33 Toxic Personality Traits You Should Know And Avoid
The problem with being a person is that our brains play tricks on us.
How we see ourselves is often very different than how we actually are.
As such, we may have blind spots when it comes to our own toxic behavior.
But if you want to build strong, healthy relationships — professionally and personally — it’s important to identify personal flaws and work to correct them.
So today, we’re breaking down 33 toxic personality traits many people have and ways to correct them.
33 Toxic Personality Traits to Know and Avoid
Looking for a toxic traits list? We’ve done the work.
Below is a list of 33 qualities that everyone should strive to avoid for the betterment of themselves and others.
Processing and weighing the conceits of every person that crosses your path is impossible. It’s admirable to try, but ultimately a foolish venture. There’s not enough time in the day, and you wouldn’t have time to think anything through.
But overtly dismissing the thoughts, opinions, and ideas of family, friends, and “nuclear colleagues” is rude, fractious, and more than a touch arrogant.
Want to avoid being the inconsiderate snoot who treats others like they don’t have a brain in their skulls? Mind these tips:
- Be a good listener. It may be hard at first, but the better you get at it, the better communicator you’ll become.
- Look at people when you talk with them. Doing so will help you focus on the conversation at hand.
- Foster a sense of humility; understand that you can learn something from everyone.
Many people were pushed into a perfectionist mentality because of their upbringing. Some are victims of parents who expected too much. Others come to perfectionism because they were neglected and are trying to prove something.
Whichever the case, It’s murder on your mental health, and it can make you difficult to be around. After all, not a single human on this planet can pass the perfect test. Holding yourself and others to impossible standards is a no-win situation all around.
Do you want to shed the yoke of perfectionism? Try these tips:
- Learn to appreciate that mistakes help you grow and become a better person.
- Concentrate on the purpose and meaning behind things instead of the details.
- Open yourself up to criticism and learn how to accept it gracefully.
3. Lack of Sympathy / Empathy
Sympathy is when you feel compassion for someone going through something you’ve never experienced. Empathy is understanding another’s pain because you’ve been through the same thing or something similar.
Sympathy and empathy are fundamental to healthy interpersonal relationships — professionally and personally. It’s not an exaggeration to say that civilization and community wouldn’t be possible without them.
Want to work on being more empathetic and sympathetic? Consider the following points:
- Read more. Studies show that people who read a lot have more compassion for others and themselves.
- Become a better listener.
- Try to put yourself in other people’s shoes.
- Ask more questions instead of jumping to conclusions.
Please don’t listen to people who tell you never to be jealous or that it’s 100% avoidable. Unfortunately, jealousy is one of those things — (like lying, which we’ll get to below) — that’s part of the human condition.
It’s impossible to go through life without the occasional suspicion, humiliation, or tinge of anger about a real or perceived threat to personal status or interpersonal relationship.
The trick is not letting it get out of control. A bit of jealousy every so often is normal. But it’s a problem when it becomes a habit and causes you to lash out.
Do you want to curb your jealousy? Try the following:
- Start journaling. People who write down their thoughts and feelings tend to be more even-keel and have better perspectives.
- Practice gratitude and mindfulness.
- Develop your self-confidence.
- Work with a therapist to uncover the root of your jealousy.
We know what you’re thinking: Aren’t jealousy and envy the same thing?
They’re similar, but there’s a significant difference. Jealousy is an unpleasant suspicion that gets your back up. Envy is when the source of your discontent is rooted in someone else’s advantages.
Envy foments resentment, leads to illogical thinking, and prevents you from living up to your potential. When you’re constantly counting other people’s assets and focusing on their good fortune, you fail to focus on your goals and life.
So how can you mute the envy inside?
- Count your blessings; we all have some.
- Understand that luck is a huge part of life, and let it go.
- Reduce the amount of time spent on social media.
There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition. It can be motivating and push people to greatness. But adopting a win-at-all-costs mentality is corrosive. It ruins relationships and sucks the joy out of life.
Being overly competitive skews perceptions and often leads to unhinged and unreasonable behavior.
To avoid letting your competitive edge metastasize into something ugly, try these tips on for size:
- Compete with yourself instead of others.
- Learn to appreciate everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, including your own.
- Grow your confidence and contentment so you don’t feel the need to “beat” others.
Acknowledging your range of emotions is vital and a pillar of good mental health. But learning how to balance them is also essential — and curbing aggression should be a top priority.
Approaching life from a place of rage is unproductive. Moreover, it builds walls between you and others, making it difficult to form fulfilling relationships and friendships.
So if you want to be calm, cool, and collected, consider the following:
- Aggression is usually rooted in unaddressed trauma; dealing with past pains head-on can help you move on.
- Learn your triggers. What makes you go from zero to 80 in .5 seconds? Pinpointing those things and developing de-escalation tools helps.
