Are You a Toxic Person?04 August 2021 / By Abby Lunardini Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on August 04, 2021
Take our free test to find out what toxic traits may just get you cancelled by friends, partners and coworkers.
Everyone has tried to escape an intensely annoying or difficult person--a manipulative coworker, a friend you unfollow because they have a dramatic meltdown each week or the guy who corners you at a BBQ to man-splain you on how politics “really” works, even though you were a congressional staffer and have a Master’s Degree in political communications. OK, that last one is pretty specific, but you get the gist.
These behaviors don’t just get under your skin, they make you want to put as much distance as you can between the toxic person and yourself. We often can’t stop talking about just how annoying these behaviors are -- and in our increasingly social media-driven world, that same fascination has spawned a million memes.
From the raging entitlement of a Karen debasing a hapless employee, to Hilaria Baldwin’s con artistry in impersonating a Spanish person, to the dude lecturing an actual astronaut on Twitter about thermodynamics, we are fascinated and driven by a need to cancel--or cast out--these truly toxic human behaviors.
But what are the toxic traits that irritate friends, coworkers or followers so much that they at best never want to talk to you again and at worst want you to be cancelled? And most importantly: Are you THAT person?
Using principles of the Big Five model of personality and commonly loathed behaviors trolled on social media, Truity developed the Toxic Person test to help uncover what personality traits you may have that others find particularly grating.
To find out what kind of Toxic person you may be, take the free test. And read on for more about the test and our breakdown of the most universally despised traits of toxic people.
Note: The Toxic Person quiz is designed to increase self-awareness of potential difficult traits. It’s not meant to be used as a diagnostic tool and the results should be taken only to the extent that you find them helpful.
The Science of Being Toxic
The scientific jury is still out on what makes some people so annoying, but there is evidence that how you make others feel--your “affective presence,” may be a core part of your personality. And that personality signature can be positive, or can cause others to flee from your very presence (IRL or digitally). To compound that, research suggests that many toxic traits are behaviors focused on provoking a reaction--something we all now experience daily (and painfully) on our social media feeds.
I sat down with Molly Owens, Truity’s CEO and Founder, to learn more about the Toxic Person test. Owens, a former therapist and organizational consultant with a Masters in Psychology, founded Truity in 2012 to help make research-backed personality assessments more accessible to individuals and small businesses.
How did you develop the Toxic Person test?
“We wanted to build a better understanding of what makes certain behaviors so annoying. So, we looked at the Big Five model of personality, which describes five major dimensions that make us who we are. After analyzing over 200 quirks, irritations and eccentricities, we found that most human annoyances fell within three of the Big Five personality dimensions — Neuroticism, or how you regulate your negative emotions; Conscientiousness, or how you get things done in the world; and Agreeableness, or how you interact and cooperate with others. When these personality traits are taken to the extreme, they can make you susceptible to toxic behavior, so this test is meant to help you understand how that could manifest for you."
"That said, the test is meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek," Owens continued. "We discussed whether it should be possible for someone to get a 'Not Toxic' result and decided that wouldn't be any fun. So if you take the quiz, be ready to hear some not-so-complimentary feedback!"
How do these toxic traits manifest in our lives?
“Neuroticism becomes toxic when it starts coloring your interactions with others or causes you to demand more attention in situations that aren’t really about you,” explained Owens. “Low Agreeableness has a lot of toxic manifestations since this trait is really about how we get along with others. We see several different ways that low Agreeableness can turn toxic, including entitlement, arrogance and dishonesty. And Conscientiousness can be annoying if it’s either too low—when someone is apathetic and doesn’t contribute—or too high—when someone is overly invested in their plans and becomes rigid and inflexible.
“We all possess some of these traits—we’re all a little bit toxic sometimes! It is important to note that all personality traits are on a spectrum, and toxic behavior results from taking a particular trait to its extreme. So, for example, while most of us are guilty of being occasionally demanding, the really viral “Karen” memes shows what happens when you make that superiority and aggression into a full-on lifestyle choice. Typically, we see “Karen” behavior arise in situations that most people would consider a minor annoyance—but for an entitled Karen, any hint that they’re not being catered to sets off a firestorm of indignance,” said Owens.
"If your result hits home for you, you're probably already doing pretty well. The people who are truly the most toxic are the ones who aren't aware of it!"
How can we control these toxic tendencies?
“Analyzing your traits in these three key areas of Neuroticism, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness can help you understand what toxic behaviors you might be inflicting on the world. We do hope it’s a useful and perhaps even a cautionary tool for identifying the behaviors that those around you may find cancel-worthy,” said Owens. “But remember, this test is mostly designed to be fun for those of us who don’t mind laughing at ourselves a bit. As a confirmed Mansplainer, I’d be happy to tell you all the reasons that you shouldn’t take your results TOO seriously!”
What else are you hoping to learn from the test?
“One of the more interesting aspects of the test is the opportunity to investigate some of the gender, income level and other demographics that relate to these toxic behaviors. For example, we’re quite interested to see the gender breakdown of those who score as Karens and Mansplainers. Despite these being very gendered archetypes, we suspect there are plenty of male Karens and female Mansplainers out there! With about two million visitors a month taking our tests, we hope to learn much more here and we’ll update the data on our blog, so stay tuned.”
Toxic Types Guide
Drama Llama -- Negativity (Neuroticism)
This person thinks of themselves as authentic and deep, but the truth is they’re often just a huge drain on those around them. If attention isn’t on them, they make a big scene to make sure they’re back in the spotlight. They demand their every emotion take center stage, and anyone close to them is expected to be on call 24/7 to tend to an emotional crisis.
