Whether you want to call them narcissists, control freaks, manipulators, bullies, or poisonous, people who demonstrate toxic behavior can be a severe detriment to your life.

In their book on toxic workplaces, Kusy & Holloway (2009) define toxic personality as “anyone who demonstrates a pattern of counterproductive…behaviors that debilitate individuals…over the long term” (p. 4).

Needless to say, toxic behavior can be harmful to individuals and relationships. Here are some signs of toxic people:

1. They are negative

Toxic people are incredibly negative. They can be judgmental and sarcastic, which drains the people around them. Besides being negative, they are also genuinely mean; they treat others poorly, they speak negatively about others, and they lack basic compassion. In essence, they lack general empathy to treat others as their equals.

2. They take up a lot of your time


Toxic people tend to be self-absorbed and selfish, so they often do not consider you and your life. If you feel like someone is relying on you far too much without giving you equal support in return, then this might be a sign of a toxic relationship.

3. They talk more than they listen


Another sign of a toxic person is that they talk more than they listen. If you have a friend who spends most of the time talking while you listen, then you might have to consider whether your friendship is an equal one – and whether your friend has a toxic personality.

4. They lie


We all tell white lies, but toxic people build relationships based on lies. While they may appear friendly and approachable at first, once you get close to a toxic person, their true colors start to show, and you may begin to realize that most of what comes out of their mouth is untrue.

5. They criticize and try to control you


Besides lying, toxic people are also openly critical and controlling. They will often try to control your life and the decisions you make, and if they disapprove of a decision you make, they will overtly criticize it.

6. They’re always involved in drama


Everyone loves a bit of drama, but for people who display toxic behavior, drama seems to follow them everywhere they go. This, however, is only magnified by the way that they approach the drama in their lives. Toxic people are fueled by drama because they thrive on negativity. Their inability to control their temper only exacerbates this problem.

7. They act like the “victim”


Alongside the negativity and drama in their lives, toxic people never take responsibility for their actions and often assume the role of the “victim.” In many cases, they blame others for their problems.

8. They are always stressed


Because toxic people tend to be overly dramatic, they also exaggerate their stress levels. There are some things where stress is acceptable and normal, but combined with their negativity and selfishness, toxic people can exhaust the people around them because of their constant stressing.

9. They need to be right


An unhealthy quality in toxic people – besides the ones mentioned already – is the need to be right. This illustrates a arrogance and stubbornness as toxic people try to prove themselves to others.

10. They are evasive


Although toxic people can come off as aggressive and arrogant, they are also very evasive, which means that they often do not answer questions that they don’t want to answer. They thrive on attention and drama, but as soon as you ask them something that they don’t want to answer or that they are not interested in, they will take back control of the conversation.

If you find that you are in a relationship with a toxic person, you need to be firm and strong. This will let them know that you are in control and that they cannot take advantage of you. You also need to set boundaries in order to maintain a stable and equal relationship. Lastly, do not share personal or important information with them, as they may use this against you later or share this information with other people.

Also, please watch our videos on 10 traits of a psychopath!


Kusy, M., & Holloway, E. (2009). Toxic Workplace!: Managing Toxic Personalities and Their Systems of Power. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Martin, H. (2014, December 24). The 10 giveaway signs of a toxic person – and how to handle them. Talented Ladies Club. Retrieved from http://www.talentedladiesclub.com/articles/10-giveaway-signs-toxic-person-handle/

Tartakovsky, M. (2014). What’s a Toxic Person & How Do You Deal With One? Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/02/28/whats-a-toxic-person-how-do-you-deal-with-one/

18 Signs of Toxic People. (n.d.). Fact Hacker. Retrieved from https://facthacker.com/18-signs-of-toxic-people/

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