11 Seemingly Innocent Habits That Can Actually Make Someone A Toxic Person

#12 is so real.

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These seemingly innocent habits are actually toxic.
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If you’re struggling to maintain strong relationships with friends and partners, it can help to look inward and check for any potentially toxic personality traits that may be giving people the wrong idea.

Certain everyday habits — like gossiping or canceling plans at the last second — are OK in small doses, but they can also push others away. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Perpetua Neo, everyone has toxic moments like these. Still, it’s key to remain aware of them so they don’t start to grow or negatively impact your life.

“Sometimes we unknowingly feed [these habits] and they become automatic behaviors,” Neo tells Bustle. “Past a certain time, they may even become so deeply ingrained they become us.” And that’s when it’s truly important to make a change.

"Giving ourselves time and space to reflect on the not-so-desirable parts of ourselves helps circumvent that, and it makes us better human beings," she says. As a bonus, Neo says breaking the cycle of toxic habits is also a way to treat yourself better since they can be so internally draining.

Below, experts share a list of habits that can give off toxic vibes and what to do about them.


Checking Your Phone While Someone Is Talking

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It’s so common to keep your phone out during all sorts of social interactions, like brunch with friends or drinks with a partner, but this tiny habit can signal that you aren’t fully invested in their company — and that can really hurt.

According to Janet Bayramyan, LCSW, a trauma-informed therapist based in Los Angeles, looking down at your phone or sending a few texts mid-convo may seem innocent enough, but it can also come off as dismissive and rude. Over time, it can even damage your relationships by making people feel ignored or unimportant.

That’s why she recommends catching yourself the next time you reach for your phone, and in these moments, choosing to give your bestie your undivided attention instead.


Ignoring Your Friend’s Posts

“While not liking your friend’s posts may seem like no biggie, it signals disinterest or a lack of support, which can impact the dynamics of your friendship,” says Bayramyan.

This is especially true if they can see that you’re active online, but for whatever reason you haven’t bothered to like their TikTok or their post on IG.

It’s so easy to hit the heart, so make it a point to do it as soon as possible. “Social media is often a space where people share highlights of their lives, and acknowledging those posts can be a simple way to show that you are engaged and supportive,” she adds.


Constantly Interrupting

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Every conversation will have moments where people interrupt each other, and that’s OK. Do take note, though, if you constantly cut off people as they speak or jump in before they’ve fully finished a sentence.

According to Carrie Torn, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker in North Carolina, constantly interrupting others can make them feel disregarded and undervalued, and that can make people think you’re toxic.

To break this bad habit, she recommends practicing active listening by making a conscious effort to let others express their thoughts before responding.


Being Jealous Of A Friend’s Success

Pay attention to how you react the next time a friend gets a promotion. Do you congratulate them fully and genuinely, or do you dismiss their accomplishment with a rude remark?

According to Torn, it can be tough to hear about someone else’s success, especially if you’re hurting in your own life or things aren’t going your way, but it’s so important to process those emotions on your own.

“Instead of comparing or being disappointed that your last single friend is now engaged, celebrate them and work on cultivating what you want for yourself,” she says.


Canceling Plans At The Last Minute

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Nothing feels better than canceling plans at the last second in favor of staying in, especially if you’ve recognized that you’re too tired or burnt out to be good company. But try your hardest not to make it a habit.

“Millennials are known for their frequent last-minute cancellations, yet this can make friends feel unimportant and undervalued,” says Torn. “If you make a commitment to a plan with friends, do your best to follow through.”

And in the moments when you have to bail, always let them know ASAP. “If there's a genuine reason for cancellation, explain it honestly and make an effort to reschedule,” she says. “If you haven't made a habit out of canceling, they'll understand.”


Refusing To Compromise

Have you noticed that you have a hard time agreeing with a friend about where to eat? Or that you always get your way when it comes to choosing a movie? If so, others may see it as a toxic trait.

“Always insisting on your own way without considering others' opinions can strain friendships,” says Torn. “[To break the habit], practice compromise and find a middle ground when making decisions.”

While it is possible to have a connection with a friend who truly doesn’t care, it’s always a good idea to double-check when making plans to see if they’re truly down to go with the flow.


Making Sarcastic Jokes

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Sarcasm has a time and a place, and a well-timed acerbic remark can be super funny, but non-stop snark can be problematic, says Dr. Marie Fang, a licensed clinical psychologist.

Not only is sarcasm draining for all involved, but it can also come off as bullying. "To make matters worse, the harsh statements are hidden within a humorous package, making it difficult to call out the potentially toxic nature of the comment,” she says.


Getting Caught Up In Gossip

It’s tough to deny the appeal of a juicy gossip sesh. We’ve all shared stories over drinks or waxed poetic about an ex, but according to counselor Erin Parisi, LMHC, CAP, it’s important to recognize how quickly gossip can turn toxic.

“Gossip is almost always negative,” she tells Bustle, and that negatively can quickly spread. Not only does it breed distrust among friend groups, who may wonder when they’ll be your next target, but it can come back to bite you.


Pointing Out The Negative In Everything

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We all know someone who gives off genuinely positive vibes, but we also know people who radiate negativity wherever they go, and it’s worth it to make sure it isn’t coming from you.

As relationship therapist Rhonda Milrad, LCSW says, negative energy can be off-putting to others, kind of like a wet blanket or a dark rain cloud, and it isn’t fun to experience it internally, either.

While there’s no need to be a ray of sunshine 24/7, it is possible to break the negative streak by saying the opposite of what immediately springs to mind.

Feeling jealous? Offer praise. Hate someone’s outfit? Compliment their hair. Mad that it’s raining? Mention how grateful you are that the flowers get a drink. Soon, it’ll become second nature.


