Are You Dealing with Toxic Traits? Learn to Identify and Thrive

Ever spent time with someone who seemed friendly, only to leave you feeling insecure and emotionally drained later? Such encounters often signal the presence of toxic personality traits. Beyond personal relationships, these toxic behaviors can permeate professional environments, contributing to issues like the Great Resignation.

Recognizing these toxic traits early on is crucial, not only for your well-being but for maintaining a healthy professional environment. Despite the label, toxic traits aren’t really traits at all. Let’s delve into what makes these behaviors toxic and how being aware of them can make a significant difference.

What Are Toxic Traits?

Toxic traits are harmful behaviors that can make relationships and work situations difficult. According to a Korn Ferry survey, 35% of people say their boss is a big source of stress at work, and 80% feel stressed when there are changes in leadership.

Recognizing toxic traits means understanding specific behaviors that create a negative atmosphere. Traits like acting superior, not caring about others (empathy), and trying to control others can be really damaging. These behaviors don’t just create stress at work but can also make personal relationships tough.

When we talk about personality traits, it’s important to know the difference between traits and behaviors.

Traits, like being introverted or extroverted, are part of who we are, while behaviors, like being dishonest or manipulative, are things we choose to do. Toxic traits often show up as unhealthy behaviors like being selfish, unfriendly, or manipulative.

Personality traits are like the building blocks of who we are, shaping how we think and act. While traits usually stay the same, they can change a bit over time because of experiences, beliefs, and big life moments. Understanding the difference between traits and behaviors helps us see how toxic traits can affect people and relationships.

35 Examples of Toxic Traits

Toxic traits are behaviors that can be harmful to oneself and others in relationships, and they aren’t always obvious; they can be very subtle and challenging to recognize when encountered. Here are some examples:

  1. Manipulation: This involves using cunning tactics to control or influence others for personal gain. It can include emotional manipulation, guilt-tripping, or gaslighting, where an individual undermines another’s perception of reality.
  2. Narcissism:  People with narcissistic traits think very highly of themselves, care less about others’ feelings, and always want others to admire them. They might use others to get what they want, not caring about how it affects those around them.
  3. Controlling Behavior: Those who are controlling want to boss others around and make all the decisions. It comes from a desire for power and a fear of losing control, which can make relationships feel one-sided and unhealthy.
  4. Jealousy and Envy: Constant feelings of jealousy and envy can lead to toxic behaviors such as undermining others, spreading rumors, or actively working to sabotage others’ success. This can create a competitive and toxic atmosphere.
  5. Insecurity: Chronic insecurity can show up as a constant need for reassurance, fear of being abandoned, or difficulty trusting others. It can make relationships challenging, especially when someone constantly seeks validation.
  6. Lack of Accountability: Individuals who refuse to take responsibility for their actions and instead blame others for their problems create a toxic environment. This behavior hinders personal growth and damages relationships by avoiding accountability.
  7. Dishonesty: Always lying or being deceitful destroys trust in relationships. It erodes the foundation of open communication and can even break relationships apart.
  8. Negative Attitude: Constant negativity, complaining, and a pessimistic outlook can create a toxic atmosphere. It can bring down the mood of a group and make it difficult for others to maintain a positive mindset, impacting overall well-being.
  9. Intolerance: Intolerant individuals may display discriminatory or prejudiced behavior, making it difficult for those around them to feel accepted and valued. This can create a hostile environment.
  10. Emotional Unavailability: People who are emotionally unavailable may struggle to connect with others on a deeper level, creating a sense of distance and isolation in relationships. It can lead to a lack of emotional support and intimacy.
  11. Arrogance: Arrogant individuals have an inflated sense of their own importance and may belittle or dismiss others, creating a hierarchical and unhealthy dynamic.
  12. Competitiveness: While healthy competition can be positive, excessive competitiveness to the point of undermining others can be toxic. It may result in a hostile environment rather than fostering collaboration.
  13. A Lack of Self-awareness: When someone lacks self-awareness, they struggle to understand their own emotions, behaviors, and impact on others. This can lead to challenges in personal growth and strained relationships, as they may not recognize the need for change or improvement.
  14. Victim Playing: Individuals who frequently play the victim may avoid taking responsibility for their actions and manipulate others through a sense of sympathy. This can create a cycle of blame and emotional turmoil.
  15. Attention-Seeking: Constantly seeking attention and needing to be the center of focus in social situations can be draining for those around them, as it may lead to a lack of balance and consideration in relationships.
  16. Indecisiveness: When someone struggles to make decisions, especially in group settings, it can slow down progress and create frustration. In situations where quick decisions are needed, chronic indecisiveness can hinder the group’s ability to move forward and achieve its goals.
  17. Passive-Aggressiveness: Instead of openly expressing their anger or frustration, a passive-aggressive person may resort to subtle, negative behaviors. This indirect approach makes it challenging to address issues directly, leading to unresolved conflicts and strained relationships.
  18. Withholding Information: Deliberately keeping important information from others creates an atmosphere of mistrust. In a collaborative environment, this can hinder effective communication, leading to misunderstandings and difficulties in working together.
  19. Gossiping: Engaging in gossip, talking negatively about others behind their backs, damages relationships and erodes trust within a group. It creates a culture of negativity that can be harmful to the overall well-being of the community.
  20. Stubbornness/Inflexibility: A refusal to adapt or compromise, even when necessary for the well-being of relationships or group dynamics, can result in stagnation. Inflexibility impedes progress and can lead to frustration among team members.
  21. Perfectionism: Setting unrealistically high standards for oneself and others can lead to constant dissatisfaction and stress. It creates an environment where mistakes are not tolerated, impacting overall well-being and hindering creativity.
  22. Dependency: Over-relying on others for emotional support or decision-making creates an imbalanced dynamic in relationships. This dependency can strain connections, limiting personal growth for both parties.
  23. Chronic Complaining: Habitually expressing dissatisfaction without actively seeking solutions can bring down the morale of those around. It fosters a negative environment, making it difficult for individuals to maintain a positive mindset and collaborate effectively.
  24. Defensive Behavior: Responding defensively to constructive criticism creates a barrier to open communication. This defensiveness hinders personal and professional growth, preventing individuals from learning and improving.
  25. Criticizing Others: Constantly finding faults in others and vocalizing negative judgments creates a hostile and judgmental environment. It erodes trust, damages relationships, and can lead to a breakdown in collaboration.
  26. Impulsivity: Acting without considering the consequences can lead to erratic and harmful behavior. It may strain relationships and hinder the achievement of personal and group goals.
  27. Avoidance of Responsibility: Refusing to take responsibility for one’s actions or their impact on others creates a culture of blame. It damages relationships and inhibits personal growth by avoiding accountability.
  28. Sarcasm: Using sarcasm as a default mode of communication can be hurtful and undermine genuine connection. It may lead to misunderstandings and strained relationships, as the intended tone is often lost.
  29. Exaggeration: Habitually inflating or distorting facts to make situations seem worse or more dramatic than they are can create unnecessary tension and miscommunication. It erodes trust by presenting an inaccurate representation of reality.
  30. Over-Competitiveness: Taking competition to an extreme, constantly trying to outdo others without regard for their feelings or well-being, can create a cutthroat environment. It may damage relationships and hinder collaborative efforts.
  31. Inability to Accept Criticism: Reacting negatively or defensively to any form of criticism hinders personal and professional growth. It creates a barrier to constructive feedback and improvement, limiting the individual’s potential.
  32. Boundary Violation: Disregarding personal boundaries and invading the personal space or privacy of others can lead to discomfort and strained relationships. Respecting personal boundaries is crucial for maintaining healthy connections.
  33. Conflict Avoidance: Individuals who avoid conflict often refrain from addressing issues or expressing their needs to maintain a superficial sense of harmony. While conflict avoidance may seem peaceful, it can lead to unresolved issues, resentment, and the deterioration of relationships over time.
  34. Disregard for Others’ Time: Consistently being late or failing to respect others’ time commitments shows a lack of consideration. It can strain relationships and hinder effective collaboration, as punctuality is an essential aspect of mutual respect.
  35. Laziness: Laziness refers to a consistent lack of motivation or effort in carrying out tasks. It can hinder personal and professional success, create tension in relationships, and lead to a sense of unfair burden on others.

