22 Signs of a Negative Person (with Expert Insights)

We often hear that we’re the average of the five people we spend the most time with. That’s a big deal, especially if some of those people zap your energy like a vampire sucks blood.

Spotting these signs will not only help you make informed decisions about who to spend your time with but also protect your own mental space from being overpowered by negativity. After all, you want to surround yourself with those who brighten your days, not darken them.

They Complain Too Much, Too Often

We all know someone who can’t seem to find the sunny side of any street. With them, it’s like there’s always something wrong, even on the best days. The sky’s too blue, their coffee’s too hot, or the phone’s too slow—there’s always a gripe on the tip of their tongue.

So, why do they do it? Maybe it’s a way to connect, or perhaps it’s a cry for attention or help. Sure, everyone vents now and then—we’re all human. But if you’re dealing with a friend or colleague whose middle name could be ‘Debbie Downer,’ you might need to carry an emotional umbrella or, better yet, show them how to let in some sunshine.

They Criticize Everything

There are people who seem to never run out of criticism. Every little thing has something wrong with it, according to them. 

They’re the type who are quick to tell you that your bright new idea probably won’t work, that your freshly baked cookies could use a pinch more salt, or that your favorite shirt looks like a ’90s fashion disaster (even if ’90s fashion is back in style!).

These folks have a sharp eye for finding faults, but they’re not the best at saying anything helpful. It seems less like they want to make things better and more like they just enjoy poking holes in everything.

Compliments Are Usually Followed by “But”

You know, like when someone says, “Great job on the project, but you could have finished sooner,” and suddenly, the good part doesn’t feel as good anymore. It’s like the person giving the compliment can’t help themselves—they have just got to toss in a pinch of critique right after making you smile.

This mixed message can be confusing. It starts off making you feel good, then whiplashes you back down with a critique. So instead of riding the wave of a job well done, you’re left scratching your head, wondering if you really did okay or not.

Having someone do this once in a while might not be a big deal, but when it’s their usual way of talking, it can be a real downer. They wrap up a little negativity with their praise, and it can make you wary the next time they start a sentence with “Great job…”

They Have a Victim Mentality

A person with a victim mentality often feels that the world is out to get them. They hold a belief that life doesn’t give them a fair chance. This way, they see themselves as the constant target of bad luck or the unfair actions of others.

In their view, it’s never about the choices they’ve made. It’s as though life has a personal vendetta against them. They’re quick to tell you about the many times things have gone wrong, and they can make it sound like they’ve drawn the shortest straw every single time.

You’ll notice you’re dealing with a negative person when no conversation is complete without them highlighting how they’ve been wronged. Their stories are often sprinkled with woes and troubles that are never their fault.

Related: How to Deal With Someone Who Always Plays the Victim (30+ Helpful Ways)

They Try to Bring You Down With Them

When someone is feeling low, they sometimes end up pulling others down with them. It’s like they don’t want to be alone in their negativity. When you’re around them, they might:

  • Discourage the excitement you have about a new idea.
  • Downplay your achievements as if they’re not a big deal.
  • Suggest that your positive outlook is unrealistic.

Their own unhappiness fuels a need to dampen the spirits of those around them. It’s almost like they think, “If I’m not happy, why should anyone else be?”

"If you are speaking about a dream you have, some action you want to take in your life, a negative person will often point out all the reasons it won't work. Or they will put it down and tell you it's impossible. 

Be careful in discussing your ambitions around this type of person because they will quash any hope you have. 

When you realize how negative a person is, you have to decide if you're willing to be in that person's energy.

Often, when you reach this point, the wisest thing to do is stop spending time with them. It may be difficult to cut them out of your life essentially, but it's crucial to preserve your positivity and time for more upbeat endeavors."

Bethany Bilbrey | Life Coach and Founder, Mennd

They Blame Others for Their Problems

Negative people tend to blame anyone and anything but themselves for the difficulties they encounter. When something goes wrong, they have a list ready of who and what is at fault.

Here’s what to watch out for:

  • They don’t own up to their mistakes.
  • Someone else is always at fault for the mishaps in their life.
  • They often talk about how others have let them down.

This blame game can often manifest as a reluctance to take any responsibility for their actions. Whether it’s a missed deadline or a personal conflict, there’s always an external reason why it wasn’t their fault. Rarely will they acknowledge that they might have played a part in the problem.

They Are Incredibly Judgmental

They have an opinion on everything and everyone—and it’s rarely kind. They’ll comment on a stranger’s outfit or how a friend is raising their kids. Their judgments are often harsh and expressed with confidence as if they’ve got it all figured out.

This sign of a negative person is hard to miss. They’re quick to point out flaws in others but are not showing the same eagle eye for their own. It’s as though their critical lens is always focused outward.

The thing is, nobody likes to be judged. So, when you’re around someone who constantly judges, it can make you feel on edge. You might start to wonder what they’re saying about you when you’re not around.

They Don’t Take Criticism Well

When someone can dish out criticism but can’t take it, this is a sign of a negative person. These individuals are quick to point out what’s wrong with everything else, but the moment they’re on the receiving end, they get defensive or upset.

If you try to give them some friendly advice, you might notice that they’re not really listening. Instead of considering what you’re saying, they’re probably busy thinking about how they can defend themselves.

This reaction makes honest conversations difficult. You may start to feel like you can’t talk to them about anything serious or meaningful without causing a fuss.

"These people get hurt more easily, which affects their whole state of mind. They may seem to accept criticism, but inside, they are "boiling." 

