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31 Toxic Personality Traits To Spot in Yourself And Others

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1. Lying

Dishonesty degrades the foundation of all relationships, mutual trust. Philosopher Immanuel Kant believed if everyone lied, nobody would believe anything they were told! Lying is toxic since it is self-defeating. Striving for truth in our relationships with others shows we care about their desires and choices. 

Lying during job interviews is shockingly common. 81% of people lie during job interviews, according to social psychologist Ron Friedman. 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. The best way to combat lying is to get away from chronic liars and be honest to yourself! Honesty is the best policy.

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. 

2. Insincerity

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.

How to combat insincerity: Be yourself!

  • 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.

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

3. Playing The Victim

Playing the victim is a mindset many of us don’t even realize we are adopting during difficult times. According to research, those who frequently play the victim card exaggerate and manipulate those around them to escape responsibility, cope, or get attention. 

Here’s how to spot victim playing:

  • They abuse others and, when called out, divert attention by claiming their behavior was justified, usually blaming the ones they hurt.
  • They manipulate and play “woe is me” to gain sympathy from others and anyone else around to listen.
  • In the work environment, the coworker always shouts, “It’s not my fault!” when given constructive feedback about their poor performance.

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

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

4. Cheating

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 cause of divorce. 

Why people cheat: Big 5 personality traits like low agreeableness and low conscientiousness may play a role, according to the American Psychological Association. But so can circumstances! 

According to social psychology founder Kurt Lewin, people behave differently according to their environment and personality. When it comes to playing games, how familiar you are with who you play with can predict cheating! The more anonymity you and other players have, the more likely cheating will occur. 

The most important part when it comes to cheating is opportunity.

How to spot cheating in romantic relationships: 

Be on the lookout for…

  • 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

5. 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. 

How to start speaking up:

  • Start small by speaking up about basic things at home, like being honest when you’re asked, “What do you want to eat for dinner?”.
  • Say no to others and yes to yourself! This can look like saying no to non-mandatory work events when you’re not feeling up for it. You’re saying yes to yourself by prioritizing self-care!
  • During conversations, feel free to interrupt people politely when they are talking over you. You can use the power cue “The Fish”! Try opening your mouth to subtly show you have something to say while the other person rambles on.

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!

6. Taking Things Personally

Has a friend ever made a light-hearted comment that pushed your buttons? Taking things personally comes from the need to feel safe in our relationships with others. 

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 stop taking things personally:

  • Reserve judgment and ask for clarification “What did you mean by that comment about my performance? Was it genuine?”.
  • Overcome your emotional instinct by reflecting on how important the relationship with the person truly is. Ask yourself, “Is this person worthy of my tendency to take what they said personally?”.
  •  When given constructive criticism, take a deep breath and make an effort to view what they say as if you were a third-party listener. 

7. Perfectionism

Perfectionists display toxic behaviors that are often controlling with their ultra-high standards and over-willingness to achieve perfection. Does this sound like you or someone you know?

How to manage perfectionism: 

  • Celebrate the achievements of others as you would celebrate your own! 
  • Keep a solid work-life balance by deleting your work email apps off your phone.
  • Manage stress by taking frequent breaks and using deep breathing techniques.

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!

8. 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 that 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 combat toxic validation seeking: Develop a healthy relationship with yourself! 

  • Mental health is key. Take care of yourself by nurturing your mind and body.
  • Be aware of the signs of a toxic person, and stay away!
  • Develop self-awareness and be patient with yourself. Growth can be challenging. 

9. People Pleasing 

Is saying yes a habit of yours? 

Do you happen to be higher in agreeableness? 

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

You may be a people pleaser! 

Here are a few quick steps to top people pleasing: 

  • You don’t have to say yes right away. Instead, try “I’ll get back to you on that!”.
  • Be more intentional with your apologies, and stop apologizing for small things.
  • Practice validating yourself by relying on internal validation instead of external! This can look like making a daily habit of writing down 3 of your favorite things about yourself. 

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

10. Inflexibility

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 have a flexible mindset:

  • Realize that traits like intelligence, including emotional intelligence, can be developed and improved.
  • Try mini openness activities: challenge yourself to try a new skill like painting and practice! 
  • When faced with setbacks, take time to process them and make an effort to be understanding with yourself and others.

11. Judging Others

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

People judge others to have more control over beliefs than they themselves do, according to a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitude and Social Cognition

Here’s how to stop judging others and deal with judgment from others:

  • When someone does something, and you feel the urge to judge them…..
  • Realize your faults, ask yourself, “how am I like the person I am judging?”
  • If you’re being judged, remind yourself it doesn’t matter what others have to say about you as long as you are content with your choices. 

12. 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!”

Positive toxicity can be to others and to yourself.

It’s completely normal to feel negative feelings, and it’s called emotional diversity!

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

13. Jealousy

Jealousy involves having resentment towards someone or something believed to be under threat by another party and can be toxic at times.

There are two major types of jealousy in romantic relationships, sexual and emotional jealousy. 

  • Men report more jealousy in response to sexual than emotional infidelity.
  • According to a Swedish study, men and women process infidelity differently, and from an evolutionary perspective, this comes from differences in “selection pressures” for finding mates. 