Personality traits define us

 8 Common Myths About Toxic Traits 

We often get some things wrong about toxic behaviors, and it’s really important to get it right. When we understand toxic traits better, we can have happier and healthier relationships, both at home and at work.

Myth Reality
Toxic Traits are Always Evident and Easily Identifiable Toxic behaviors can be subtle and not immediately apparent. Long-term patterns should be considered.
Toxic Traits are Inherent and Unchangeable Individuals can learn and grow; with self-awareness and commitment, toxic traits can be changed.
Only Extremely Negative People Display Toxic Traits Toxic behaviors can stem from various sources, including insecurities and learned coping mechanisms.
Toxic Traits Only Affect the Person Displaying Them Toxic traits have a ripple effect, impacting relationships, teams, and communities.
Toxic Traits Are Always Intentional Not all toxic behaviors are deliberate; some individuals may not be fully aware of the impact on others.
Confronting Toxic Traits Always Leads to Resolution Confrontations may not always lead to positive outcomes; change may take time or may not occur at all.
Toxic Traits Are Limited to Personal Relationships Toxic behaviors can manifest in various settings, including professional environments.
Ignoring Toxic Traits Will Make Them Go Away Ignoring toxic behaviors allows them to persist and potentially escalate; addressing them is crucial.

7 Signs of Toxic Traits

Toxic traits can poison relationships and negatively impact one’s mental and emotional well-being. Just like unhealthy habits harm our bodies, certain actions in people can harm the connections we share. There are some behaviors that act as warning signs for toxicity. These include:

What are toxic traits? They make everyone suffer

1. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is like playing mind tricks to make you doubt what you know. Toxic people use it by changing facts, denying things they’ve done, and making you feel like you’re too sensitive or confused. This behavior can really mess with your self-confidence, leaving you feeling unsure.

Those who play these mind games often don’t care about your feelings and want to avoid taking responsibility. It’s important to notice these tricks, understand how toxic people in your life work, and set clear rules to keep yourself safe.

2. Playing the Victim

Some people act like everything bad always happens to them – we call this playing the victim. It creates a lot of stress in relationships because they avoid trying new things and taking responsibility for their actions.

It’s like they’re stuck always feeling sorry for themselves.

Setting clear rules is really important when dealing with friends or partners who act this way. Breaking free from this victim thinking is essential for having healthier and more balanced connections.

3. Refusal to Apologize

In healthy relationships, saying sorry is a part of growing. But some toxic people find it hard because they think they’re better than others.

This can lead to a lot of lying and make relationships feel bad.

Recognizing and dealing with this toxic trait is important for having a relationship where both people respect each other and can grow together.

4. Overprotective and Smothering Behavior

While it’s good for people to care about each other, toxic individuals can be too controlling. They want all the attention and control everything, making it hard for you to be yourself.

Recognizing these negative behaviors is important for keeping yourself well and finding a balance that lets you be independent in the relationship.

5. Draining Energy

Toxic people can be like energy vampires, always negative and needing attention. They might exaggerate things to get noticed, and being around them can make you feel really tired and unhappy. Recognizing this neediness is crucial for keeping positive in your life.

It’s important to set rules and, when needed, walk away from relationships that always make you feel tired and unhappy, so you can have a healthier and more positive life.

6. Walking on Eggshells

“Walking on eggshells” is a metaphor describing a situation where you feel extremely cautious and careful in your words and actions, as if any misstep could lead to conflict or negative consequences. In relationships, particularly with toxic individuals, this feeling often arises when you’re afraid of triggering anger, criticism, or other negative reactions.