- Internalize the idea that most people don’t enjoy rage-filled blowhards; if you want to “fit in” and “be liked,” chilling out is the best path.
When assessing others, try not to confuse aggression with extroversion and boisterousness. Moreover, remember that cultural and regional differences hugely impact acceptable and expected levels of bluntness. So be graceful, and remember that one person’s “aggression” is another’s “enthusiastically engaged.”
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Outright aggression is a bad look — and passive aggression is right alongside it. Some would argue it’s even worse because of the plausible deniability element.
Passive aggression creates unnecessary drama because the instigator isn’t honest about their thoughts and feelings. It ruins relationships because the target can never pinpoint exactly what’s going on. They know something feels off but are in the dark as to why.
Note, too, that passive aggression is the covert narcissist’s favorite tool — so be on the lookout!
Are you guilty of being passive-aggressive?
Here’s how to turn things around:
- Work on taming your ego and building your confidence. It may sound contradictory, but many people who exhibit this trait are a complex mix of arrogant and insecure.
- Become familiar with all your emotions and understand it’s okay to be annoyed and angry sometimes. You don’t need to couch everything.
- Be assertive instead of aggressive. When conflicts arise, politely express how a given situation makes you feel.
- Work on being less conflict-avoidant.
Pretentious people have an inflated sense of value or status. Ultimately, they think they’re better than others and tend to be class-conscious.
Interestingly, most pretentious people are utterly unaware of their behavior, believing they’re sweet, generous souls who treat everyone equally.
Realizing you’re pretentious can be a mental journey steeped in pain. After all, who wants to face the fact that they’re not as kind as they thought? But working through it is worth the effort. To get there, try these tips:
- Use ordinary language instead of going out of your way to try and sound smart around others.
- Try new things; it’ll help you realize there’s a world of things that people excel at that you don’t. Essentially, it’s humbling.
- Don’t correct people all the time, especially when it’s something small.
It’s fine to have strong opinions. Knowing yourself is good. Moreover, in most cases, personal inflexibility isn’t the same as being passionate about positive societal change and correcting past wrongs.
But insisting you have all the correct answers and closing yourself off to everything else is dangerous.
Life is complicated; that goes double for people. Heck, scientists still don’t understand the nature of consciousness.
Expecting behavioral and intellectual uniformity is a fruitless and frustrating endeavor that’ll make you unlikable to a wide swath of people.
We’re not suggesting everyone should be wishy-washy. However, consistently refusing to listen to others’ viewpoints and chastising people who don’t think like you are toxic traits.
How can you become less rigid?
- Practice mindfulness; learning to be in the moment will lessen expectation anxiety.
- Try new things and embrace opportunities, even if they fall outside your comfort zone.
- Learn to be more humble.
- Learn more about people who differ from you.
Nature, please bless type-A personalities. Without them, nothing would get done!
But being controlling is a different story. Personal autonomy is a human right.
Sure. Limits exist. Letting kids do whatever they want doesn’t qualify as “good parenting.” Moreover, we have a societal responsibility to isolate individuals who threaten the lives of others.
But don’t be a dictator in your personal or professional life. Not only are you negatively impacting others’ mental health by infringing on their agency, but you’re cutting yourself off from growing and learning from others.
Here are a few tools to try when working on being less controlling:
- Confront fears that make you rigid and anxious.
- Try using a calming mantra when you feel things are slipping out of control.
- Learn to respect other people’s autonomy.
We all mess up at points in our lives. When it happens, the best route is taking responsibility, apologizing for your behavior, and improving. Healthy people are forgiving; they understand it’s impossible to make it through life without misstepping.
Toxic people, however, have difficulty admitting when they’re wrong. Instead of holding themselves accountable, they position themselves as the harmed party and refuse to budge. Ultimately, unapologetic people often find themselves friendless.
How can you get better at saying sorry?
- First and foremost, recognize that you’re filled with faults, just like everyone else.
- Don’t get in the habit of excusing away your mistakes while lambasting others for theirs.
- Practice apologizing to yourself. Once you get that down, extend that grace to others.
13. “Humorously” Insulting
Have you ever met someone — or are you the person — who couches insults in humor? Yes, learning to laugh at yourself is important. But framing maliciousness as jokes is a terrible quality, and people who do it are usually miserable on the inside.
How can you shed this toxic trait?
- Before you say something, stop and think how you’d feel if someone said it to you.
- Understand why you feel the need to be insulting, then work on those emotional struggles within yourself.
- Learn to “punch up” instead of “punching down.”
14. Lack of Self-Awareness
The teen and twentysomething years are about personal exploration. We’re figuring out who we are and testing boundaries. So, being a bit delusional at that age is not uncommon.
But forming a firm sense of self-awareness is crucial if you want to lead a gratifying life.
