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Are you surrounded by toxic people? Sometimes, it can be hard to tell, especially if you’ve gotten used to their behavior.
If you landed on this post, chances are you are struggling with the question, “How can I recognize a toxic person?”
Identifying these toxic behaviors in the people around you will make it easier to deal with them effectively and perhaps even avoid them in the future. Here are some things you should learn to protect yourself from negativity.
What is a Toxic Person?
What does it mean to be a toxic person?
A toxic person is someone who brings negativity into your life. They are draining, make you feel bad about yourself, or are simply not good for your mental health.
There are many different types of toxic people, but here are 30 of the most common characteristics to be aware of in your relationships and life.
Make sure to read until the end of this list for helpful tips on how to deal with toxic people. (I will also share a video later today with a real-life story of a toxic friend who tried to steal my identity and how I should have known better.)
Aside from toxic people, you might also have toxic fantasy self items in your home that are holding you back from being your real, authentic self; read about what fantasy self items are and how to declutter them here.
30 Signs of Toxic People
1. They are in constant need of attention
Toxic people are always looking for ways to be the center of attention. They take pride in standing out as the loudest person in the room or being the most controversial.
It doesn’t matter if the attention is positive or negative – they will lap it all up and still want more!
2. They are manipulative
Toxic people are often very manipulative. They will lie, use guilt trips, emotional blackmail, and even make threats to get what they want.
They are experts at playing the victim card and making others feel sorry for them – even when they are in the wrong!
This brings us to the next point on this list.
3. They are always the victim
Toxic people are always the victim. It doesn’t matter what the situation is or who is to blame – they will always find a way to twist it around to look like someone else’s fault.
They love playing the victim card as it gives them a sense of power and control over other people and keeps them looking good, at least in their minds.
Of course, misunderstandings happen all the time, but when a person is always trying to place 100% of the blame on the other party, it gradually becomes clear that something is up.
4. They move too fast
Toxic people often move too fast in a relationship, be it in friendship or love.
They will want to get serious quickly without getting to know you first. This is a huge red flag, and you should be wary of anyone who tries to do this.
5. Their emotions can change on a dime
Toxic people often have extreme emotions and can change them on a dime. One minute they could be happy, and the next minute they’re angry and screaming at you for no apparent reason.
This can be highly confusing and frustrating, as you never know what mood they’ll be in from one moment to the next. You might find yourself walking on eggshells around them or avoiding certain topics because you never know what might set them off.
6. They don’t listen to you
Do you have a friend that talks your ear off but doesn’t have time to listen to your thoughts and words?
They interrupt you when you’re talking and try to find a way to steer the conversation back towards them and their life or just plain ignore what you are saying.
This can be extremely frustrating, as it feels like your voice is never heard or validated when you are having a conversation with them. It’s so one-sided!
7. Drama follows them wherever they go
Toxic people love drama.
Remember, they want to be the center of attention, so there isn’t anything exciting happening; they might look for ways to create drama or stir the pot to get things going.
This can be tiring to deal with as it’s just one thing after another.
8. They love to one-up you
Toxic people always have to be the best, and they need to one-up you in every conversation. It doesn’t matter what you are talking about; they will find a way to make it about them and how they are better than you.
If you made a fabulous dinner, they will say it’s not as good as the dinner they made the night before. Or maybe you are excited to show them the new purse you saved up to buy, and then they go out to purchase one 10x more expensive.
It’s even worse when you combine a toxic personality with materialistic tendencies; you can read this blog post to find out more about signs of materialistic people here.
9. Everyone Else in their life is crazy
People who are toxic love to flip the narrative; it’s always everyone else in their life who is the problem, never them!
Yes, some people have crazy ex-girlfriends or family members. Still, when they are only spinning stories about negative friendships and relationships and the “crazies” start to pile up, that’s a pretty big red flag that something’s up.
10. They lie or omit the truth
Toxic people can straight-up lie to your face without blinking – or feeling remorse! They might also withhold information or omit the truth if it’s more convenient.
For example, they may conveniently “forget” to mention that they had a girlfriend when you started dating them, and then when confronted, they say, “But you never asked me about that!”
Compulsive liars like this usually have low self-esteem and lie to make themselves feel better. They lie or make up stories, even when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
11. They can’t let go of the past
Toxic people often hold onto grudges from the past – real or imagined. If you try to call them out of their behavior, they’ll bring up every single thing you’ve ever done wrong in retaliation.
You might have apologized and moved on, but toxic people will continue to hold a grudge against you forever. For them, the past is a weapon to wield against you.
12. They never apologize or own up to their actions or mistakes
Toxic people will never apologize, even when they’re clearly in the wrong. If you try to confront them about their harmful behavior, they’ll always find a way to justify their actions or blame someone else.
They might say things like “I’m sorry if you feel that way” or “It’s not my fault you are so sensitive” instead of taking ownership of their hurtful words and actions.
13. They gaslight you
Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic where someone tries to make you doubt your reality and question your memory, perception, and judgment.
A gaslighter will lie to you, deny things they said or did, accuse you of being “too sensitive” or “imagining things,” play mind games with you, and try to control your perception of a situation.
