Thinking the best of people is a good trait to have, admirable even, however, there is a balance between giving people the benefit of the doubt and important behaviors and traits that provide a forewarning of people we should avoid at all costs – as friends, girlfriends/boyfriends, and employees. In this article, we’ll address five character and personality traits that foreshadow the potential for difficult days ahead if we proceed in the friendship or relationship.
With young people, this is especially important; unless a parent specifically discusses the importance of honesty, loyalty, healthy behaviors and character traits, navigating through these waters in our friends and the people we date can be difficult – and once emotions are involved – often impossible to avoid. Experience teaches us a lot, but even adults continue to make mistakes in their choice of friends or significant others.
So what do we do? Avoid dating? Keep friends to a minimum? Only trust our family?
No, we’re not suggesting that.
Our goal is to provide specific, recognizable and proven traits that if observed should be avoided at all costs to young people, teenagers, and adults. This is not a comprehensive list, yet if you see any of these specific character and personality traits, they often indicate a person may have narcissistic, Machiavellian, or even sociopathic tendencies. These are people we should avoid personal relationships with.
Let’s begin by stating with all certainty that listening to your gut and instincts is always wise. Always.
If you begin to see red flags in a friend’s behavior or words toward you or others, pay attention. Don’t ignore it. Don’t.
The corporate world is more aware than ever of the importance of character and personality traits in determining if a person will be a good, honest employee, or if they will be vengeful, manipulative, high-maintenance, dishonest, and cruel. Many companies go to great expense to determine if a person is a good fit or a bad fit based on several criteria.
So what about the rest of us? We don’t have expensive predictive or psychological tests available to us—and even if we did how weird would it be to ask someone we’re interested in, or just getting to know, to take it? Very weird. Yep, we get it.
The first thing to remember is, you’re in the driver’s seat. What’s the rush? Take your time to get to know a person, their family (Yes, their family, this is a HUGELY important!), their friends, and carefully observe how they treat others.
Don’t excuse bad behavior (lying, cheating, sneaking around, blame shifting, gossip, pouting, possessive behavior, etc.); take note of it. Beware of it.
#1. They Refuse to take Responsibility for their Actions and Choices.
Listen closely to the way a person describes prior relationships, and look for red flags. Was the breakup “all their fault” (that’s blame shifting and a sign they do not take responsibility for their own actions). When a person can’t or doesn’t take responsibility for their actions—when they always blame someone else—they will do the same thing to you.
#2. They lie and exaggerate.
It’s easy to think that it’s not a big deal when a person exaggerates—but it is. If it’s not the truth, it’s a lie. If it’s a lie, that person can’t be trusted. If that person can’t be trusted, you’re headed for difficult times. If you observe a person exaggerating or lying, and it’s a pattern, break off the relationship before it becomes difficult.
They will lie to themselves and others to accomplish their goal of getting attention and keeping it.
#3. They’re manipulative.
There are many ways to manipulate people. Most of us do it in one way or another, often unintentionally, but nonetheless we do it. They key is to recognize it, and stop. An unhealthy person or a sociopath doesn’t recognize it when they do it, rather it’s part of their ‘mo’ and before long it becomes part of your life if you choose to stay with them. It’s not possible to have a healthy relationship with a person that manipulates the truth, circumstances, events, emotions, facts, and people. How do you recognize a manipulative person?
—They are often passive/aggressive.
—They use your words against you.
—They say something but later deny it.
—They use guilt trips to try to control you.
—They diminish your problems and difficulties and make it about their own.
—They use emotional backdoors. They sidestep honest communication, give you the silent treatment, pout, and act out emotionally to control the situation.
—They want the attention and focus to be on them, and suck the energy out of the room, and you.
—They seek out sensitive and trusting people, because they’re easier to manipulate.
#4. They are Irresponsible and lack empathy.
Unhealthy people and sociopaths lack empathy for others; they can lie and hurt someone else intentionally, all the while feeling nothing. They refuse to take responsibility for this, but rather justify it with bigger and more grandiose stories to substantiate their fantasy or primary goal. They are acutely aware of their actions and have neither shame nor remorse.
#5. They Have Rapidly Shifting Moods.
Because their cool and calm appearance is often staged as a means of controlling the relationship, a person who exhibits extreme and rapid changes in temperament seems to almost flick a switch, and then comes the torrent of verbal abuse, criticism, manipulation, tears-on-demand, accusations against others, anger, and taunting.
If you are in a relationship with anyone who exhibits these traits—toward you or anyone, talk with a trusted friend, parent, or counselor. Get help to recognize these characteristics of unhealthy, and often sociopathic behavior.
Get out of the relationship, and don’t turn back.
These women and men will do everything they can to try to pull you back into their web. They will accuse you of things you didn’t do, they will try to get people within your circle to go to their side—often they will stop at nothing to pay you back for leaving them—or refusing to go back with them after they’ve manipulated you once, twice, three times or more.
If you’re healthy, and you love this person, it can be difficult to walk away—and they will do everything they can to make it as difficult as possible.
Stay strong. Surround yourself with healthy people who support you and honor your decision.
Don’t look back. Don’t give them space in your life.