How can you plumb your personal depths?
- Working with a counselor or therapist is step one. They’ll help you pinpoint the roots of your detachment. If you don’t have the budget for a therapist, pick up some books written by credible psychologists.
- Ask your friends and family for their opinions about your strengths and weaknesses. If you go this route, try not to get defensive.
- Tackle your shadow self and start journaling.
Condescending people are full of disdain for folks they perceive as inferior in one way or another. It’s a noxious trait that always rubs people the wrong way. After all, nobody likes to be talked down to. Moreover, thinking you’re better than others is a foolish conceit — and life has a way of smacking down folks who do.
So how do you rid yourself of this offensive attitude?
- Speak to your audience, not above them.
- Ask people if they want your advice instead of offering it up unsolicited.
- Give others credit when it’s due.
- Be mindful of your body language.
Judgmentalness is the condition of being overly critical. Not only does it make your targets feel bad about themselves, but studies show that highly judgmental people are more self-critical than the average person, which leads to anxiety, depression, stress, and a weakened immune system.
If you want to learn to live and let live, check out the following tips:
- Develop a healthy sense of self-awareness.
- Practice being more sympathetic and empathetic.
- Journal about your opinions, dissect them, and then assess if they’re rooted in personal insecurity. If so, work on that instead of being critical of others.
17. Gross or Malicious Dishonesty
Just as we all get a little jealous now and again, we all occasionally lie. Sometimes it’s to spare someone’s feelings; other times, it’s a matter of wanting to avoid a complicated and unnecessary conversation.
However, gross and malicious dishonesty crosses the line. Excessive lying creates problems and drama and has the power to unfairly ruin lives and reputations.
How can you become a more honest person?
- Think twice before speaking.
- Learn not to let your emotions drive your actions.
- Understand that it’s okay to make mistakes.
- If you do lie and feel bad, confess.
Well-liked people are authentic. They don’t put on airs or try to present themselves as something they’re not. It’s manipulative, insidious, and makes people uncomfortable. Besides, a major component of likability is putting others at ease around you.
So how can you live a more authentic life?
- Internalize the idea of impermanence.
- Work on your self-confidence.
- Try your best, but don’t beat yourself up when you come up short.
- Take things less personally.
20. Tendency To Shift Blame
When something goes wrong, is your first instinct to point fingers at others? This habit is called blame-shifting, and it qualifies as poor behavior. It’s a conversation killer and frustrating for the other parties involved. In a way, it’s a form of delusional lying.
So how can you curb this instinct?
- Become comfortable with the fact that everyone messes up and has limitations.
- If you have perfectionist tendencies, try to eradicate them. It’s okay to be detail-oriented — as long as it doesn’t cause you and others stress and anxiety.
- Learn how to apologize.
Entitlement, as a personality trait, is the belief that you inherently deserve certain privileges and special treatment. The classic example is when celebrities say something along the lines of, “Do you know who I am?” when they’re treated like an average person.
People in this category have difficulty distinguishing between needs and wants, putting them at odds with others. It also inhibits one’s ability to make reasoned decisions.
The good news is entitlement is another toxic flaw that can easily be overcome. How?
- Learn more about other people and their circumstances.
- Recognize the physical and psychological strength that people with less privilege have had to endure. Consider how you would have probably fared if you had walked in their shoes, but don’t overestimate your abilities.
- Recognize that material wealth and status don’t define peoples’ worth.
Anthropologists believe gossip is a social element in every known society. In other words, there’s no avoiding it. But how you gossip matters.
For example, spreading rumors is terrible. So is meanly talking behind the back of someone going through a rough time or dealing with unchangeable and challenging circumstances. However, speculation about who’s dating who isn’t necessarily awful (if it’s not malicious).
So how can you become less gossipy?
- Before talking about people behind their backs, think about how you’d feel if the tables were turned.
- Accept that every life has its struggles, and learn to be compassionate.
- Commit to being kind, and remember that there is always more to every story than you know.
- Stick to light celebrity gossip instead of people in your orbit.
23. Tendency to Instigate Drama
Life is hard enough, so there’s no need to instigate even more drama. It makes people’s lives more challenging, increases stress, and creates a host of social problems.
But you can slow your drama roll by:
- Not sticking your nose into things that don’t concern you
- Not making mountains out of molehills
- Being aware of projection
Do you love attention? That’s fine. Just pick a career path that fulfills that need, like acting or motivational speaking.
Otherwise, being attention-seeking in everyday life is annoying and exhausting. Things can become downright dangerous if you go to extremes and self-harm in an attempt to pull focus.
So how can you escape this toxic cycle?
- Learn to be content with yourself and not rely on others’ admiration.
- Work on your self-confidence and self-awareness.
- Focus on what you genuinely love instead of trying to impress others.
