We all have toxic people in our lives, whether it’s a boss or a co-worker, a family member or a lover, you have people you know who only bring you down. And unfortunately for many of us, these toxic people bring us down every day.
The best way to avoid — or get rid of — the toxic people in our lives is to know what kind of personality traits they exhibit and to learn how to deal with them.
Fortunately, toxic people are fairly easy to identify, if you know what to look for.
Here are 7 personality traits toxic people have that you need to look out for.
Many toxic people are totally all about themselves. Everything that happens in the world, the good and the bad, is a reflection of them. They truly believe they’re the center of the universe, and that everyone and everything should put their needs second to their own.
Because of they are so self-centered, toxic people are simply incapable of reading the feelings of others and having any concern that they might be causing pain. They have no interest in looking out for the needs of another person and would never put their needs above their own.
I know someone whose partner is as self-centered as they come. He pushes her away when he needs “time,” and then draws her back in when he wants her. He does this a lot and she blames herself. But it’s not about her. It’s about him.
What to do about it: It’s crucial to set boundaries with a person who has no interest in your needs, wants or limits. If you don’t look out for yourself, they’ll only push you harder.
Many toxic people are paralyzingly insecure. And it is this insecurity that brings about toxicity.
For instance, a man might have had a horrible childhood; his father disappeared and his mother struggled with difficult relationships. He started drinking young, and now has a hard time staying employed, and is chronically unfaithful.
I think he knows that he has failed on many levels — and it consumes him. Because of his insecurity, he’s quick to blame others for his failings. He lashes out at people who let him down. He finds it hard to believe anyone could ever love him, so he won’t commit to loving someone else.
What to do about it: Again, awareness is an important part of it. You can’t make someone who is insecure secure by telling them they are wonderful.
What you can do is make them feel safe and help them gain security by helping them find success. If you can do that, then you could help them manage their insecurity and, therefore, their toxicity.
People who are toxic are often extremely possessive. People who are possessive don’t like to share their friends or their lovers with other people. They hold on tight to someone who might try to live their own life, sometimes causing those people to become alienated from others.
Does your partner push back every time you want to go out and spend time with friends? Do they make up excuses as to why you have to be with them? Perhaps pretend they’re sick? If those things didn’t work, maybe they’ll fly into a rage and insist you not go.
What to do about it: If this person is possessive, a good thing to do at the first sign of it is to talk it through. They need to understand from the beginning that you’ll have your own life and you’ll always want to do things on your own.
If your person doesn’t like that, leave them Immediately!
Toxic people are often controlling. They insist on managing how their partner acts, what they wear, what they eat, who they hang out with, etc.
Their control and their possessiveness are the results of their insecurities. They believe that if their person is out of their sight, they will lose them. As a result, they do whatever they can to control the actions of their partner.
Your partner may insist on keeping you in constant contact with them, and if you fail, they’ll blow up at you. You might even believe they’re doing this because they love you, but it’s actually controlling.
What to do about it: Psychotherapist Julie Orlov suggests setting limits on a controlling person’s criticism and emotional outbursts. “Let your partner know that you are open to hearing their concerns about your actions and how they affect them, but will no longer engage in conversations that attack who you are as a person,” she says.
It doesn’t take much to trigger a toxic person into a rage. They’re working so hard to control their world, even the smallest thing can’t set them off.
What to do about it: Anger is one of those personality traits you can’t do anything about. You can encourage your partner to get help, which they may or may not do. You can also leave them. That might seem scary, but getting away from a person with anger issues might be the smartest thing you ever do.
One especially significant personality trait of a toxic person is that they’re mean. They’re not just unpleasant — they’re cruel.
I had a boss once who was constantly insulting the people who worked for him. He would cut them down at staff meetings, undermine them in front of clients, belittle them for shoddy work habits, and continually mock the way they dressed. As you can imagine, the work environment was toxic.
What to do about it: Once again, you can quit your job or leave your lover. You can also choose how to manage your reactions to that person. You know that their default reaction is meanness. If you know that, perhaps you can moderate your reactions to them — you can recognize what they say is more about them than it is about you.
Doing so might mitigate the damage done by their toxic words and actions.
I believe the number-one personality trait of toxic people is being passive-aggressive. Passive-aggressiveness is defined as “behavior characterized by the expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive, passive way (as through procrastination and stubbornness).”
Passive-aggressive people don’t come out and say what they mean or what they want. They hint, suggest, undermine, and pry — whatever they need to do to get you to act in a certain way or do something, without directly asking you or taking responsibility.
The reason I believe that passive-aggressiveness is the most compelling personality trait of toxic people is that passive-aggressive people manipulate others to get what they want. That in and of itself is toxic.
What to do about it: Talk to them about their passive-aggressive tendencies. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated. If you do that, you might raise awareness in your partner of their manipulative ways, so you can work together to change them.
The personality traits of toxic people are ones that are key to notice if you want to be happy in this world.
Toxic people bring us down every day. No matter how hard you work to make your life a better place, you have no control over what toxic people bring into your life.
Life is too short to let your happiness be hampered by toxic people.
Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based certified life coach and mental health advocate. She works exclusively with women to help them to be all that they want to be in this crazy world in which we live.