19 Worst Ways the Traits of a Negative Toxic Person Hurt You

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Wondering what are the traits of a negative toxic person?

I think you’ll agree with me when I tell you that negative people drain us of our time, energy, and positive attitude.

These people never seem to get better and mostly just bring everyone around them down.

But you and I don’t have to just accept that this is how it is!

We can set boundaries in a clear and loving way, even if this person is a close family member or friend.

You can get the sanity back in your life. In this post, we’re looking specifically at the worst ways the traits of a negative toxic person hurt us.

More importantly, though, we’re looking at solutions on how to deal with these people and set clear boundaries to minimize the negative effect they have on us.

We all seen the traits of a negative toxic person

You know who I’m talking about in your life.

Everyone has toxic people connected to them.  That friend, co-worker, loved one or family member who constantly takes more than they give.

They remind you of Eeyore (as in Winnie the Pooh).

Toxic people drain your energy.  You dread being around them (at least some of the time). But you keep them in your life hoping they will change or somehow get their act together. Or maybe they are family and you feel like you have no choice.

These toxic people may have some (or all) of the following attributes:

  1. They spread malicious gossip
  2. They are always in a crisis in their life
  3. Their glass is always half empty (as opposed to half full)
  4. They talk more than they listen
  5. You’re always there for them but they are rarely there for you
  6. They seem to be clueless as to how others perceive them
  7. Everything wrong in their life is always someone else’s fault


Toxic person traits sap our time, our energy.

No matter how much time we spend with them, nothing ever changes for the better.  The advice you give never gets heeded.  No solutions to their problems ever stick. In the end, the traits of a negative toxic person are seemingly stuck in a never-ending cycle.

It’s like the movie Groundhog Day.  Toxic people wake up tomorrow and start the cycle all over again.

Want to know the key differences between Successful People and Unsuccessful People? I review those incredibly important traits in a much-shared post. Whether you’re wanting help yourself or someone else, I highly recommend you take A moment and check that out.

What is a toxic person?

brunette woman wearing a gas mask

Well after what I said above, toxic personalities signs should be a whole lot more obvious now.

Who in your life is always complaining?  Who is always calling or texting about some new crisis that’s happening? Or maybe they are constantly posting on Facebook about some new disaster in their life.

Toxic people don’t really want your advice.  But they do want your time. They want you in the trenches of misery with them.

I’m not talking about the occasional grousing after a bad day. 

No; I mean who do you know for whom nothing ever goes right?  They go from job to job or relationship to relationship.  In each isolated case they make a very good argument why that boss was bad or why that partner wasn’t right.

But in the end, it becomes like the boy who cried wolf. It’s clear the only common denominator is the traits of a negative toxic person.

What if some of the toxic people in your life are family?

No doubt some of the toxic people in your life ARE family members.

I know many of you reading this know who I’m talking about in your family.  That one Uncle you dread seeing at the holidays.  Perhaps it’s even a close family member or even a parent.

At the end of the day, the traits of a negative toxic person are toxic to your happiness, state of mind and overall success in life; family or not.

Thus, it’s more important than ever if the toxic person is a family member to set boundaries.

Boundaries aren’t mean and they aren’t uncaring.  In fact, if anything, the toxic people in your life who drain your energy or possibly finances are mean and uncaring.

Repetition Compulsion is continuing to engage in an unhealthy or unsuccessful behavior over and over again expecting different results. If that sounds familiar, definitely take a moment and check out one of my most popular personal development posts on that very subject!

Maya Angelou quote the traits of a negative toxic person Middle Class Dad

Setting boundaries just mean:

  1. To be clear about what you are and are not willing to do
  2. Being firm, fair and consistent with regards to #1
  3. Not allowing yourself to be used, manipulated or enabling the toxic person’s behavior

There’s an excellent book on setting boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud called Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life.  If you struggle with setting boundaries. Or if you have issues not enabling the traits of a negative toxic person, I highly recommend you get that book!

How do you deal with a negative person?

I’m a firm believer that anyone CAN change.

Anyone can make a choice at ANY time to behave differently, change destructive habits, get in shape, etc.  Failure CAN Inspire Us to Greatness!

However, just because anyone can change their toxic person traits doesn’t mean they WILL change.

One of my friends who was high up in HR at my former employer was fond of saying, “there’s no better predictor of future behavior than past behavior”. Unfortunately, he was correct.

Thus, while the toxic person CAN improve the traits of a negative toxic person at any time, the likelihood is that they won’t. Thus, it’s important that we not get fixated on the endlessly repeating cycle of trying to fix the toxic people in our lives.


What are the characteristics of a narcissist?

I know I’m late to the party, but my wife and I just finished watching the entire run of the Showtime show Nurse Jackie on Netflix.

Without giving too much away if you haven’t seen it, Jackie (excellently portrayed by Edie Falco of Carmela Soprano fame) epitomizes the traits of a negative toxic person. She is a true narcissist and has all the worst toxic personalities signs.

