17 subtle signs that someone is a bad person

Sometimes it’s easy to tell that someone is a bad person from a mile away.

They openly insult others, are cruel, and generally display a complete lack of empathy.  

Other times, however, things aren’t as straightforward.

Toxic people can be sneaky, and many excel at hiding their true colors to fit in.

On that note, here are 17 subtle signs that someone is a bad person.

If you notice a new acquaintance doing some of these things, you’re better off keeping your distance.

1) They’re mean to animals

I’m a dog person.

One of my high school friends was actively afraid of them. She was bitten by a dog when she was little, and she generally didn’t like being around them.

I get that. I also get that some people don’t like animals too much. What I will never get is how someone can be mean to them.

Kick them, belittle them, abuse them, and generally feel good when an animal is in pain.

In my book, that person is plain bad – and you can’t convince me otherwise.

2) They’re rude to service workers

Another subtle sign that someone is a bad person?

They treat service workers poorly. Waiters, cleaners, cashiers, and so on.

Let’s say you’re out to lunch with a new friend, and they’re all smiles, polite and interested.

If that smile fades when the server forgets their water and they cause a scene, they’re probably not as nice as they look on the surface.

An excellent way to assess someone’s character is to see how they treat those they consider “beneath” them.  

It speaks volumes about their inherent nature.

3) They can’t celebrate others

All people have moments of insecurity when they find it hard to be genuinely happy for someone else’s success.

But if this behavior is the norm rather than the exception, their moral compass might be out of whack.

An inability to celebrate others’ successes can suggest jealousy, selfishness, and even a lack of empathy.  

Do you want to associate with someone like that?

4) They’re passive-aggressive

Passive-aggressive behavior doesn’t necessarily indicate that a person is “bad.”

It might stem from an individual’s inability to effectively express their emotions or address conflict directly.

In some cases, though, it might signal that the person you’re dealing with has anger issues they’re trying to suppress to appear well-balanced.

They’re not 100% successful, and some of that anger shows its ugly head passively.  

Here’s what to look out for to determine if someone is passive-aggressive:

  • They use sarcasm and backhanded compliments
  • They complain about a situation without directly addressing the issue
  • They ignore or evade difficult conversations
  • They disguise criticism as advice
  • They give people the cold shoulder without explaining why

5) They’re never at fault

Ever know someone who never took responsibility for their behavior?

Whenever they make a mistake, they shift the blame to something or someone else.

If they are late meeting you, it’s because the traffic was insane.

If they mess up on a work presentation, it’s because a colleague didn’t do their share.

This shows that they believe they can do no wrong.

It’s a warning sign.

6) They don’t apologize

Following the above logic, someone who believes they can do no wrong doesn’t have reason to apologize.

So instead of saying “sorry” and making amends, bad people act like nothing is wrong in the first place.

Or they say something along the lines of, “Sorry you feel this way.”

Friendly tip: this doesn’t count as an apology.   

7) They don’t listen

Some bad people like to make everything about them.

They don’t feel the need to pay attention to anyone else, listen to others, or show genuine interest in someone else’s life.  

They might know how to fake it in a social situation. Even then, they redirect the conversation to themselves and their problems or accomplishments.  

Being around them gets exhausting, to say the least.

8) They’re always working an angle

7 signs a man is insecure about his intelligence 1 17 subtle signs that someone is a bad person

If someone seems to be working an angle 24/7, there’s a chance they’re a bad person deep down.

That friend who only remembers you exist when they want something from you.

That new acquaintance who loses interest in the conversation when they realize you don’t have much to offer them.

The relative who comes to comfort you when you’re down and asks to borrow money on their way out.  

These people may not be rotten to the core, but they’re not particularly good either.

9) They badmouth others

Good people don’t feel the need to talk smack about others.

They may gossip occasionally, but they don’t actively like to speak ill of everyone else.

Bad people, on the other hand, often love to spread rumors. They also criticize strangers or their own entourage unprompted.

When someone makes a degrading remark about another person to you, you can be sure they’re also speaking negatively about you to someone else.

10) They brag about the stuff they get away with

Bad people like to boast about their cunning exploits – and treat them like achievements.

They’re proud of how they bend or break the rules and manage to avoid the consequences.

Similarly, they find it exciting when they take advantage of someone’s kindness to get their way.

I once had a colleague who frequently talked about how he mastered leaving work early without anyone noticing.

Once, he even bragged about how he missed a deadline and nothing terrible happened to him.  

Guess what? 

Nothing terrible happened to him because the rest of us picked up the slack.

11) They ask for special treatment

Speaking of taking advantage of someone’s kindness, bad people love to ask for special treatment.

They think they’re above others and aren’t afraid to act like it.

So they cut in line, they steal your cab, they ask for extensions at work just because they’re feeling lazy.

In short, they insist on people giving them stuff and doing them favors just for existing.  


12) They put people down for fun

Bad people don’t shy away from demeaning others for their entertainment.

This kind of behavior boosts their ego and deflects from their own insecurities, so it’s a win-win as far as they’re concerned.

However, they’re not open about insulting and mocking others.

They do it under the guise of humor or casual banter.   

If you call them out, they insist they were “just joking.”

Luckily, you weren’t born yesterday, so you should stay away.  

13) They joke about being the worst

Here’s something I finally understood in my 30s: when someone tells you who they are, believe them.

On this note, if a person constantly jokes about how much of a jerk they are, there’s probably some truth hiding under the apparent humor.

Of course, sometimes, the complete opposite happens.

This brings me to my next point.

14) They insist they’re good

If a person insists that they’re good, they probably aren’t.

Good people don’t feel the need to point out how well-adjusted they are to anyone willing to listen.

Instead, they go around doing good things and being humble about it.

Being good isn’t a façade for them, so they don’t need to defend it.  

15) They litter

This might seem minor, but hear me out: do you know any good people who intentionally litter?

I sincerely doubt that.

16) No one seems to like them

No matter how much they excel at disguising themselves, bad people will show their true colors sooner or later.

When that happens, they alienate those around.

If someone seems to have no real friends to count on, it’s a subtle sign that their personality is foul.

17) They give off a bad vibe

Finally, bad people give off a bad vibe.

If you always feel down after interacting with someone, that person is likely bad.

At the very least, they’re bad for you.

Trust your gut. It can be more perceptive than your brain.   

Bottom line

Everyone has dreadful days when they’re more impatient, annoying, or self-centered than usual.

I wouldn’t advise cutting someone off after one bad interaction.

But if their behavior consistently incorporates the red flags above, they’re probably not worth your time.

The people you spend most of your time with rub off on you.

Please make sure they’re a positive influence.   

Picture of Alexandra Plesa

Alexandra Plesa

Alexandra Pleșa is a freelance writer obsessed with television, self-development, and thriller books. Former journalist, current pop culture junkie. Follow her on Twitter: @alexandraplesa

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