Judging Others

Passing judgment on others is ultimately a toxic projection, a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. 

People tend to view others as having more ability to voluntarily change their beliefs than they perceive themselves to have, which causes them to judge others’ beliefs, according to research4

How to tell if you are toxically judgemental:  Evaluate how frequently you try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes or whether you dismiss their perspectives outright. Is everyone stupid, wrong, or just getting in your way?

What to do if you are toxically judgemental: When someone does something, and you feel the urge to judge them, realize your faults and ask yourself, “How am I like the person I am judging?”

How to handle a toxically judgemental person in your life: If you’re being judged, visualize an energetic bubble that protects you from them. Their judgments bounce right off your bubble and get returned to sender.


Jealousy is when you feel insecure that a partner or friend is giving their attention to someone else.

Jealousy takes different forms. Here are a few:

  • Lack of trust in your partner
  • Feeling envious of other people, like they are better than you
  • Feeling insecure and not good enough
  • Fearing that your partner will betray you (perhaps from past trauma)
  • An expression of anxious attachment
  • Feeling like your partner is your possession
  • Lacking independence in a relationship

How to tell if you are toxically jealous: Do you feel territorial when your partner gives attention to another person? Do you feel resentment when others experience success?

What to do if you are toxically jealous: Acknowledge your feelings of jealousy without acting on them. And vulnerably voice your feelings to your partner.

How to handle a  toxically jealous person in your life: Be clear that their behavior affects your relationship. Without shaming them, encourage them to speak about their insecurities and offer support. At the same time, set boundaries, and don’t let their jealousy rule your life.

Ignoring Self-Care

Self-neglect is the toxic tendency to ignore one’s own basic needs. 

Have you ever worked through lunch multiple days in a row? 

How to tell if you are toxically ignoring self-care: 

  • After a stressful day, you scroll through social media instead of taking a calming bath.
  • Going to the gym a couple of times and giving up because you didn’t see results.
  • Neglecting your basic needs like sleeping and exercising to achieve more in your social or professional life.

What to do if you are toxically ignoring self-care: Fill up your tank before you fill others. Before you do something for someone, ask yourself, “Have I attended to all of MY needs?”

How to handle a person toxically ignoring self-care: Lead by example and share your own self-care experiences to inspire them. But also recognize that you can’t change their behaviors.

Being Overly Competitive

Competitiveness is toxic when the need to win drives a wedge between relationships, and everything becomes something you must be the best at.

How to tell if you are toxically competitive: 

  • You take simple competitions like trivia night with friends very seriously.
  • You focus more on winning than having fun during low-stakes events.
  • You’re a perfectionist about competing and lashing out when others don’t meet your standards.

What to do if you are toxically competitive:

  • Accept that you have a competitive nature and use it for the best! This can look like joining intramural sports. 
  • Accept failure as an opportunity for growth instead of a negative event.
  • Channel your desire to win by learning how to coach others and teach them the skills you are so passionate about! 

How to handle a toxically competitive person: Try to reroute their competitiveness into teamwork and working toward a common goal.


Believing that you’re superior to everyone else is one of the most undesirable traits to be on the receiving end of. 

Arrogance looks like this:

  • That one guy who thinks he knows everything.
  • That family member who can’t seem to understand what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.
  • The friend who is rude to waiters and cashiers. 

How do you tell if you are toxically arrogant? Do you feel like you’re better, smarter, or more capable than everyone else? Do you feel like nobody has as good of ideas as you? Do you find you tend to look down on people more than eye to eye?

What to do if you are toxically arrogant: Make a list of several people in your life and the ways in which you look up to each of them.

How to handle a toxically arrogant person: If they try to look down on you, don’t accept their frame. Continue to look at them as a peer, no matter how they seem to view you.

Excessively Comparing Oneself To Others

We all have an innate tendency to evaluate ourselves in comparison to others. 

Toxicity happens when we don’t know how to stop the comparison from impacting our self-esteem.

Here are 15 in-depth tips to help you stop comparing yourself to others.

How to tell if you are toxically comparative: You’re constantly thinking about how your peers are doing and how you’re falling behind or not doing as well as others, to the point where it’s impacting your self-esteem.

What to do if you are toxically comparative: Try encouraging someone else. Orienting toward being helpful can get you out of your own head.

How to handle a toxically comparative person: Become a beacon of support! Reflect back on their strengths and celebrate even their smallest achievements.