14. They ignore your boundaries
Toxic people do not respect the boundaries you set.
They might show up uninvited to your home or office, borrow things without asking, invade your personal space, or make decisions without consulting you first.
Toxic people might also try to control what you do and who you spend time. The word “no” isn’t in their vocabulary.
15. They invade your personal space
Beyond the boundaries mentioned in the previous habit, they might invade your personal space. They touch you without permission, stand too close to talk to you, or physically block you when you try and remove yourself from the conversation.
If you pluck up the courage to ask them to respect the boundaries, you might be told they are “silly,” or they might get angry or defensive as a result.
16. They don’t respect your time
Have you ever had a friend who told you they would meet you at the mall, only never to show up – and be unreachable when you tried to call them?
Or you go to pick them up to go out for a date, but they haven’t even started getting ready yet when you get there? And they say they only need five minutes, but that quickly morphs into an hour?
There are many ways toxic people use the time to manipulate or drain you. Showing up late, making you wait for them, going the opposite direction, and being “too busy” to meet up with you are all common signs that someone is toxic.
Beware people who don’t value your time in these ways!
17. They demand you accommodate them
Have you ever bent over backward to try and make someone happy, but they aren’t willing to meet you halfway?
If you’re a good friend, you want your friends to feel comfortable, safe, and happy when you are together, so it’s okay to accommodate their preferences and make compromises here and there.
But if ever dinner and outing become about them and what they like and disregard your preferences altogether, that’s a good sign that they don’t care enough to think about you.
Here are a few examples:
- you always go to their favorite restaurants, but they are never willing to try yours
- when you watch movies, they get the final pick every time
- it’s always you paying for dinner, never them
Relationships aren’t a one-way street; they are about giving and taking! You can find out more about this selfish habit and ways to deal with it by reading this blog post here.
18. They act overprotective and smothering
Toxic people can be incredibly possessive and overprotective. They want to control every aspect of your life, who you talk to, what you wear, and what you eat.
They will try to micromanage your life and might even go so far as to tell you what to do and how to do it.
19. They put you through tests
One toxic person trait is that they are suspicious; after all, they know how bad their thoughts and behaviors are, so they project those feelings onto others.
Therefore, they might put you through “tests” to see how loyal you are to them. They love to push your boundaries and see how much you can handle.
If you pass their test, they will likely give you a false sense of approval by praising you. But if you fail, they will find some way to make you feel bad about yourself and encourage you to “do better” next time.
In the end, it’s all about them having power and control over you!
20. Their personality and values change depending on who they are around
Toxic people may shift personalities and values like a chameleon depending on who they hang out with. One second they claim to be vegan, and the next, they’re happy to go out for Korean barbeque.
Their beliefs can change on a dime!
In mild cases, this type can fly under the radar without causing many issues – you might get frustrated that they never provide an honest opinion or take people-pleasing a bit too far.
However, this can also evolve into something more sinister, such as stalking or identity theft, if it gets to the point they envy you so much that they want to become you. They might insinuate themselves with all of your friends, then try to push you out or dye their hair to match yours!
RELATED POST: 7 Signs You’re an Authentic Person – Inside and Out!
21. They abuse substances.
Toxic people often abuse substances to cope with their toxic thoughts and behaviors. This can include anything from drugs and alcohol to gambling and shopping.
Substance abuse can also be a way for toxic people to bring you down by involving you in their habits.
22. Money is a way for them to control you.
Toxic people will often use money as a way to control you. They may give you money when they want something from you or withhold money when they’re upset with you.
They may also try to control how you spend your money or make financial decisions for you without your input.
23. They bring you down when you are happy
Toxic people take the saying, “Misery loves company” to the extreme. When you’re happy and doing well, toxic people will often try to bring you down.
They may do this by making negative comments about your accomplishments, belittling your achievements, or drawing attention to themselves instead of you.
From mothers-in-law that wear elaborate white dresses to the wedding to the Debbie Downers at work who say you only got the promotion because you’re a suck-up, this toxic personality type is everywhere.
24. They are bullies
Toxic people will often try to control or bully those around them. Their bullying can be overt or subtle, depending on the bully.
This behavior may manifest as making threats, using intimidation tactics, or openly mocking and belittling others. They might make snide comments about overweight people at the gym or refuse to tip the pizza delivery guy because he “took too long.”
Toxic people want to feel in control and often do so by putting others down.
25. They use ignorance as a weapon
Toxic people will often pretend to be clueless to get out of doing something they don’t want to do. They feign ignorance to guilt or cajole other people to just do the thing for them.
This is also called “weaponized incompetence,” and it includes things like refusing to change the baby’s diaper because they don’t know how or saying they can’t cook dinner and it’s your job anyway.
If you do get them to do it, they might intentionally sabotage their efforts by messing it up so badly that you get exasperated and take over for them. Which is what they wanted in the first place, of course.
26. They choose not to support themselves
Toxic people are often happy to leech off of other people. They might ask to crash on your couch indefinitely or borrow money without ever paying it back.
These are people who are physically, mentally, and emotionally capable of working, paying the bills, and providing for themselves but refuse to do so.
