The 13 Toxic Traits You Need to Watch Out For

In today’s guide, learn about how to identify toxic people by becoming aware about the 13 toxic traits you need to watch out for. Audio version available here.

Connections with others is very important, but not when the person is toxic. Unfortunately though, toxic people, they’re pretty common.

For some more than others. Everyone has had at least some experience of them. 

Often we come across people who are just obviously not good for us. But the signs aren’t always obvious, or sometime we are just too close to the person to see the signs.

So how can you identify toxic people?

That’s where knowing what signs to watch out for can help. 

But before we explore the signs of toxic behaviour, let’s talk about the dangers of being around toxic people. 


The biggest danger of having toxic people around you is the fact that they bring you down. Have you heard of how you are the sum of the five people closest to you? That actually is pretty accurate since the people you are closest to impact the way you think and behave, to a massive degree. So much so that peer pressure is one of the most common reasons for people getting into destructive habits like drugs, and worse. 

Dangers of toxic traits
The dangers of toxic traits and behaviour

Having toxic people in your inner or even your outer circle of people you are connected to can be pretty bad for you, and not just because of what they might lead you to do. They are really bad for your mental health as well as your self esteem and confidence. 

Having toxic people in your life is one of the biggest reasons why people find it hard to move forward – toxic people can contribute to keeping people stuck. 

They are also one of the biggest sources of stress and tension. 

But that’s not all.

Toxic people have a direct impact on our physical health too. Research has, in fact, found that having toxic people in your life can increase your risk of having health problems like diabetes, heart disease and metabolism issues.  When you think about it, it becomes pretty obvious that toxic people do impact our physical health negatively, especially when you take into account how stress and low mood can impact our health. 

So there’s a whole array of problems that comes with having toxic people in your life, and as such a lot of reasons why dealing with them is important. 

That said, knowing all this won’t help you unless you can actually identify toxic people as sometimes that can be challenging to do. So here are some tips and ideas on what to look out for. 

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13 Toxic Traits

Here are 13 toxic traits and signs to watch out for:

  1. Guilt tripping – Using guilt is one of the most common toxic behaviours to watch out for. People who want to best for you will never want to influence you using guilt. So if someone is, that person is someone you need to be careful of. 
  2. Victim mentality – Victim mentality is yet another common toxic characteristic. Most toxic people have a victim mentality, and they play the victim mainly as a way to get attention or sympathy or to get something else, basically they play the victim to manipulate people. 
  3. Erratic behaviour – Toxic people are often very erratic, and inconsistent. But most often they are in a bad mood and expect you to fix it. 
  4. Overly critical and negative – Toxic people are often very critical. They judge people, a lot. So if you’re being judged critically for what you do and even what you don’t by someone close to you or even someone you know, you need to watch out for that behaviour. Notice the behaviour to see if there’s a pattern. If it happens all the time and you’re being harshly judged for petty things and being put down often, it’s something to be wary about. 
  5. Blame game – Toxic people blame others and rarely ever, if ever, take responsibility. It’s always other people’s fault, everything. If they missed a deadline, it’s because no one reminded them, that sort of thing. Generally for toxic people when bad things happen, they put the blame on others for their problems. 
  6. Unhealthy boundaries – We all have personal boundaries, but toxic people often have no qualms about disregarding them. They have no issue walking all over other people. Here’s the thing to remember when it comes to boundaries: personal boundaries are important – they help to keep you safe from people who aren’t good for you, like people who are hurtful or disrespectful. People who have healthy boundaries know what their limits are and can communicate effectively, whereas people with unhealthy boundaries will disregard others boundaries and don’t really know when to stop.
  7. Repeated dishonesty – A very common toxic behaviour to look out for is repeated cases of dishonesty, because toxic people will lie if it serves them, and they usually do it often. Again, it’s about getting their way. 
  8. Never apologises – Remember how playing the blame game is a common toxic characteristic? Hand on hand with that goes the inability to apologise. Even when they have been proven wrong, they still might not apologize. They might go to great lengths to prove they’re right even when they’re wrong, including changing the facts, blaming others, or even just plain lying. Basically, they want to establish that they’re always right. 
  9. Constant sarcasm – Sarcasm isn’t inherently bad. I have a sarcastic sense of humour. A little of it from time to time is funny, but there’s a line when it comes to sarcasm. If it is used often, and used as a weapon to hurt others, it becomes toxic. So constant or excessive sarcasm is another toxic trait to watch out for. 
  10. Unwilling to listen – Healthy communication is a to way street, but not usually with toxic people. They expect others to listen to them but they’re not so keen on listening to others. The focus is them, not anyone else. This inability to listen combines well with some of the other traits, including always being right and everything being other people’s fault. So the inability to listen is another trait to watch out for.   
  11. Puts others down: Another common toxic characteristic is constantly talking negatively about others. People who talk badly about others behind their back are people to watch it for, especially since they very well might be doing the exact same thing behind your back.
  12. No support: A very toxic behaviour to watch out for is lack of support. It’s very similar to the inability to listen trait – toxic people expect support and expect others to be there for them, but won’t usually return the favour. If this is a consistent pattern with someone you know, then it’s something to watch out for. Like good communication, support is also a two-way street. People who care about you will be there for you, and you will be there for them. So beware of people who only expect you to be there for them but are not the for you. 
  13. Intimidation: Last but not least on the list of toxic traits to watch out for is bullying or intimidation. People who genuinely care about you won’t try to intimidate or bully you into doing something, especially when it is something that benefits the other person at your expense. This is one of the most dangerous toxic traits to watch out for. 
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Learn about the 13 toxic traits to watch out for
Remember the 13 toxic traits to watch out for

Don’t hate the person

Now you have a pretty good idea of what to watch out for. This will help you identify toxic behaviour.

Once you’ve identified the behaviour and established a pattern comes the part of dealing with the person.

So how do you deal with a toxic person? 

Completely cutting them out of your life is possibly the simplest solution. That said, it is not always practical, and might not even be the best way to deal with the person.

Here’s why: 

Most people don’t know what they’re doing, and even fewer know how their actions or their behaviour is impacting others. Most people are good on the inside, and don’t want to intentionally harm others.

You see, intention is important. Most (if not all) of the toxic characteristics mentioned above are often acted on unintentionally which is why talking with them is one of the best ways to deal with toxic behaviours. 

For most people, having that awareness of how their actions and behaviours are impacting others will be enough to rectify the situation. So don’t blame them, deal with them with kindness and empathy because most toxic behaviour comes from insecurity and negative experiences in their past. 

Like the famous saying goes, don’t hate the person, hate the crime.

Becoming aware is one of the best things you can do for yourself, not to mention those near and dear to you. Check out my podcast on growth mindset to learn more about how you can do that. This 7-day guide on how to think better can also help. 

Editor’s note: Before you go, a tiny request from us at Life Lab Magazine – if you found this guide useful &/or enjoyable, please share it with others. That is the best way for us to reach others and make a positive impact.  So, share, pay it forward!

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