Lack of presence in conversation

Doesn’t it feel nice when you are talking with someone, and they give you their full attention? They make great eye contact and seem to absorb every word and emotion you express. They are completely undistracted and with you.

Compare that to the feeling of talking with someone while they look bored. They keep looking at their phone and seem distracted with everyone else nearby.

When someone can’t be present in a conversation, it’s really hard to connect with them!

One of the most flagrant cases of this is when some “phubs” you. Which stands for “phone snub,” and it refers to when they whip out their phone mid-conversation. It turns out nearly 32 percent5 of people reported being phubbed 2-3 times daily!

Phubbing is a toxic behavior since it is overwhelmingly perceived as rude and inconsiderate.

For a more comprehensive guide, check out Phubbing: How to Deal with People Who Won’t Make Eye Contact!

How to tell if you are a toxic phubber: Do you use your phone when you’re talking with other people?

What to do if you are a toxic phubber: The next social engagement you have, either put your plane on airplane mode or leave it in your bag the whole time!

How to handle a toxic phubber in your life: Be direct: “I’ll wait for you to finish.”

A Sense of Entitlement

People with a sense of entitlement often come from a background of privilege and have had the world handed to them on a silver platter. Privilege does not equal entitlement, of course. 

Entitlement is when you expect life to go your way, things to be easy, and people to agree with you. It’s when you’re ignorant of the struggles of others. Some part of you thinks you’re royalty, and everyone else is a serf.

Our guide on 4 Types of Difficult People and How to Deal With Them could totally help!

How to tell if you are toxically entitled: Do you expect preferential treatment? Do you believe you deserve success without effort? 

What to do if you are toxically entitled: Try a day of volunteering where you will get exposed to different life perspectives.  

How to handle a toxically entitled person in your life: Don’t buy into their entitled frame. Entitlement is a way of seeing the world where they think they deserve more than others. Treat them like a peer who deserves as much as everyone else.


Selfishness is a key trait of narcissists

  • They make everything about themselves.
  • They only ever care about themselves.
  • They cause everyone around them an immense amount of frustration!

It’s okay to be self-centered sometimes. But when you can’t get out of that mode, it’s a problem!

How to tell if you are toxically selfish: Do you tend to think of other people when they’re not around? Do you often imagine how other people are feeling? Do you wonder how you’re impacting other people?

What to do if you are toxically selfish: In your next conversation, spend the whole time actively imagining how the other person is feeling as they are talking.

How to handle a toxically selfish person in your life: If you can, let them know how their selfishness is impacting you. If nothing changes, consider investing less emotionally in the relationship.

Stuck in the Past

The only good thing that comes from reliving the past is if you are trying to learn from it. 

The toxicness happens when you dwell and long for times that are no longer here.

It’s called the present for a reason!

How to tell if you are toxically stuck in the past: Do you often think about the good old days? Do you feel like you’re past your prime? Do you often cycle in regret over the past?

What to do if you are toxically stuck in the past:

  • Forgive those who hurt you in the past, even if they have yet to apologize. 
  • When you relive the past, look around the room you’re in and point out five objects that will ground you to the present.

How to handle a person toxically stuck in the past in your life: If you must connect with them, try to do activities that force you into the present, like biking or pottery.

Holding On To Loss

Grief is a natural response to loss. The difficult truth is that without loss, there cannot be life. Holding onto loss is toxic since it delays healing and prolongs suffering.

It is important to be aware of the Stages of Grief and seek therapy if grief is prolonged. You deserve to heal and make peace with your loss.

How to tell if you are toxically holding on to loss: Are your thoughts dominated by what you’ve lost, to the point where it impedes your daily functioning or ability to enjoy new experiences?  

What to do if you are toxically holding on to loss: Go into the feelings of loss and feel them all the way through.

How to handle a person who is toxically holding on to loss in your life: Offer a compassionate ear and validate their feelings of loss without judgment.  

Negative Self Talk

Self-talk is how most people process situations and allows for reflection and the potential for heightened awareness.

On the other hand, negative self-talk is when our internal monologue turns into unnecessary self-defeating narratives.

One famous study6 found that the people surveyed who used a logbook to track their negative self-talk gained a greater awareness of their habits and motivation to change!

How to tell if you are a toxic self-talker: Write down your thoughts throughout the day. Are they mostly positive, neutral, or negative?

What to do if you are a toxic self-talker: When a thought comes up, write it down and ask yourself, “Would I say this to a friend I treasure?”