Big Five Profile: The Drama Llama archetype relates most closely to the Big Five trait of Neuroticism, or the experience of negative emotions. While some high in neuroticism look for ways to manage anxiety, worry, and doubt, Drama Llamas dive right in—turning negative emotions into an art form.
Observed annoying traits: Dramatic; demanding attention and support from others beyond normal boundaries; reacting with outsize emotions -- often on their social feeds; needy, reactive, manipulative.
The Karen - Entitlement (Agreeableness)
This person’s life began when they got a “preferred customer” card in the mail and took it way, way too seriously. They truly, deeply believe they deserve to be ushered to the front of the line, greeted with boundless enthusiasm, and catered to according to their every whim. When life doesn’t deliver to those exacting standards, they escalate — after all, they’ve earned it.
Big Five Profile: The Karen archetype is most related to the trait of Agreeableness, or how well you get along with other people. People high in Agreeableness value cooperation, humility, and putting their interests aside for the benefit of the group. Karens don’t. Karens believe themselves to be more deserving than others and demand special treatment rather than going along with the crowd.
Observed annoying traits: Entitled; believing oneself to be deserving of special attention and superior treatment; reactive; aggressive and angry; needy.
The Slacker - Laziness (Conscientiousness)
This person may be shocked to hear that they’re toxic, since they just think of themselves as super chill. But that laid-back attitude means they’re hardly ever motivated to do their part, and usually let everyone else pick up the slack. Don’t count on them to contribute to a project, help make a decision or even take care of their own basic needs.
Big Five Profile: The Slacker archetype is the manifestation of very low Conscientiousness, the trait that describes how we manage ourselves and our goals. Where those higher in Conscientiousness may have ambitions and work hard to achieve them, the Slacker works hard at only one thing—avoiding responsibility. Slackers rarely set goals or think long term, preferring to bounce from one experience to another.
Observed annoying traits: Lazy; unwilling to exert effort or energy to care for self or contribute to the group; aimless; unreliable, passive and indecisive.
The Con Artist - Manipulation (Agreeableness)
This person sees life as a game to be played, and other people as pawns in their own strategy for power and control. Dishonest, manipulative and sneaky, they always have an agenda in mind. Trust and caring are, to them, tools to deploy to their advantage — and anyone foolish enough to put confidence in them is asking to be taken for a ride.
Big Five Profile: Like the Karen, Con Artists are low in Agreeableness, but rather than lacking humility, they lack another key component of this personality dimension: honesty. Rather than being transparent and fair in their dealings with others, they work every situation to their advantage. Notorious grifters like Bernie Madoff and Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes fit this type, but not every Con Artist is a criminal mastermind—this could just be the coworker who always finds a way to weasel their way to the top.
Observed annoying behaviors: Manipulative; attempting to influence and deceive others to achieve favorable outcomes for oneself; deceitful; self-interested.
Debbie Downer -- Negativity (Neuroticism)
This person’s glass is always half empty, and probably full of polluted water anyway. If you’re excited about a plan, they’re there to tell you how it will fail. If you’re enjoying life, they’re always ready to burst your bubble with some dreary news. They think they’re being helpful by pointing out the downsides, but few others see it that way.
Big Five Profile: The Debbie Downer manifests high Neuroticism with a focus on pessimism and a defeatist attitude. While Debbies may not be as outwardly emotional as Drama Llamas, their high Neuroticism takes the form of a black cloud hanging over everything they do.
Observed annoying traits: Relentlessly negative -- seeing the worst aspects of every situation; predicting poor outcomes; whiny; maudlin.
The Mansplainer -- Arrogance (Agreeableness)
This person is truly a gift to anyone lucky enough to meet them. They live to illuminate those around them, often without evidence that they know what they are actually talking about. They truly believe they are smarter than you and you should be grateful for their insights. It’s simply not possible that you wouldn’t want to spend 45 minutes listening to them pontificate about how Costco became so successful or appreciate their insights on government spending. Just. Not. Possible.
Big Five Profile: The Mansplainer brings us yet another manifestation of low Agreeableness, this time with an extra helping of superiority. While more Agreeable people believe themselves to be no better than anyone else, the Mansplainer sees themselves firmly at the head of the pack when it comes to intelligence, wit and knowledge. While they may believe themselves to be quite helpful, their “help” takes the form of boorish attempts to override others.
Observed annoying traits: Arrogant; over-confident in knowledge and competence with few credentials; assumes others are inferior and uneducated; judgmental; often see “dropping knowledge” on Twitter on topics they aren't remotely qualified on.
The Control Freak -- Rigidity (Conscientiousness)
This person is confident. They’ve figured out how to keep their life in order, and is eager, so eager, to show you the way too. Always at the ready with a lesson on the right way to do things, it doesn’t occur to them that others might have different ideas. Often found seething with resentment when others make mistakes and when their helpful hints aren’t met with gratitude, this person is the ultimate micromanager.
Big Five Profile: While the Slacker shows us what happens when Conscientiousness is absent, the Control Freak exemplifies Conscientiousness run amok. Control Freaks have gone all-in when it comes to setting goals and persisting with their plans, to the point that they are completely unable to process alternative ideas or changes in priorities. Control Freaks live in fear that other people will drop the ball on their carefully orchestrated plans, and work overtime to try to ensure that everything turns out the way they want it to.
Observed annoying traits: Rigid; believing in a single right way to do things, and insisting others comply with their own standards and processes; judgmental, controlling.
kylie (not verified) says...
i'm a good person
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