Some of the key traits of someone with narcissistic personality disorder are:

  • This person believes they deserve special treatment
  • They are attention hogs
  • This person brags and exaggerates their achievements
  • They are very sensitive
  • This person rarely maintains healthy relationships

Jackie always takes more than she gives.  She routinely disappoints all who care about her. She’ll lie to anyone about anything; so much so that she probably has a hard time distinguishing lies from the truth.

Just when you think she’s about to do the right thing, sure enough, she lets you down.  But she does it so skillfully that many keep believing (falsely) that she’ll change and become the person they so desperately want her to be.

You don’t want people like that in your life.

What does it mean to be in a toxic relationship?

As I alluded to in my section above about setting boundaries, it’s vitally important for your own mental health and well being to make sure the traits of a negative toxic person aren’t destroying your life.

In many cases, the best course of action will be to cut the toxic people out of your life completely.

I know some will see that as harsh. But in reality, you can’t help these people get rid of their toxic person traits and they will take you down with them if you let them.

If you’re in a relationship with a toxic person or it’s a close family member, while you CAN still choose to cut them out of your life, many won’t want to do that.  In these cases we just need to remember:

  • You can’t fix them, so don’t try (but you can support them in genuine efforts to fix themselves)
  • Be supportive if they need support, but lending a gambler money for the 15th time is the equivalent of giving a drunk a drink; you are enabling them and you are part of the problem
  • Make sure their needs don’t come at the expense of your own
  • Set crystal clear boundaries on what you will and won’t do and be unwavering on those
  • Minimize their role in your life and your time

Therapy is also a great tool for coping and setting boundaries, especially if this person is your parent, really close friend or close family member. No therapists near you or no time for it? Check out the Reasons to Choose an Online Psychiatrist.

Boundaries book banner ad the traits of a negative toxic person Middle Class Dad

So what are my . . .

19 Worst Ways the Traits of a Negative Toxic Person Hurt You?

blurring woman shaking head side to side yelling Ahhhh! the traits of a negative toxic person Middle Class Dad

1. TOXIC PEOPLE MAKE US BELIEVE THEY WILL CHANGE

We foolishly believe that if they just got the right job, met the right partner, found the right industry or borrowed money from us that one last time that somehow everything will magically come together for them.

2. THEIR LACK OF REAL CHANGE IS FRUSTRATING!

While anyone CAN change at ANY time, most won’t.  Thus, the toxic people in your life are almost assuredly NOT going to magically turn around their toxic person traits when they get what they want.  You can bet that’s incredibly sad and frustrating.

The closer you are to this person, the more heartbreaking it is.

3. WE FEEL IT’S OUR ROLE AS FRIEND, BOSS OR LOVED ONE TO “FIX THEM”

Often we see it as our role to fix these toxic people.  Maybe it’s a family member.  Perhaps you’re the boss and it’s an employee.  It could also be a close friend.

We see it as our duty to “fix them”.  We can often see so clearly that if they just did “A, B and C”, that their lives would genuinely turn around.  (hint: they won’t do those things and you can’t fix someone)

4. WE FEEL GUILTY WHEN WE AREN’T ABLE TO FIX THEM

We do!  Even the best of us, the most level-headed, feel guilty when we aren’t actually able to fix the toxic people in our lives.  In truth, all we can do is motivate someone to improve the traits of a negative toxic person.

But they MUST be willing to acknowledge their own toxic person traits, and most simply won’t.

5. WE KEEP TRYING TO FIX THEM OR MOTIVATE THEM

You’d think we would learn our lesson, but inevitably we keep trying to fix the toxic people in our lives.  We tell ourselves that if we just do something different this time that it might work.

6. THAT CYCLE OF TRYING TO HELP GOES ON FOR YEARS

The cycle of trying to fix these people can literally go on for years.  We try, they fail, we blame ourselves.  Repeat.

7. TOXIC PEOPLE DRAIN OUR ENERGY

To say that toxic people drain our energy is a vast understatement.  The term energy vampire didn’t come about for no reason.

It’s incredibly draining to watch someone we care about go down an endless spiral of despair, especially when we keep giving of ourselves hoping to make a difference.

8. THAT ENERGY COULD GO TO PEOPLE MORE DESERVING

In truth, whether you’re talking about other friends or family and especially more reliable co-workers or employees, your time and energy can ALWAYS be focused on someone more deserving.

9. BUT WE FEEL GUILTY FOR THINKING THAT

Again with the guilt!  But we do.  Recognizing that another employee DOES show up on time, DOES show up more often and DOESN’T always have a sob story you’re forced to listen is hard.

We feel bad for acknowledging that others are more deserving of our time and energy.

10. YOU’RE HURTING THE HEALTHIER PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THIS SITUATION

When we fail to give as much of ourselves to the people in our lives who are more deserving, we are actually hurting those people.

As a general manager and leader for many years with my previous employer, I can tell you that we often spend our time and energy on those least deserving of it, thus hurting the people most deserving.

