Last Updated on March 17, 2021

How To Spot Toxic People: 6 Traits To Watch Out For

How To Spot Toxic People: 6 Traits To Watch Out For

We can clearly see the warning signs on hazardous products. That human skull with the two cross bones behind it on any label screams one word: TOXIC.

We know without having to interact that whatever may be inside is at its best harmful and to be handled with care and at its worst poisonous and to be avoided at all cost. Toxic people can be quite similar in terms of their ability to negatively impact us and do some serious damage. But unlike those products, toxic people don’t come with warning labels making them much more difficult to spot.

So how can we tell if someone is toxic? What are those toxic people traits that are common among them and that we need to watch out for?

Chances are that if you’ve found this way to this article, you already have encountered someone exhibiting toxic behaviors. Those feelings of being dismissed, devalued, and taken advantage of that arise in you when dealing with toxic people are not to be ignored. Toxic people take many forms. They can be your boss or a colleague from work, a family member or a love interest, or even your neighbor or that grocery checkout clerk who always seems to be the only one working when you go into the shop. Sadly, toxic people aren’t limited to any one area of our lives. Personally and professionally toxic people are among us. As the old saying goes:

“Some people brighten a room when they enter it; others when they leave it.”

And toxic people are definitely the latter.


Here are some telltale signs to help you spot those toxic people traits:

1. Master Manipulators

Toxic people love control. They love to twist situations in their favor, and they’ve perfected their pitch in making you feel off-balance and irrational should you not whole-heartedly go along with what they want.

Some examples of tools they’ll use in their manipulation attempts include:

  • Making you feel guilty
  • Flat out lying or denying even when the facts are staring them in the face
  • Projecting onto you the blame that actually belongs to them

Toxic people will work to gain your trust. They can be oh so charming. You start out thinking they’re a friend and then you start to doubt if they really are. Once they have you, they’ll use what you’ve told them in confidence — your weaknesses and insecurities — to take advantage of you.

2. Drama Junkies

While it’s safe to say that a majority of people try to avoid drama, toxic people are addicted to it. They not only thrive in chaos, but get a thrill out of creating confusion and conflict. Surrounding yourself in such a swirl of stress leaves you feeling exhausted, just as it leaves them feeling exhilarated.

Some favorite tools in creating their drama include:


  • Announcing the 11th hour project deadlines and needs, not out of necessity, but on purpose to watch others spin
  • Expecting what they want exactly when they want it, regardless of what it takes (usually at your expense)
  • Worrying about everything and anything unnecessarily and sucking you into their world of unfounded fear and doubt

3. Condescending Communicators

An air of superiority fills the room every time toxic people open their mouths. It can take several forms.

Bullying and belittling is probably its most blatant and, perhaps, its worst.

Mean-spiritedness or masking negative comments with alleged humor is another favorite of theirs.

Complaining about others and doing everything they can to get you to agree or join in is a way they make a party out of patronizing others, expanding their toxicity to a wider group of people who unfortunately may happen to fall in their path.

A few favorite tools they use to make you feel small with their words include:

  • Rather than comment on the content of the message someone else is delivering, toxic people will point out and focus on insignificant errors such as a mispronounced word
  • Telling others how they should or shouldn’t feel, often in a way that shames them into thinking they are in the wrong — “don’t be so emotional” or “relax” or “get a grip”
  • Criticizing what others have to say by exaggerating their responses with backhanded praise — “I can’t believe you came up with that!” or “Wow…but it isn’t exactly rocket science”

4. Me, Myself & I Mentality

This one is easy to spot. It’s along the lines of the narcissist, the ego-tripper, the swelled head. Toxic people are all about themselves and only include you IF you serve a purpose to get them what they want. This goes beyond selfish and into the realm of self-obsession. They are not only the center of their own universe, but they expect to be the center of yours, too.


Surefire signs of this toxic trait include:

  • Not an ounce of empathy or even awareness of what others are experiencing or feeling
  • The need to put themselves on display and the requirement for others to shower them with compliments and accolades
  • An “above the law” attitude — the rules are fine for minions but in the toxic mindset but they don’t apply to them

5. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

You may never know who you’ll be dealing with on any given moment or any given day when dealing with toxic people. They can parade around as altruistic and fool a great many people — even you. It’s actually how they worm their way into your heart making you believe they are a friend when in actuality they’re mission is to chip away at your self-esteem and elevate their own presence and status.