How to handle a toxic self-talker in your life: Be a loving friend. They can only make a change in themself if they want to. But your support will go a long way.

Attention Seeking

Have you ever been around someone exaggerating their distress just to get more attention?

It’s not inherently bad to want attention, nor is it a character flaw. It is all about how you get that attention, according to research7

How to tell if you are a toxic attention seeker: Do you wear certain clothes, take up particular hobbies, or alter your personality for attention? 

What to do if you are a toxic attention seeker: Notice the next time you are modifying your behavior to get attention, then pause and ask yourself why you want the attention. See what comes up and if you can give yourself what you want from others.

How to handle a toxic attention seeker in your life: Reward them with attention when they are asking for it appropriately.

Resisting New Experiences

Some people are naturally resistant to new experiences since they are low in openness. 

How to tell if you are toxically resistant to new experiences: 

  • You cut yourself from family by declining invitations to events out of your comfort zone.
  • You refuse to get your haircut when your favorite barber quits.
  • You turn down networking opportunities out of anxiety.

What to do if you are toxically resistant to new experiences: 

  • Start small by trying out a new book, movie, or TV show—focus on trying it out. You don’t have to finish if you don’t like it. 
  • Become comfortable with the uncertainty of trying new things by reframing it as a fun activity!
  • Spend more time in nature, visit museums, and attend a music festival.

How to handle a person who is toxically resistant to new experiences in your life: Introduce a new experience gradually, starting with small changes that don’t feel overwhelming. 


The exploitation of others to get what you want is a huge red flag of toxic people and is known to cause others distress and, at worst, trauma disorders. They might lie, lovebomb, or gaslight.

How to tell if you are a toxic manipulator: Do you often influence situations or people to get your way, regardless of others’ feelings? Do you use guilt, deceit, or pressure as tools for persuasion?

What to do if you are a toxic manipulator: The next time you feel an impulse to manipulate, reflect on where the desire is coming from—is it for control, fear of vulnerability, or something else?

How to handle a toxic manipulator in your life: 

  • Realize they are attempting to find inner fulfillment through hurting others.
  • Set boundaries with them right away.
  • Don’t make excuses for their bad behavior. Get out while you can!


Guilt is a powerful emotion. Guilt trippers are experts in inducing guilt in other people as blackmail to get what they want.

How to tell if you are a toxic guilt-tripper: Do you make others feel guilty to get what you want or to control their behavior? Do people do things for you out of obligation rather than choice? 

What to do if you are a toxic guilt-tripper: The next time you catch yourself guilt-tripping someone, take a pause and instead ask for what you want.

How to handle a toxic guilt-tripper in your life:

  • Express your perspective by describing how they are using guilt against you.
  • Let them know you have no interest in resenting them and would like to mend.
  • Explain how it makes you feel to be guilt-tripped.

Worrying About The Future

Some people live in the past, and some can’t stop worrying about the future. 

Both are toxic since they distract us from our present moment. 

Worrying about the future is being afraid of the unknown and is existential in nature.

You aren’t alone. Anytime people are surveyed8, they almost always include “worrying about the future” as something they deal with weekly.

How to tell if you are a toxic worrier: Is your worrying disruptive to your daily life or negatively affecting your relationships? Are you unable to control the worry despite rational evidence? Does your worry cause insomnia? 

What to do if you are a toxic worrier: Make peace with the unknown and reframe it as your destined adventure to embark on!

How to handle a toxic worrier in your life: Help them focus on what they can control and take action on rather than on uncertainties.

Participating in Drama

You know those types of people…

That group of coworkers that always gossip during lunch outings.

Your family member is trying to gossip with you at the latest family outing.

The long-time friend that loves to “spill the tea” every time you see them…

We’ve all participated in drama! Ultimately, this is a toxic habit.

How to tell if you are toxically dramatic: Do you tend to exaggerate situations, create conflict where there is none, or seek attention through drama?

What to do if you are toxically dramatic: If there is someone you find yourself stirring drama toward, reflect on what feelings you have about them and if there’s a conversation you need to have with them to clear the air.

How to handle a toxically dramatic person in your life: Set limits with drama starters. “I’m not comfortable talking about that. What have you been up to?”

Holding Grudges 

Did you know holding grudges is bad for you? A study found that “chronic unforgiving” is negative for health, and forgiving enhances it9

How to tell if you are a toxic grudge-holder: Do you dwell on past slights or cannot move past them, even when they’re minor or resolved? Do you feel resentment toward multiple people? Do you feel like people have wronged you?