Even if they find a job, they usually quit or get fired quickly. There are plenty of excuses: the job was too stressful, the manager was a jerk, the house didn’t work, the pay was too low, etc.
True, those situations can happen, but something’s up when they happen at every single job. In reality, they’re too lazy to do the work required to maintain a position and would rather take advantage of other people’s generosity than support themselves.
27. They push their beliefs onto you
Toxic people may try to push their beliefs onto you. They enjoy forcibly engaging you in arguments about politics, religion, or other touchy subjects.
Or, they might push you to get involved in things you’re not comfortable with.
Anything you hold differing viewpoints on is fair game; they see it as their duty to teach or educate you. Disagreeing with them or asking them to stop makes you the ignorant or the bad guy.
28. They talk about you behind your back
Toxic people will say one thing to your face and another behind your back.
They love to gossip and spread rumors. They will also take any opportunity to make you look bad in front of other people – and they are so sneaky that you might not realize they’ve been doing it until it’s gone too far!
29. They expect loyalty but aren’t loyal themselves
Toxic people will demand your loyalty, but they won’t give you the same in return.
They might cheat on their partner, or talk badly about friends behind their backs. Men and women like this are full of excuses as to why it’s okay for them to cheat, but why it’s the opposite for you.
Here are things they might say:
- It’s your fault I cheated because you don’t satisfy me.
- This is common in my culture – get used to it!
- My bad: I thought you would be okay with it.
30. They disappear or ghost you
Toxic people run hot and cold. They might be attentive and loving one day and then ignore you the next.
Or they might suddenly disappear without any explanation, leaving you feeling confused and abandoned.
This kind of toxic behavior is known as “ghosting.” It’s a form of emotional manipulation designed to control you by making you wonder what you did wrong to make them abandon you.
How to Deal with Toxic People
Now that you know how to spot the telltale signs and behaviors of toxicity, you probably want to know how to deal with them.
Here are a few tips and ideas to help you deal with the toxic people in your life.
1. Avoid them
The best way to deal with toxic people is often to avoid them altogether. You can accomplish this by no longer going out of your way to make plans with that person or changing your routine, so you don’t encounter them throughout your day.
However, this isn’t always possible if the toxic person is a family member or someone you work with and see daily.
In those cases, you’ll need to find other ways to deal, including the following tips.
2. Talk to them about their behavior
In milder cases, toxic people might not realize how their behavior affects those around them. If you have a negative person in your life, sit down with them and calmly explain how their actions make you feel.
Be assertive but not aggressive in your approach, and avoid getting into a shouting match or making accusations about their behaviors.
Stick to your response and let them know that they hurt your feelings or make you feel uncomfortable. It might not always work, but it’s worth a shot if you want to preserve the relationship.
3. Set boundaries (and stick to them)
It’s important to set firm limits with these people. This will help protect your emotional and mental well-being and give the toxic person a chance to change their behavior.
It can be challenging to stick to your boundaries, especially if the toxic person is someone close to you that you love, have known for a long time, or is an authority figure.
Remember, you have a right to protect yourself from toxic behavior.
Explain your boundaries clearly to them and what the consequences will be if they push past them. For example, if you ask them to be ready when you pick them up to go out for dinner, but they are still putting on their makeup, you will give them five minutes, and then you are leaving them behind.
Set boundaries and stick to them!
4. Refuse to engage in the drama
It can be tough to remain cool in the face of negativity and pressure, but if you feed the fire, that might only inflame more drama.
If you engage with them, you will get sucked into their world of negativity and toxic behavior, so it’s often better to disengage. This means not rising to the bait when they try to start an argument or get a reaction out of you or walking away when they start beef.
Take deep breaths and remove yourself from the situation.
5. Protect yourself first
If you give too much of yourself up to other people who drain your energy, money, and time, you will have nothing left for yourself.
You need to protect your well-being first and foremost because no one else will if you don’t. So make self-preservation your default mode, and force yourself to be around people or in places that make you uncomfortable.
6. Stop trying to fix them
This isn’t a Disney movie; if that guy morphs into a total beast when you fight, it doesn’t matter how much of a prince he is to you afterward!
You can’t change toxic people, so stop trying. It’s not your job to fix them or make them better people — that’s on them.
7. Call on professional help
If you’re struggling to cope with toxic people in your life, it might be helpful for you to seek professional advice or intervention.
A therapist can provide you with support and guidance on how to deal with toxic people and help you work through any underlying issues that may be contributing to your difficulties. This is especially important if you are in a toxic relationship or married to this person!
They are a safe and judgment-free space to receive guidance as you navigate this sensitive topic.
Final thoughts about people who are toxic
Toxic people are, unfortunately, a common occurrence in our lives. Hopefully, this article has helped you identify some of the signs of toxic people and given you some ideas on how to deal with them.
Toxic relationships can hold you back in so many ways, and they are ranked in the top 20 things to let go of for more happiness and life satisfaction, which you can read about here.
Do you have any toxic person stories or tips on signs to look out for? Share them in the comments section below!
You can also watch the YouTube video below to hear about my unbelievable real-life experience with a toxic “best friend” – I’m glad to be done with her!