It signifies an atmosphere of tension and unpredictability, where you’re constantly on guard to avoid setting off emotional explosions or confrontations. This state of heightened sensitivity can be emotionally draining and is indicative of an unhealthy dynamic within the relationship.

7. Hostile Communication

Hostile communication is when people talk in a mean or unfriendly way. In a toxic relationship, this happens when someone uses harsh words, insults, or says things that make you feel bad.

It makes the atmosphere negative and full of strong emotions, making it hard to have open and helpful conversations.

This kind of communication is bad for relationships because it breaks trust, hurts your feelings, and makes it tough to solve problems. It’s important to notice and deal with this kind of talking to make relationships better and more respectful.

Strong emotions ruin communication

How Do You Lose Toxic Traits? 15 Easy Steps 

Losing toxic traits is a crucial step towards personal growth and healthier relationships. It involves self-awareness, commitment to change, and a willingness to develop positive habits. Let’s explore the process of shedding toxic traits for a more fulfilling and harmonious life.

  1. Self-Reflection: Self-reflection is the cornerstone of personal growth. Take time to delve deep into your behaviors and attitudes, seeking patterns that may be harmful. This process necessitates not only honesty but also a compassionate approach toward yourself, fostering a mindset of curiosity and self-discovery.
  2. Accountability: Accountability is a fundamental aspect of shedding toxic traits. Beyond acknowledging your role, actively reflect on the root causes of these behaviors. This introspective journey involves exploring the “why” behind your actions, laying the foundation for genuine change.
  3. Seek Feedback: Gaining insights from those around you is invaluable in the process of shedding toxic traits. Seek constructive feedback from friends, family, or colleagues to understand how your actions affect them. Embrace this external perspective as a catalyst for growth, encouraging self-awareness, improvement, and fostering deeper connections.
  4. Establish Boundaries: Creating clear boundaries is essential to prevent the recurrence of toxic behaviors. Understand what is acceptable and respectful in various relationships, and commit to maintaining those boundaries. This involves not only defining limits but also learning to communicate and negotiate effectively within those boundaries.
  5. Empathy Development: Cultivating empathy is a pivotal step in breaking free from toxic traits. Actively listen to others, consider different viewpoints, and genuinely connect with their emotions. Beyond understanding, this involves putting yourself in others’ shoes and acknowledging the impact of your actions on their experiences.
  6. Learn Healthy Communication: Developing healthy communication skills is paramount in overcoming toxicity. Beyond avoiding hostile language, focus on fostering a positive and inclusive communication style. This means not only expressing your thoughts but also actively encouraging others to share their perspectives in an open and non-judgmental environment.
  7. Replace Negative Habits: Identifying negative habits associated with toxic traits is essential. Work on replacing them with positive alternatives, such as developing new coping mechanisms, stress management techniques, or adopting a more optimistic outlook on life. Cultivating positive habits goes hand in hand with understanding the triggers that lead to toxic behaviors.
  8. Educate Yourself: Commit to ongoing self-improvement through education and personal growth. Beyond formal education, immerse yourself in a culture of continuous learning. This involves seeking out diverse perspectives, staying informed about emotional intelligence, and staying curious about the ever-evolving landscape of personal development.
  9. Surround Yourself with Positivity: Evaluate your social circle and ensure you surround yourself with positive influences. Healthy relationships and supportive friends provide the encouragement and motivation needed for personal transformation. This involves not just choosing positive influences but actively fostering relationships that inspire and uplift.
  10. Practice Gratitude: Cultivating a mindset of gratitude is transformative. Beyond acknowledging positive aspects, actively practice gratitude by expressing appreciation. This involves not only recognizing the good things in your life but also expressing your gratitude to others, creating a reciprocal exchange of positive energy.
  11. Mindfulness and Self-Care: Incorporate mindfulness practices and self-care routines into your daily life. Beyond managing stress, mindfulness involves being fully present in your experiences. This, coupled with self-care, creates a holistic approach to well-being, emphasizing the importance of both mental and physical health.
  12. Apologize and Make Amends: If your toxic traits have affected others, sincere apologies and amends are necessary. Humility, genuine remorse, and a commitment to change are crucial in this process. Making amends goes beyond words; it involves consistent actions that demonstrate your commitment to repairing and rebuilding trust.
  13. Celebrate Progress: Recognize and celebrate the progress made in shedding toxic traits. Beyond acknowledging successes, actively celebrate by sharing your achievements with a supportive network. This not only reinforces your commitment to personal growth but also fosters a culture of positive reinforcement within your community.
  14. Patience and Persistence: Transformation is a gradual process requiring patience and persistence. Be patient with yourself, persist in your efforts to shed toxic traits, and celebrate successes along the way. Beyond resilience, this involves embracing setbacks as learning opportunities and staying committed to the ongoing journey of self-improvement.
  15. Professional Guidance: If overcoming toxic traits proves challenging, consider seeking professional guidance. Therapists, counselors, or support groups offer specialized assistance, providing tools and strategies tailored to your specific journey of personal growth. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a courageous step towards personal development, emphasizing the importance of seeking external support when needed.