What to do if you are a toxic grudge-holder:

  • When someone wrongs you, take time to process what happened and make an active effort to forgive them.
  • If they haven’t apologized, imagine in your mind what they did to help you make peace with them. 
  • Think of it this way: Your health is on the line, and forgiveness is good for your health.

How to handle a toxic grudge-holder in your life: Encourage dialogue about the grudge they’re holding to understand their feelings. If they feel understood, it might loosen the grip on their grudge.


Ah, the needy wretches! 

We all have a needy side of ourselves. But when someone clings to others for constant affirmation, disregards boundaries, and places a heavy emotional burden on their relationships, then their neediness has turned them into a full-on emotional vampire. 

How to tell if you are toxically needy: Do you need constant validation? Have you ever been called clingy? Do you tend to take more than you give? 

What to do if you are toxically needy: The next time you notice yourself feeling needy, see if you can be with your own emotions and solve your challenge by yourself.

How to handle a toxically needy person in your life: Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries! Get clear on how much you can give, and hold to your own limits.

Conversational Narcissism

This is when, no matter what the conversation is, you make it about you.

Someone tells you their cat died, and then you start talking about your cat.

Someone tells you about how frustrating their workday was, and then you start talking about your job.

It’s natural in conversations to share about yourself. But when it’s always about you, then people will start avoiding you.

How to tell if you are a toxic conversational narcissist: You never ask questions in conversations. When someone expresses pain, you always put the attention back on yourself.

What to do if you are a toxic conversational narcissist: In your next conversation, practice putting your attention on the other person. Ask questions and explore their experience. 

How to handle a toxic conversational narcissist in your life: If you’re comfortable giving them feedback, then try doing so. If not, then don’t ask them questions because they’ll just talk more about themself. Use it as a chance to practice telling your own stories.

Boundary Violating

You know those people who seem to constantly push, press, and poke at your boundaries? When your “no” never feels strong enough?

These folks disregard others’ limits and blow past boundaries and rules to get what they want. 

How to tell if you are a toxic violator: Do you tend to view others’ boundaries as something annoying? When someone says “no,” is your tendency to keep pushing?

What to do if you are a toxic violator: The next time someone sets a boundary to you, take a pause and say, “Thank you for your boundary.”

How to handle a toxic violator in your life: Be very clear on your boundaries. When they cross a boundary, call it out. If it keeps happening, create distance.

Control Freak

Toxic control freaks compulsively dictate every aspect of their environment. Every speck of dust must be in order!

They also control the people around them to maintain order.

Being around control freaks is tense, to say the least.

How to tell if you are a toxic control freak: Do you feel an intense need to manage all aspects of your environment and people’s actions around you? Is it hard for you to give control to others?

What to do if you are a toxic control freak: Pick one task this week to delegate. It could be asking your partner to chop the onions or hiring someone to clean your home.

How to handle a toxic control freak in your life: Communicate clearly that you need autonomy. Let them know how their controlling behavior is making you feel.

Passive Aggressive

People who exhibit toxic passive-aggressive behavior feel anger or resentment, but they don’t overtly express their emotions.

Instead, they express their upsetness through indirect, subtle actions, like avoiding someone when they come into a room, not laughing at someone’s jokes, or undermining someone’s successes with an eye-roll.

How to tell if you are toxically passive-aggressive: When you feel hurt or angry with someone, do you tell them? If you tend to bury conflict or run from it, then chances are, your feelings are squirting out through passive-aggressive behavior.

What to do if you are toxically passive-aggressive: Practice being direct! The next time you feel hurt by someone, let them know.

How to handle a toxically passive-aggressive person in your life: don’t take the bait. The next time someone does something to you that you think could be passive-aggressive, take a breath before responding.

Volatile Exploder

These people have unpredictable emotional responses. One second, they’re calm; the next moment, they’re euphoric; and the next moment, they are a volcano erupting with rage. 

When someone is volatile, it’s hard to feel safe, and the ground around them becomes eggshells.

How to tell if you are toxically volatile: Do you have frequent, intense emotional outbursts that seem disproportionate to the situation? Does your mood shift rapidly and unpredictably? 

What to do if you are toxically volatile: Try practicing 5 minutes of meditation a day.

How to handle a toxically volatile person in your life: Don’t let their emotions in. And never assume their emotions are your fault.


Toxically pessimistic people always see the worst. 

If they win the lottery, they focus on the taxes they’d have to pay. If they hit their running goal, they focus on why they didn’t do better.

