6 signs someone is actually not a good person, according to psychology

Human behavior is a very complex picture.

Underneath an image we may present of ourselves often lies hidden depths. That can be for good and for bad.

Sometimes someone’s poor morals and questionable values don’t become apparent until they reveal themselves more.

But what are some obvious psychological signs you’re dealing with an unsavory character?

The following behaviors are no-brainers when it comes to spotting the bad apples.

1) They’re cruel to animals

Funnily enough, it can be easier to tell about the psychological makeup of someone more from how they interact with pets than people.

The way someone treats animals tells you a lot about their character, especially when it comes to inflicting harm, as humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer noted:

“Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives.”

The FBI has flagged cruelty to animals as a sign of psychopathy, and it seems with good reason.

Rather disturbingly, one study from Northeastern University and the Massachusetts SPCA concluded that animal abusers were five times more likely to commit violent crimes against humans.

Of course, there’s a big difference between someone who is a bit disinterested in pets versus someone who is cruel to them.

Your friend may not be bothered about interacting with your cat, simply because they didn’t grow up with animals in their environment.

But if someone shows unkind behaviors towards animals  — pay attention. They are showing you who they are inside.

2) They’re rude to the waitstaff

Having an impatient and impolite attitude towards those who serve you is very telling.


It shows you that as soon as someone feels like they’ve got the upper hand in a situation, they let it go straight to their head.

As science correspondent Hannah Devlin explains in The Guardian newspaper:

“Psychologists say restaurants are some of the best laboratories for observing human power dynamics at play. “Social hierarchy has a big role in whether individuals are rude to others,” said Dr Daniel Redhead, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.”

Basically, you feel like you can get away with things that you wouldn’t normally wouldn’t.

It goes without saying that if you are rude, disdainful, dismissive, or even aggressive with people, you’re not going to make many friends.

But the pecking order is set up differently in places like shops and restaurants.

After all, ‘the customer is always right’. So some people take advantage of this extra leeway.

Yet the fact that they act this way is showing you their true colors. Yes, we’re looking at you James Corden!

3) They display deeply manipulative behavior

I think sometimes when we talk about manipulation we fail to acknowledge how common it is.

Sure, it’s never a healthy way of relating to people, but it can seep into many of our close connections without us even realizing it.

For example, sulking with your boyfriend when he hurts your feelings instead of telling him how you feel. Or subtly trying to talk your friend around when he says he doesn’t feel like going to that party.

The point is, it’s not cool but it happens and it doesn’t necessarily make you a “bad person’. A lot of it springs from failings in our communication skills.

But deep manipulation is different.

This is often more of a conscious attempt to control others for their own personal gain, as Jamie Cannon MS, LPC points out in Psychology Today.

“There is a more sinister side to manipulation that can also turn relationships into power struggles and encourage abusive environments. When manipulation turns into coercion, it becomes an approach designed to subtly force others into thoughts, choices, and actions against their will.”

In these instances, it can mean that they purposefully lie, deceive, and twist things to get their own way, with little regard for how others will be impacted.

4) They seem too good to be true and present themselves as perfect

love bombing ways narcissists use it control you 6 signs someone is actually not a good person, according to psychology

Of all our signs, this can be the most sneaky and covert. That’s because they go out of their way to hide any red flags.

But beware: If someone seems too good to be true, they may well be.

Love bombing is a term that’s become widespread on the dating scene these days, but did you know that it also happens in friendships?

It’s the tactic of showering someone with attention to get them onside —but with an ulterior motive.

Positive Psychology Coach Elle Mace says:

“In friendships, love-bombing can look like excessive praise, constant communication and support, and a desire to spend all their time together. The person may also try to isolate the friend from their other relationships, making themselves the sole focus of their attention and emotional support.”

It’s important to take our time to allow trust and intimacy to grow slowly and steadily in all of our connections.

That way we can be sure we’re getting an accurate picture and not just their highlights reel.

5) They are always number one

Altruism is somewhat biologically hardwired into us.

So if somebody displays a lot of selfishness it can be a sign they’re lacking basic empathy and caring about others.

When people have narcissistic tendencies they might:

  • Have an inflated sense of self-importance
  • Need constant admiration
  • Belittle others to boost their own ego
  • Perceive others as beneath them in a variety of ways
  • Brag about their accomplishments
  • Be highly competitive
  • Be very self-involved (only want to talk about themselves and never you)

This tricky part is that, at first, their arrogance can be mistaken for self-assurance. As WebMD cautions us:

“It’s proven that people are often drawn to narcissists and find them attractive, charismatic, and exciting. Confidence can be charming.”

6) They act superior

Snobbery is such an ugly trait. It’s very easy to throw around judgment about how less fortunate people “brought it on themselves” or are “clearly just lazy”.

Often we find it hard to see our privilege. And so we fail to acknowledge all the big and small helping hands we were given in life that others may not have had. That may be everything from our education and home life to things like our country of birth.

When we approach others with superiority, it shows a lack of compassion and empathy.

The truth is that when we haven’t walked in someone else’s shoes, there’s no way of knowing the challenges they’ve faced.

To think you are fundamentally better than someone else because your life circumstances are easier or more affluent is not only unkind but also very misguided.

As Medical News Today highlights, this haughty behavior often goes hand in hand with an air of arrogance.

“A superiority complex involves exaggerated beliefs about one’s own achievements or abilities. A person may show this by being boastful, vain, or unwilling to listen to others. A superiority complex is often a defense mechanism to mask or hide a person’s true feelings of inferiority.”

Killing them with kindness can be your best strategy

That certainly doesn’t mean letting down your guard. Strong boundaries are your key defense against not-very-nice people.

In most cases, if you spot poor behavior in others, it’s best to stay well clear. We shouldn’t let people into our lives that we can’t mutually trust and respect.

But as the saying goes, hurt people hurt people.

So when you do cross paths with someone who doesn’t seem like a good person, finding the deep compassion within yourself to extend kindness can be the best thing to do.

Rather than react and fight fire with fire, try taking a more zen approach. Even small acts of kindness can heal others in unexpected ways.

Either way, it ensures that you protect your own moral integrity and remain a good person, even if they’re not!

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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