Toxic Traits: Men vs Women

It’s important to note that toxic traits are not exclusive to any gender, and individuals can exhibit toxic behavior regardless of whether they identify as men or women. Toxic traits are harmful behaviors or patterns that negatively impact relationships, well-being, and overall mental health. These traits can manifest differently in individuals, and it’s crucial to avoid generalizations based on gender.

That being said, some behaviors associated with toxic masculinity or toxic femininity stereotypes can be harmful.

It’s essential to recognize that these stereotypes are not universally applicable, and individuals may display a mix of traits regardless of gender. Here are some examples of toxic traits that can be associated with traditional gender expectations:

Toxic Traits in Men:

  1. Emotional Suppression: Societal expectations may lead some men to suppress their emotions, which can result in difficulties expressing themselves and connecting with others.

  2. Aggressiveness: Traditional notions of masculinity may promote aggressive behavior as a way to assert dominance. This can lead to conflict and harm in relationships.

  3. Competitiveness: An excessive focus on competition and the need to be dominant can lead to a lack of cooperation and empathy in relationships.

  4. Avoidance of Vulnerability: Some men may avoid showing vulnerability due to societal expectations, leading to difficulties in forming deep emotional connections.

  5. Pressure to Conform to Stereotypes: Men may face societal pressure to conform to rigid gender roles, limiting their ability to express their individuality.

Toxic Traits in Women:

  1. Passive Aggression: Societal expectations may pressure some women to suppress direct expression of anger, leading to passive-aggressive behavior.

  2. Over-Accommodation: Women may feel compelled to prioritize the needs of others over their own, which can result in burnout and a lack of self-care.

  3. Perfectionism: The pressure to conform to societal standards of beauty and behavior can contribute to perfectionism, leading to unrealistic expectations and stress.

  4. Manipulation: Some women may resort to manipulative tactics in relationships as a means of control, which can be damaging and erode trust.

  5. Fear of Assertion: Societal norms may discourage women from asserting themselves, leading to a reluctance to express opinions or desires.

It’s important to remember that these traits are not inherent to any gender, and individuals are unique in their behaviors. Additionally, societal expectations and norms are evolving, challenging traditional gender roles. Addressing toxic traits involves promoting healthy communication, and emotional intelligence, and fostering an environment where individuals feel free to express themselves authentically, irrespective of gender.


WANDA THIBODEAUX. (OCT 24, 2018). Science Finally Explained What All Toxic People Have in Common. Here’s What It Means for Your Team.

 Steven Melendy (August 04, 2021). Are You a Toxic Person?

Malibongwe Tyilo (17 Aug 2021). Defining the toxic personality.

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