How to combat jealousy:

  • Are you being gaslighted? As in, is the person lying to you about their infidelity?
    • Voice your concerns. 
    • Do your research and keep records. 
    • Foster open communication.
  • Are they being honest? You might be toxically jealous. Instead, try these tips:
    • Write down all your insecurities.
    • Write down all the ways jealousy has impacted your relationships.
    • Reflect on all of the above.
    • Work on becoming more self-aware and find your triggers.
    • Be patient with yourself and practice mindfulness tricks like deep breathing.

The bottom line, get away from romantic partners that make you sexually and emotionally jealous!

14. 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? 

Ignoring self-care can take many forms:

  • 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.

How to start caring for yourself:

  • Fill up your tank before you fill others. Before you do something for someone, ask yourself, “have I attended to all of MY needs?”
  • Respond to your body’s biological cues like hunger, bathroom, and sleep urges. Do not ignore them!
  • Set alarms and reminders in your calendar to take breaks during busy work days.
  • Make a habit of ending social interactions that distract you from attending to your needs. No one will care about your needs unless you do. 

15. Being Overly Competitive

Competitiveness is toxic when the need to win drives a wedge between relationships. 

How to tell if you’re overly 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.

How to combat over-competitiveness:

  • 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! 

16. Arrogance

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 that 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 to combat arrogance in yourself and others:

  • Cultivate humility by being honest with yourself about what you are capable of.
  • Seek the help of others. It is okay to need help, you’re human!
  • Request feedback from others on your character and improve your perception of yourself.

17. Comparing Yourself 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’s how to reframe comparing yourself to others:

  • Realize this is normal, and social comparison theory can explain this.
  • Are you really comparing yourself up or down to others? Understand that not everyone is honest about their downfalls. You may be comparing yourself to people who are really struggling.
  • Use this as motivation to be your best self!

18. Phubbing

Do you remember the last time you were having a conversation with someone that suddenly started using their phone? 

Imagine you ask a friend about an upcoming event when suddenly they stop making eye contact and start using their phone. They refuse to make eye contact with you the rest of the night. You’re confused and wonder, “did I say something wrong? Did they get an important message?”

This is called “phone snubbing” or phubbing, and it turns out nearly 32 percent of people reported being phubbed 2-3 times daily!

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

How to combat phubbing: 

  • Follow their gaze and comment, “Oh, I thought you were showing me something.”
  • If they make eye contact, reward them with a smile!
  • Be direct “I’ll wait for you to finish.”

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

19. A Sense of Entitlement

People with a sense of entitlement usually use manipulative tactics and gaslighting to get what they believe they are entitled to without having to work for it. 

How to manage entitled people: 

  • Take deep breaths and foster patience.
  • Limit time around them.
  • Get away if you can!

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

20. Selfishness

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!

The best way to combat selfishness in others and yourself is to:

  • Learn from your mistakes. When was the last time being self-serving actually helped you?
  • Be honest with selfish people about how they make you feel, “I’m feeling overlooked, and it really makes me feel 
  • Stay far away!

21. Reliving 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!

Here’s how to start living in the present:

  • Forgive those that 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 5 objects which will ground you to the present.
  • Viewing the past from a third-person perspective and gaining distance from the past can help us come to terms with it. 

22. 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.

23. 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 study 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 combat negative self-talk: 

  •  Write it down and ask yourself, “would I say this to a friend I treasure?”
  • Limit yourself on how often you engage in negative self-talk “I can be a negative nancy for 5 minutes only”.
  • Transform negative self-talk into neutrality by using different phrases
    • Negative: “I hate this.” 
    • Neutrality: “I don’t prefer this.”

24. Attention Seeking

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

Attention seeking is a commonality among all the traits of toxic people.

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 research

How to handle toxic attention seekers:

  • Reward them with attention when they are asking for it appropriately.
  • Be patient and reflect on your attention-seeking tendencies, we’ve all been there!
  • Limit your time around them.

25. Resisting New Experiences

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

Resisting new experiences becomes toxic when you….

  • Cut yourself from family by declining invitations to events out of your comfort zone.
  • Refuse to get your haircut when your favorite barber quits.
  • Turn down networking opportunities out of anxiety.

How to become more open:

  • 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.

26. Manipulation

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.

How to handle manipulators:

  • 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!

27. Being Untrustworthy

You know an untrustworthy person when you see them….

  • They are prone to gossiping.
  • They can’t keep a secret. 
  • They are unsafe to be around.

The best way to handle untrustworthy people is to keep quiet, let them do all the talking, and limit your time around them!

28. Guilt-tripping

Guilt trippers often use emotional baggage as blackmail to get what they want.

Here’s how to set limits with guilt trippers:

  • 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.

29. 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.

The best way to stop worrying about the future is to make peace with the unknown and reframe it as your destined adventure to embark on!

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

30. Participating in Drama

You know those types of people…

That group of coworkers that always gossip during lunch outings.

  • Your family member 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 that should be handled by doing the following: 

  • Set limits with drama starters. “I’m not comfortable talking about that. What have you been up to?”
  • Never say anything to them you wouldn’t want to say in front of others.
  • Get away if you can!

31. Holding Grudges 

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

How to be better at forgiving:

  • 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.

Are you struggling with toxic people? Curious if you show toxic traits yourself? Check out 

The 7 Types of Toxic People and How to Spot Them.

How to Deal with Difficult People at Work

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