Being manipulative is the condition of unscrupulously controlling a person or situation. It usually involves lying and tapping into peoples’ vulnerabilities. Typically, manipulative people are out for themselves and will do anything in their power to get their way. (Think: Little Finger from Game of Thrones)
The problem is that most manipulative people fall somewhere on the psychopathy scale and don’t want to change. Sometimes, however, childhood trauma can lead to this behavior. In those cases, it’s possible to abandon the habit.
Here are a few tips:
- Determine why you’re manipulative and work on healing the root trauma.
- Work on your self-esteem; insecurity is often the source of manipulative behavior.
- Make peace with the fact that everything won’t go your way.
Vindictive people set out to harm folks — emotionally or physically — whom they feel slighted them somehow. It’s a terrible way to go through life as it amplifies animosity, and you spend valuable energy ruminating about the past instead of living your best life.
In worst-case scenarios, vindictive people get it wrong and wind up hurting innocent individuals.
- Read stories about how vindictive behavior often backfires.
- Work on shrinking the toxic part of your ego.
- Learn to be more forgiving of yourself and others.
27. Toxic Positivity
Expecting everyone to be positive and happy all the time leads to severe anxiety and depression — for both you and them. We have a range of emotions for a reason, and acknowledging them all is healthy. Sure, wallowing is bad — but so is ignoring challenges and difficulties.
So how can you learn to embrace the hard stuff?
- Understand that acknowledging your range of emotions is vital for good mental health.
- Let people be in their feelings, and give yourself permission to explore yours.
- Learn to be more compassionate and respect others’ circumstances and challenges.
Life doesn’t always move at a pace that’s perfect for you, so learning how to go with the flow can cut down on lots of frustration. Being impatient with others can foster resentment, as it feels punitive — (i.e., Hurry up! What’s wrong with you!? What can’t you get your act together!?).
Here are a few tips on developing patience:
- Incorporate mindfulness activities into your routine.
- Improve your listening skills.
- Make a conscious effort to slow down.
- Work on eliminating procrastination from your life.
Cynical people believe everyone is motivated by self-interest. In a way, they’re right. We’re all saddled with a survival instinct.
But in the modern world, cynicism has morphed into something insidious, as people who nurse the trait in themselves are skeptical of everyone that crosses their path.
It’s a strain on relationships and something to work on eradicating from your personality. To that end, here are some pointers:
- Be less judgmental.
- Practice loving-kindness, compassion, and patience.
- Meditate on the interconnectedness of the Universe.
Few things in life are more objectionable than a fully grown adult who acts like the world revolves around them. More than that, psychologists cite the trait as the root of psychiatric illness, anxiety, depression, and addiction.
Self-centered people also tend to ruminate about themselves, disallowing them to genuinely connect with others.
If you want to break out of your own mind, try the following:
- Learn to laugh at yourself.
- Accept your weak points.
- Understand that life is a lot easier when you take a cooperative approach.
- Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks of you — and understand they’re probably not thinking of you as much as you think they are.
You won’t agree with everyone, but basic respect is a must. First and foremost, nobody has the right to abuse others. Moreover, being dismissive and overbearing to colleagues, friends, family, and service providers is rude.
How can you foster more respect for fellow humans?
- This is another trait that can be alleviated by reading more. Stories give us insight into the lives and psychology of others, which enhances our capacity for respect.
- Be polite and avoid interrupting others.
- Be cognizant of your body language.
- Think about your tone when speaking to others.
Greed — aka avarice — is one of the seven deadly sins for a reason! It causes people to act unethically and has the power to strip hardworking people of a decent life. Greed can also damage your mental health and lead to risky behavior, intolerable stress, and criminal activity.
Learning to be more generous will lighten your emotional load. Here are a few ways to make it happen:
- Work on being more compassionate.
- Learn what makes you happy, and strive for that.
- Think about why you feel a lack in your life and address those issues.
Abusiveness is one of the worst flaws a human can have. Physically harming others on purpose is against the law, and emotional bullies also cause heaps of damage.
How can you stop if you fall into this category?
- First and foremost, enlist the help of a therapist who can help you identify the root of your anger and behavior.
- Once you pinpoint the problem, start working on them.
- Take accountability for your past abusive behavior and try to make amends. However, never expect people you’ve hurt to forgive you. They are under no obligation.
If you’re guilty of some of the above behaviors, try not to beat yourself up. Many people never amass the maturity required to confront their own faults, so you’re one step ahead already. Pat yourself on the back.
Also, remember that it’s never too late to change; take it one step at a time, stay committed, then marvel at how your world changes for the better — because it will get better. Just keep plugging away and accept that you’ll have setbacks. Don’t let them knock you out for good. Dust yourself up and get back on track.
Congrats on taking the first step. We know you’ve got this.