Spending time with pessimists is the ultimate morale killer. 

How to tell if you are toxically pessimistic: Do you tend to focus on the bad instead of the good? Do you expect things to suck? Do you often complain?

What to do if you are toxically pessimistic: State five things you are grateful for in this moment.

How to handle a toxically pessimistic person in your life: Validate their feelings of pain and despair, but don’t accept their negative frames. If they complain about the heat, respond with an appreciation for getting to experience the sun.

Obsession with Success

People who are toxically obsessed with success often prioritize achievement over all else.

Sleep? Who needs it when success is on the line! Relationships? They’ll only get in the way of my success! Food? Please!

These folks might even ditch their ethics to get ahead. 

How to tell if you are toxically obsessed with success:  Is success the most important thing in your life? Does it cause your health and relationships to suffer? Are you unhappy?

What to do if you are toxically obsessed with success: Take a weekend to yourself where you are not allowed to pursue any goals.

How to handle a person who is toxically obsessed with success in your life: Either connect with them to stoke your own ambition in a healthy way or try inviting them to hang out through leisure activities.


Toxically stubborn individuals consistently refuse to consider alternative viewpoints or adapt their stance, even in the face of compelling evidence.

These people are a nightmare to get into an argument with. When you’re in conflict with a toxically stubborn person, good luck feeling heard. It’ll be like pushing against a tree.  

How to tell if you are toxically stubborn: Do you rarely change your mind? Is “conflict” something that you can either win or lose? 

What to do if you are toxically stubborn: The next time you are in a debate or emotional conflict, make it a point to explain to the other person what you think their perspective and experience are.

How to handle a toxically stubborn person in your life: Don’t try to battle stubborn people. Instead, try to offer empathy to make them feel heard. Once they are heard, they may get out of battle mode to hear you back.


Toxic martyrs believe that they must suffer for others’ good. They get self-worth out of the belief that everyone else needs them.

Toxic martyrs start to seek out suffering because they’ve learned to equate suffering and sacrifice with self-worth.

How to tell if you are a toxic martyr: Do you take pride in your sacrifices? Do you rely on your suffering for meaning? Do you feel constantly underappreciated?

What to do if you are a toxic martyr: Try embracing the perspective that you can achieve positive results and help people through joy, pleasure, and fun.

How to handle a toxic martyr: If someone is clearly trying to sacrifice themselves for you in a way you don’t want, let them know. Appreciate their efforts, but tell them that you don’t need them to suffer for you.


Toxically aloof people maintain an emotional distance.

They always seem disinterested or detached. You can never feel too close to them.

And if you have a toxically aloof person in your life, you’ll probably feel constantly undervalued by them.

How to tell if you are toxically aloof: Does vulnerability terrify you? Do you keep people at arm’s length? Do you rarely show interest in others?

What to do if you are toxically aloof: The next time you meet with someone, challenge yourself to show interest, curiosity, and engagement in their life.

How to handle a toxically aloof person in your life: Don’t rely on them for emotional support or expect deep intimacy. However, if you really need a change, ask if they’d be willing to show more interest.

Frequently Asked Questions on Toxic Personality Traits

How do we fix toxic traits?

To fix toxic traits, one must first acknowledge and take responsibility for their harmful behaviors, often requiring self-reflection and, if necessary, professional help to address and modify them. Then, take on a growth mindset where you build your self-awareness, cultivate empathy, and slowly shift your habits.

What are common toxic traits?

Common toxic traits include habitual dishonesty, manipulative behaviors, constant negativity, lack of empathy, and an inability to respect boundaries. These traits can lead to a destructive impact on relationships and personal well-being.

What are examples of a toxic person?

Examples of a toxic person might include someone who is consistently judgmental, overly critical, manipulative, and unwilling to consider others’ feelings or perspectives. They often create a negative and draining environment for those around them.

Takeaways on Toxic Personality Traits

There are a ton of ways to be toxic!

Hopefully, you have a better sense of how to understand if you or others in your life are showing toxic behavior.

If you’d like to dig even deeper into this topic, check out this article on The 7 Types of Toxic People and How to Spot Them.

How to Deal with Difficult People at Work

Do you have a difficult boss? Colleague? Client? Learn how to transform your difficult relationship.
I’ll show you my science-based approach to building a strong, productive relationship with even the most difficult people.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Get our latest insights and advice delivered to your inbox.

It’s a privilege to be in your inbox. We promise only to send the good stuff.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.