11. THOSE PEOPLE WILL EVENTUALLY LEAVE OR MINIMIZE THEIR INTERACTIONS

When we fail to recognize how much we’re hurting the good people in our lives or place of employment, especially if the toxic people are getting away with stuff everyone else couldn’t, the good people in our lives will eventually move on.

At the very least, especially in an employee situation, we are killing their motivation and ensuring they do the bare minimum.

12. THE NEVER-ENDING CYCLE OF DRAMA

The traits of a negative toxic person almost assuredly include being overly dramatic. They cause big scenes and tension among friends, family & co-workers.

13. LACK OF OWNERSHIP

These toxic people rarely admit fault and almost always look to shift blame onto others, rarely taking responsibility for their actions and statements.

14. THEY DOMINATE THE CONVERSATION

The traits of a negative toxic person also typically include dominating conversations.

We all have that one friend or co-worker who is always talking about their problems and woes. Rarely does a toxic person ever invite others to share their own frustrations in return.

It becomes a never-ending cycle of me-me-me.

15. PLAYING THE VICTIM

These toxic people also have a great tendency to play the victim.

Along with a lack of ownership, I addressed above, the toxic personalities signs also include seeing themselves as a victim of other’s actions (or inactions) or life in general.

They never actually take responsibility for the direction of their life. Because they don’t ever recognize the real problem (their own attitude), they are destined to repeatedly fail, reinforcing their view of themselves as a victim.

16. THEY ARE A TIME-SUCKING VULTURE

The traits of a negative toxic person unfortunately typically include taking up a lot of our time.

Between the one-sided conversations about how nothing ever goes right in their life to the endless drama, this person eats away at our precious time.

17. EVER-INCREASING NEGATIVITY

These people become ever-increasingly negative as life goes on.

As jobs, spouses, and friends come and go, the toxic person becomes more bitter. As they see themselves as a victim their attitude worsens and worsens. Eventually, they become a completely miserable person that’s hard to be around.

18. PARANOIA & DISHONESTY

The traits of a negative toxic person also can involve being paranoid.

They may even develop the feeling that people are out to get them. No doubt the friends and loved ones of a toxic person are talking about them. But instead of recognizing the care these people have, the toxic person begins to see them in a negative light.

Lying and dishonest behavior can definitely be part of the toxic person traits.

19. THEY LACK EMPATHY & COMPASSION

Ultimately these people are selfish.

They are unable to put themselves in anyone else’s shoes. They lack compassion and empathy for others. People begin to exit their lives due to feeling like the toxic person doesn’t really care about them or their needs.



Want a simple 30-day program to build a better you?

I’m honored at this point to recommend a book by a very good friend of mine and one of my amazing martial arts instructors, Gene Smithson.

Don’t worry; it’s not a book about martial arts. Instead, it’s a book about motivation. About changing your life. About learning how to move past the traits of a negative toxic person in your life or past.


Gene Smithson book Simple Not Easy the traits of a negative toxic person Middle Class Dad

As Gene puts it “Changing your life is not a complicated endeavor. This is not to say it is easy. We are changing from day to day. The question really is, do you want to influence the direction of that change or just allow life to happen TO you.

This training guide consists of 30 days of physical, mental and spiritual tasks. Working through this program is a simple way to grow the discipline and confidence needed to take charge of your life. Day by day, task by task you will practice and develop the mindset, focus, and determination needed to choose and shape your life the way you envision it.”

If you know you want to change the direction of your life; to truly be the person you were meant to be and who you always knew you could be, I urge you check this book out. Getting to know Gene and training with Gene has transformed my life, so there’s not a doubt in my mind this book can change yours.


Did I cover everything you wanted to know about toxic person traits and toxic personalities signs?

In short, the traits of a negative toxic person in our lives drain our time, energy, possibly money and have a negative impact on us and everyone else involved.

You can’t fix them and while they CAN change, they have to be the one driving the change.

Something has to happen to make them desperate enough to want to change. They need to hit rock bottom.

While you can help them once they get to that place, you don’t want to be dragged down to rock bottom with them in the process! Thus, it’s vitally important to set clear boundaries.  Know what you are and are not willing to do.  Have clear expectations.

If the toxic people are employees, you absolutely need to hold them accountable for their actions EXACTLY the same as you do everyone else.  If you don’t, all the good people will leave or lose respect for you.

They can CHOOSE to destroy their own life, but if they take you down with them, that’s on you, not on them.

Who are the toxic people in your life and what have you done to help them or minimize their effect on you?


Jeff Campbell bio the traits of a negative toxic person Middle Class Dad

Photo credits (that aren’t mine or which require attribution):
Aaahhh!!! – Augusta GA- Augusta GA by Evil Erin is licensed under CC BY 2.0
I also have to add that my opinions are my own and purely based on my own observations and years of experience and should not be construed or received as medical or mental health advice. If you need medical advice or mental health advice, please consult a professional.


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Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market.

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