We all know someone who’s difficult to deal with. Maybe it’s a cunning colleague at work, an overly dramatic friend who demands too much of your energy, or that killjoy who always runs to tell you—you guessed it—the bad news. All of these behaviors describe what some call a toxic person.
While no one would like to think of themselves as being difficult, the truth is we all have some less-than-perfect personality traits. Wondering if you’re a difficult person? This article is for you. Here are seven signs that you may be a bit more toxic than you think.
7 shades of difficult: signs you may be a difficult person
1. You are overly controlling and rigid at work (Control Freak)
If you believe the only way to execute a project is your way, and freak out whenever someone suggests an alternative (think Monica from Friends), chances are you may be a difficult person. Let’s be clear: there’s nothing wrong with having a plan and following it. Many Judging types show a preference for working in structured environments, and appreciate when others comply with their own ideas.
Still, there’s a difference between organizing and micromanaging. If you find yourself being judgmental towards other people, and you can’t stop yourself from wanting to control every detail, it may be time to take a backseat and reflect. Remember, others can have different opinions from your own, but that doesn’t make them any less valid.
2. You like to debate—a lot (Mansplainer)
As an INFJ who shies away from conflict, I admire the confidence and eloquence that some personalities exude when debating. But what happens when one of the parties is feeling a little too sure of themselves and of what they’re talking about?
Showing a need to outsmart others, and talking them out of their own opinions, can swiftly cast you as a difficult person.
In your head, you might think you’re doing everyone a favor by sharing your insights, but your unsolicited advice can be ill received. Keep in mind that no one likes to feel scrutinized over their decisions, which means your attempts to be solicitous may come across as arrogance.
3. You see every minor problem as a disaster (Drama Llama)
Anyone who has ever had to stay on the phone listening to a weekly emotional crisis knows what it’s like to have a dramatic person in your life. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for showing emotional support—especially when a person you care about is going through a hard time. But there’s also a thing called boundaries, and overly dramatic folks rarely respect them.
When we’re dealing with a challenging situation, most of us need both validation and problem-solving to move on. The issue with being dramatic is that you don’t even get to the problem-solving part. Every minor problem suddenly turns into a catastrophe, and you just need to vent on and on about it.
Instead of constantly demanding attention, try to get better at managing your worries. It can start with gaining perspective and understanding we all have bad days. Having a friend you can count on for support is great, but it's not their responsibility to cater to your needs beyond their limits.
4. You expect others to do the hard work for you (Slacker)
As a recovering perfectionist, I was that person at school that didn’t like group projects. It usually meant I’d end up doing someone else’s work which, let’s face it, it’s hardly ever fun. Obsessed as I was about having good grades, I often wondered: what would it be like to not care at all?
Well, since then I’ve met some slackers and came to learn that there’s a difference between being a chill person and just plain lazy. If you always expect others to do the hard work for you, they probably see you as a difficult person. Not everyone needs to be super ambitious, but it’s important to have some motivation - even if it’s enough to take care of yourself only.
5. You believe the ends justify manipulative means (Con Artist)
If lying is second nature to you and/or you genuinely believe there’s nothing wrong with being manipulative to reach your goals, you can’t be surprised to know others might see you as—yes—toxic.
Truth is, having a strong sense of ambition and following through with your convictions can be both healthy and productive. But it becomes less so when you feel no remorse in stepping on others to rise to the top.
Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt you to take other people’s needs into consideration before thinking about yourself. You might even learn that gaining the confidence of others is much nobler than playing a wicked game of self-interest.
6. You brush off your incessant pessimism as ‘being realistic’ (Debbie Downer)
It’s official…you always have bad news to share. You may think you’re not a pessimist (you’re just keeping it real) so how does that make you a difficult person? Well, being relentlessly negative may be harmful for your relationships and put you in the toxic person list. After all, no one likes someone who’s always raining on their parade.
As well intended and legitimate as your concerns may be, others might not find them particularly helpful. My advice? Try looking on the bright side of things for a change. Remember there’s a time and place for everything. When you start examining whether your opinion is needed, you may find that sharing your take on what can possibly go wrong often does more harm than good.
7. You tend to assume you’re entitled to special treatment (Karen)
As mere mortals, we all seek validation. Oftentimes, it’s in the form of affirmation that our beliefs and emotions are valid. And while external validation can be an empowering feeling, it becomes problematic when you believe yourself to be so extraordinary that you assume you’re entitled to special treatment. Sound familiar?
Next time you feel the impulse to talk back when you don’t receive special treatment, remember it isn’t always about you. The person you’re mad at probably did their best and acted in good faith. There’s a thin line separating validation from being needy and self-entitled. Surely, you wouldn’t want to choose the latter and be known as rude?
The bottom line
Everyone can be a little difficult at times. The good news? Self-awareness is the first step to change those potentially toxic behaviors that can harm your relationships.
If you want to dig deeper into toxic personality traits, take our free Toxic Person Test and find out what others really think of you...let us know what you think in the comments!