Toxic people contradict themselves often, but tend to be masters at making it your problem, your mistake, if you point out their flip-flopping. They’ll turn on you in the blink of an eye and leave you doubting yourself and asking what you did to cause such a shift in the person you thought you knew.

Favorite Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde warning signs that come from inside of you include:

  • If you dread opening emails or taking phone calls or having in-person meetings with an individual, feeling anxiety because you don’t know what to expect — you find yourself just wanting to keep your distance from the toxic person
  • When you hesitate speaking or taking actions in front of them for fear of what they may think, say, or do in response
  • When you feel as if you’re losing your mind or suffering from bi-polar disorder because of how you can be on top of the world when around them in one minute and in the very next be in the depths of despair depending on if Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde showed up

6. Predators at Heart

Leopards never change their spots. Nor do toxic people change their ways. At their core, they are predators seeking out those who make their egos swell. They prey on people who aren’t necessarily easy to manipulate — what would be the challenge for them in that?

Truly toxic people cast a wide net and inflict their negative attitudes and behaviors on whomever they can and follow up with those on whom their toxicity sticks. If they can do damage on someone who starts out pretty strong and confident and ends up turning them into a shadow of their former selves, a toxic person considers themselves to have scored big.


A few things to watch out for what a toxic predator is stalking their next prey include:

  • They’ll be seemingly ever-present. They’ll appear whenever you are positioned to shine so that they can work to dim your light with their negativity
  • They’ll try to separate you from the herd. They won’t want you to surround yourself with other more positive voices. They want you all to themselves
  • A toxic predator will play with you, as a cat does with a mouse, before finally doing you in. They often savor your slow decline, watching you innocently fall deeper and deeper into their traps

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, toxic people traits become clear to us IF we pay attention to our own gut and our own internal alarm bells that tells us something is off. We don’t need to know what is wrong, but we do need to listen to the voice inside of us that whispers its warnings. We need to heed those red flags before they become so common that we think a toxic person’s negativity is normal. It’s not.

Toxic people are poison…but, remember, you are the one who gets to choose whether or not to take a drink.[1]

Here’re more suggestions on how to deal with toxic people:

Featured photo credit: Papaioannou Kostas via


More by this author

Paolina Milana

Paolina is an award-winning author, and a communications expert with journalistic roots.

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Last Updated on January 5, 2022

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

We all lose our temper from time to time, and expressing anger is actually a healthy thing to do in our relationships with others. Expressing our differences in opinion allows us to have healthy conflict and many times come to an agreement or understanding that works for everyone. However, there are times when anger can become overwhelming or damaging, and during these times, it’s important to learn how to deal with anger.

Expressing anger inappropriately can be harmful to relationships, both personal and professional. You may express too much anger, too often, or at times that are only going to make things worse, not better. In this article we will look at anger management techniques that will help you better control your emotions.

Let’s take a deeper look at how to deal with anger.

Expressing Anger

Anger is a natural and normal part of almost any relationship. This includes relationships with your significant other, kids, boss, friends, family, etc. Anger provides us with valuable information if we are willing to listen to it. It clues us in to areas where we disagree with others and things that need to be changed or altered.

Unhealthy Ways to Express Anger

Here are some common yet unhealthy ways to express anger that you should avoid:

Being Passive-Aggressive

This is a term many of us are familiar with. Passive-aggressive behavior happens when someone is angry but uses indirect communication to express their anger.

Some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors include the silent treatment, making comments about someone behind their back, being grumpy, moody, or pouting, or simply not doing tasks or assignments that they should.

This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of showing their anger. It’s not very productive but extremely common.



Some people get overwhelmed and express anger in a situation where it can’t really do any good.

An example would be getting angry at one person in front of a crowd of people. All that does is make people uncomfortable and shuts them down. It’s not a healthy way to express anger or disagreement with someone.

Ongoing Anger

Being angry all the time is most often a symptom of something else. It’s healthy and normal to express anger when you disagree with someone. However, if someone is angry most of the time and always seems to be expressing their anger to everyone around them, this won’t serve them well.

Over time, people will start to avoid this person and have as little contact as possible. The reason being is no one likes being around someone who is angry all the time; it’s a no-win situation.

Healthy Ways to Express Anger

What about the healthy ways[1] to adapt? When learning how to deal with anger, here are some healthy ways to get you started.

Being Honest

Express your anger or disagreement honestly. Be truthful about what it is that is making you angry. Sometimes this will entail walking away and thinking about it for a bit before you respond.

Don’t say you’re mad at something someone did or said when it’s really something else that upset you.

