If you’re here, chances are you’re no stranger to toxic traits.
You might be picturing someone right now, remembering something they’ve said or done recently.
Toxic traits in a person generally show up whenever someone defies them, disagrees with them, or fails to show them the respect and humble obedience they believe they deserve.
Everyone but the toxic person pays a heavier price to keep the peace.
But what traits make someone a toxic person?
11 Toxic People Traits You Need to Know
Look through the following toxic traits list and make a note of the ones that sound most familiar to you. If you’re reading this, probably more than one will stand out.
Do you know anyone great at using guilt to get others to do what they want? Guilt is a favorite tool for the toxic person because you can never do enough to make up for the ways you’ve hurt, disappointed, or offended them. You will always be in their debt.
If they know your weaknesses, toxic people will always use them against you. Cross them in any way, and they’ll use that weakness to threaten you and get what they want.
The only way to avoid being manipulated by the toxic person is to avoid them. As long as you want them in your life, they’ll keep trying to mold you into something they can use.
Toxic people don’t like it when you make decisions without their input. They especially don’t like it when you know the decision they want you to make, and you choose differently.
If you look to others — friends, family, a therapist, coworkers — for insights into a problem, and you make a decision that wasn’t their idea, they’ll see that as reason enough to weaken or destroy those connections.
They want to be the only influence in your life that matters because anyone else might lead you away from them.
Count on a toxic person to see the negative in everything. Suppose you’re trying to stay positive and focus on what you’re grateful for. They’ll dismiss that as “toxic positivity” and tell you it’s better to acknowledge the negativity than to pretend it’s not there.
You’re not trying to pretend negativity doesn’t exist; you’re just choosing to focus on what you want rather than on what you don’t.
The toxic person won’t let you because they don’t want you to get what you want and to feel empowered by it. You’re most useful to them when you’re miserable.
Toxic people are always judging others, even when they’re guilty of the same behavior for which they’re loudly shaming someone else. What they do is their business, and they don’t want you or anyone else poking around.
So, if they can distract everyone by openly judging someone else — even humiliating that person, if at all possible — they won’t hesitate.
The person being judged had it coming for being such a terrible person (who knew, right?).
Toxic people are quick to gaslight you to get themselves out of the hot seat. They’ll deny having done something even if you have undeniable proof.
They’ll keep denying, as passionately as anyone in the right might defend themselves until you question your grasp of reality. Before you know it, you’re the one apologizing to restore peace in the relationship.
Once they can undermine your faith in your own perception and judgment, they can get away with anything.
6. Quick with the Insults
Toxic people are constantly using insults to tear others down. And as long as they succeed in making you feel bad, they get a cheap high from it. Because if they’re not happy, no one else is allowed to feel good about themselves.
If the boss asks anyone but them for ideas, the toxic person is quick to denigrate the contributions of others to prove they’re the ones who deserve the spotlight.
They’ve got insults at the ready for anyone who disagrees with them or doesn’t defer to their superior judgment.
Toxic people often use passive-aggressive behavior to make you doubt yourself or feel guilty about something. If they can see that it works on you, they’re more likely to keep it up.
They’ll use the silent treatment to punish you for something they said they were “fine” with. Sooner or later, you realize the word “fine” is a trap. The expression “It’s fine” means the exact opposite. And now, you need to make amends, but you’re still not sure why.
That’s just where the toxic person wants you — in need of their forgiveness.
Toxic people are easily angered and quick to use their anger as a weapon. Tell them you want to do something other than what they planned, and they’re instantly angry.
If they don’t attack you, they slam cupboards and doors, throw things, get loud, or make threats, using their voice or tone as a weapon. If you have children together, your first impulse may be to simply agree with them to calm them down.
Enabling the toxic person is not a long-term strategy. Confront them on their violent, abusive behavior when you get the chance to do so without putting yourself or your children in harm’s way. And get away from them as soon and as safely as possible.
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Toxic people act entitled to special treatment because they honestly see themselves as superior to others and deserving of more.
They’ll defend this belief however they can (confirmation bias), usually at your expense.
Deny them what they want, and they’ll go overboard, punishing you for it — with verbal abuse (or possibly physical), poisoning others against you, or using their access to your finances to get revenge.
Whatever you suffer, it’s your own doing. And if you dare insist you were right to deny them — that you have a right to say “no” to them — you’re only hurting yourself.
Watch how a toxic person treats others or behaves in a workplace. In their minds, the rules apply to everyone but them. No one’s ideas deserve as much attention as theirs.
So, they have zero compunction over shutting a coworker down rudely and dismissively — especially if the coworker happens to work under them.
The toxic person sees their worth as automatically higher than others. And they’re surprised (and offended) when people don’t see that, let alone when someone argues the contrary. If they can, they’ll destroy anyone who gets more attention than they do.
The toxic person expects you to sacrifice anything and everything to be at their disposal, even if all they want you to do is sit silently next to them.
Make plans with a family member or friend, and the toxic person will expect you to break those plans to please them.
Or they’ll go after the other person to sabotage your plans and if at all possible, poison your relationship with them. The fewer connections you have beside them, the more easily they can isolate and control you.
FAQ about the Traits of Toxic People
Now that you’ve looked over all 11 critical traits of the toxic person, let’s recap and tackle some frequently-asked questions.
What is a toxic trait?
A toxic trait serves someone’s interests at the expense of other people. The 11 traits described above all give the toxic person an advantage over someone else.
If everyone were to display these traits, civilization would be impossible. Everyone would be out for themselves — not only with zero regards for others but also with an active intent to use others for their own ends.
What are the characteristics of a toxic person?
The 11 traits listed above paint a vivid picture of the toxic person at their worst. But it’s fair to point out that toxic people aren’t always impossible to live with.
When they get what they want, they can seem friendly and even magnanimous. Their toxic traits only become more apparent when someone offends or defies them.
What are toxic relationship traits?
Toxic relationships are notably lopsided and abusive (at least verbally). The toxic person uses whatever they can to keep their partner under their control and destroy their self-confidence and self-esteem.
The enabler sacrifices everything to please or placate their toxic partner. No one benefits.
Now that you’ve gained a better understanding of toxic personality traits, which of these stood out for you? And what will you do differently?