Being Passive Aggressive

It’s tempting to be passive-aggressive when you’re frustrated or upset, but experts say it isn’t the best way to express emotion.

"While we think that directly confronting the problem at hand may sound aggressive and make us look like bad people, as opposed to playing [the role of] nice people-pleaser, passive aggression often morphs into manipulation," says Neo. "It becomes frustrating for all involved, especially when someone else is trying to name the issue at hand and the passive-aggressive person feels insulted or offended."

The next time you’re mad, speak it out loud in a calm, cool way and give your friend or partner a chance to react. Hopefully, you’ll be able to resolve the issue together.


Judging Others

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According to therapist Dr. Sal Raichbach, PsyD, LCSW, everyone is judgmental to one degree or another, especially since judgment is a natural way to determine if a friend or partner is right for you.

That said, it’s easy to fall into the rut of judging everyone all the time, and for no good reason. Whether you’re silently throwing shade at someone, or saying something rude out loud, it’s an emotionally draining habit — and one that pushes people away.


Trying To Rescue Everyone

Take note if you’re the friend or partner who constantly rushes to rescue everyone in your life. According to life coach Tiffany Toombs, this often looks like putting everyone else’s needs before your own.

While you might think it’s the caring thing to do, it’s actually pretty toxic. For one, it’s draining to always be “on” of others in your life. It also sends the message that you don’t trust others to handle their own issues. And, according to Toombs, it also prevents others from learning and growing.

To be a good friend or partner you can offer support, help, and ideas, but you don’t need to be someone’s mom or therapist.


Listening To Negative Thoughts

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We all have a tiny voice inside our heads that narrates our day and tells us what to think. This is what's known as "self-talk” and it can be positive and healthy, or totally negative and toxic.

When it’s toxic, it can ruin your self-esteem and confidence, and that can have a ripple effect into the rest of your life, says psychotherapist Kelly Bos, MSW, RSW. This angry little voice can color how you see yourself, as well as everyone in your life, and it might explain why you can’t seem to click with anyone.

"To break this pattern ask yourself, 'Would I speak this way to a friend?', as the answer is no," says Bos. To change your harsh internal dialogue, practice speaking to yourself the way you would to a friend, and you’ll see all sorts of positivity come your way.


Turning Everything Into A Competition

Similarly, take note if you mentally compare everyone else’s life to your own. According to therapist Rachel Gersten, LMHC, LPCC, LPC, this habit leads to internal anger and resentment, and that can show up in your life in a multitude of toxic ways.

"It can prevent someone from being happy for their loved one, which is obviously damaging to the relationship over time,” she tells Bustle. And it can also make you feel like you’re in competition with your friends.

Comparison has roots in low self-esteem, which is why Gersten says it may be helpful to chat with a therapist to help you break the pattern.


Pointing Out Someone's Flaws

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Even if a comment is meant as a joke or as "constructive criticism” it’s almost never OK to call attention to a flaw.

The next time you find yourself gearing up to say something harsh, pause and ask yourself why this person’s appearance, words, or actions are so troublesome to you, says therapist Eliza G. Boquin, MA, LMFT. Ask yourself what parts of you are being triggered, and why.

This relates to the passive-aggressive habit noted before. You might realize that you feel the need to be rude because this person isn’t meeting one of your needs. Instead of being rude, express yourself more clearly.


Taking Over A Conversation

Conversations are rife with opportunities to be toxic, which is why it’s beneficial to reflect and assess your go-to style, and that includes paying attention to how much you talk.

"If a friend comes to you to chat about their stuff, and suddenly you are back to talking about yourself and the experiences that you have had that are similar or are worse, you are missing the opportunity to offer compassion and to be a supportive friend,” says therapist Saba Harouni Lurie, LMFT, ATR-BC.

It can leave that BFF feeling unheard, and that can in turn prevent you from feeling deeply connected. To break this habit, Lurie recommends working on listening skills by letting your friends talk, especially if they’re venting or upset.


Telling Someone To "Cheer Up" When They're Sad

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This type of comment is almost always said with good intentions, but it’s also one that comes off as dismissive. If a friend says they’re having a tough day, or a partner comes to you and says they’ve been feeling anxious, there’s a much better way to respond.

According to psychotherapist Brennan C. Mallonee, LMHC, you can try saying, “I’m so sorry you feel that way” before quickly following up with the offer of help or support.

When someone is feeling bad, what they really want is to know they aren’t alone. Instead of offering advice, or telling them to get over it, all you have to do is let them know that you’ve got their back.


Snapping At Someone

It’s only human to get frustrated when you’re under pressure, but according to Bayramyan, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to snap.

“Anger, as a standalone emotion, is not inherently bad, as we all experience it at some point, and that's normal and healthy,” she says. “The expression of anger is what matters, and is what can make this toxic or not.”

Snapping often implies that you’re defensive or that you’re blaming someone for how you feel, whereas true anger can come from a place of honesty and vulnerability, says Bayramyan.

If you feel like you snap regularly, she recommends doing things that calm your nervous system, like long walks or journaling.


Being All Talk And No Action

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Think about how many times you’ve promised to meet someone for coffee, but then never followed through. Or how many times you said you’d text a friend back, but then you completely forgot.

“While words of affirmation are valuable, lacking follow-through can breed mistrust and foster false hope within a relationship,” says Bayramyan. “Following through on the promises you make is essential as it not only reinforces your credibility, but also builds trust.”

It’s so tempting to make big promises in the moment, but allow yourself to be honest about your availability, too. In the long run, that’s so much kinder than leaving someone on read.

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