Being Direct

Similar to being honest, being direct is a healthy way to express anger.


Don’t talk around something that is making you angry. Don’t say that one thing is making you angry when it’s really something else, and don’t stack items on top of each other so you can unload on someone about 10 different things 6 months from now.

Be direct and upfront about what is making you angry. Ensure you are expressing your anger to the person who upset you or you are angry at, not to someone else. This is very counterproductive.

Being Timely

When something makes you angry, it’s much better to express it in a timely manner. Don’t keep it bottled up inside of you, as that’s only going to do more harm than good.

Think of the marriages that seem to go up in flames out of nowhere when the reality is someone kept quiet for years until they hit their breaking point.

Expressing anger as it occurs is a much healthier way of using anger to help us guide our relationships in the moment.

How to Deal With Anger

If you feel angry, how should you deal with it right at that moment?

1. Slow Down

From time to time, I receive an email at work that makes me so angry that steam is probably pouring out of my ears.

In my less restrained moments, I have been known to fire off a quick response, and that typically has ended about as well as you might imagine.


When I actually walk away from my computer and go do something else for a while, I am able to calm down and think more rationally. After that happens, I am able to respond in a more appropriate and productive manner. Doing things that helps you learn how to release anger can make an uncomfortable situation more manageable before it gets out of hand.

2. Focus on the “I”

Remember that you are the one that’s upset. Don’t accuse people of making you upset because, in the end, it’s your response to what someone did that really triggered your anger. You don’t want to place blame by saying something like “Why don’t you ever put away your dishes?” Say something more like “Having dirty dishes laying on the counter upsets me—can you work with me to come to a solution?”

When you are accusatory towards someone, all that does is increase the tension. This doesn’t usually do anything except make your anger rise higher.

3. Work out

When learning how to deal with anger, exercise is a great outlet. If something happens that angers you, see if you have the opportunity to burn off some of the anger.

Being able to hit the gym to get a hard workout in is great. If this isn’t an option, see if you can go for a run or a bike ride. If you are at work when you become angry and the weather permits, at least go outside for a brisk walk.

Besides working some of your anger out through exercise, this also helps to give your mind a chance to work through some ways to address what it is that upset you.

4. Seek Help When Needed

There are times when we could all use some help. Life can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s perfectly fine to seek some help from a mental health professional if it will help you get back to a healthy balance.If you find that you are angry all the time, it might be a good idea to go talk to an expert about learning to control intense emotions. They can give you some sound advice and ideas on how to get your anger to a more manageable and healthy level.

5. Practice Relaxation

We all seem to lead incredibly busy lives, and that’s a good thing if we are loving the life we are living. That being said, it is very beneficial to our physical and mental well-being to take time out for relaxation.


That can mean spending time doing things that help us calm down and relax, like being around people we enjoy, practicing deep breathing or listening to music. It could be making time for things that help bring us balance like a healthy diet and physical activity.

Many people incorporate techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm their minds and release tension when learning how to deal with anger. Whatever your choice is, ensure you take time out to relax when warning signs of anger start to bubble up.

6. Laugh

Incorporating humor and laughter on a regular basis will help keep anger in check and help you get over a bad mood and feelings of anger more quickly. This isn’t part of formal anger management techniques, but you’ll be surprised by how well it works. Remember, life is a journey that’s meant to be enjoyed fully along the way through healthy emotion. Make sure you take time to laugh and have fun.Surround yourself with people that like to laugh and enjoy life. Don’t work at a job that just causes you stress, which can lead to anger. Work at something you enjoy doing.

7. Be Grateful

It’s easy to focus on the bad in life and the things that cause us negative emotions. It’s vitally important to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in life that bring us positive emotions, things that we easily forget because we get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life.

Take time out each day to remind yourself of a few things you are grateful for in order to help you learn how to release anger and invite in more positive feelings.

Final Thoughts

Life can be overwhelming at times. We seem to have constant pressure to achieve more and to always be on the go or motivated. People we are around and situations we are in can cause stress, anger, and negative emotions. At times, it can seem to be too much, and we get angry and our emotions start to get out of control.

During these times, keep in mind that life is an incredible journey, full of wonder and things that bring you joy. When you find yourself angry more often than is healthy, take time out to remember the good things in life—the things that we seem to forget yet bring us so much positive energy and emotions.

Use some of the tips included here to help with how to deal with anger and better control your emotions.


More Resources on Anger Management

Featured photo credit: Andre Hunter via


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