Over time, frustration over feedback and constructive criticism turns to anger—which is directed at whoever offended them in the first place. As they are always looking for something to be upset about, even constructive criticism feels like an attack to them."

Dr. Michelle Xia | Certified Dating and Relationship Coach | Founder, Growtheart | Author, “Mini-Book of the Happy Heart

They Display Pessimism in Most Situations

Some people always seem to expect the worst. This kind of ongoing pessimism can make any situation seem gloomier. These folks often focus on potential problems rather than possible solutions, which can be a real downer for everyone involved.

This negative outlook affects not just their mood but also the people around them. It’s like their dark clouds can sometimes block the sunlight for everyone else too. Trying to plan fun activities or new projects can feel pointless if someone keeps pointing out all the ways it could go wrong.

Living with this kind of negativity might seem more realistic to them, but it tends to close doors to opportunities. Being prepared for the worst isn’t the same as expecting only the worst. This attitude may protect them from disappointment, but it also keeps them from experiencing excitement and joy.

Related: How to Stop Being Pessimistic

They Lack Empathy

It’s tough when someone doesn’t get—or doesn’t want to get—how you feel. It can leave you feeling alone in your worries or sad moments.

What does this look like?

  • Conversations are often redirected back to them, even when you need support.
  • They seem uncomfortable or uninterested when emotions run high.
  • Genuine understanding or comfort seems to be missing when things get tough.

When you notice this lacking empathy in someone, it’s one of those things that sets off alarm bells about just how negative a person can be.

They Exhibit Jealousy Toward Others’ Achievements

Some people can’t seem to be happy for others when good things happen. Instead, they get jealous. When someone else gets a pat on the back or reaches a goal, they sulk or find something negative to say about it. Their jealousy doesn’t just show; it’s often loud and clear:

  • They might make a snarky comment that takes the shine off someone else’s moment.
  • They often suggest that the achievement wasn’t entirely deserved.
  • They could try to one-up the success with a story of their own.

It’s hard to share your wins with them because you might feel your happy news will just end up making them bitter. Recognizing their jealousy helps you see why they might not be the first person you’d want to share good news with.

They Never Move Outside Their Comfort Zone

We all enjoy staying snug within our comfort zone occasionally, but for a negative person, it’s more like a permanent address. Anything that challenges their routine seems to set off alarm bells.

They talk about the same old things and visit the same places—there’s no fresh story to tell. Without trying anything new, their world stays small, and so does their perspective.

This reluctance to step out of the familiar door becomes obvious when opportunities come up. A chance to learn something new or to meet new people is met with “No thanks!” or “Maybe next time,” but next time never seems to come.

They’re Not Excited About the Future

Some people you’ll meet just don’t have that sparkle in their eyes when they talk about what lies ahead. Instead of looking forward to new possibilities, they seem indifferent or even anxious. They might see the future as a series of obstacles rather than opportunities.

You’ll notice it when you’re making plans or talking about future events. They’re the ones who hold back, rarely sharing in the excitement or contributing optimistic ideas.

This lack of excitement points towards a negative mindset. It reflects a way of seeing the future not as a blank canvas full of potential but rather as an uncertain and scary place. This reluctance to look forward with hope can certainly dampen the spirits of those around them.

They Are Overly Sensitive

Being overly sensitive can signify someone who takes things more personally than intended. This sensitivity often leads to quick emotional responses to comments or actions that others might see as harmless.

These individuals may:

  • React with hurt or anger over minor criticisms or jokes.
  • Feel attacked even when no harm is meant, interpreting neutral comments as negative.
  • Require frequent reassurance about their relationships or performance because they read negative emotions into others’ actions easily.

This heightened sensitivity can create an environment where friends, family, and colleagues feel they need to tread carefully, which can stifle open communication and natural interaction.

They Backbite and Gossip About Others

Gossiping and backbiting can be particularly destructive behaviors that are often rooted in negativity. People who engage in these activities typically focus on the faults or missteps of others rather than looking for positive aspects.

  • Rehashing someone else’s mistakes or personal issues for entertainment.
  • Spreading stories that might not be true or are none of their business.
  • Enjoying the misfortunes or slip-ups of others a little too much.

People who backbite and gossip often thrive on the reaction they get from sharing the latest scoop. They might not consider the damage their words can do or how it affects the person they’re talking about.

It’s a way of bringing attention to themselves, but it’s not the kind of attention anyone should be after.

"Backbiting refers to "speaking in a negative, spiteful, derogatory, or defamatory way about a person who is not present."

Even when the words are true, the intent and effect are destructive, as they eliminate positive feelings and cause disunity. This negative outcome happens whether or not the person spoken of finds out what was said. 

Gossip involves "spreading personal or sensational information that may or may not have some basis in truth but is often inaccurate or incomplete." The outcome is often harmful.

When you know something interesting about another person, it can be very tempting to share it with others to draw attention to yourself and feel important. However, talking negatively about others' behavior or character, even in a casual way, is backbiting."

Susanne M. Alexander | Relationship and Marriage Coach & Character Specialist, CharacterYAQ | Author, “Couple Vitality

They Lack Enthusiasm

They’re the ones who don’t get thrilled about new things or opportunities. Their reactions can be so understated that it might seem like they don’t care at all. It’s challenging to spot at first because it looks a lot like just having a calm demeanor.

But over time, you might notice that:

  • They rarely show interest or excitement, even for things that most people enjoy.
  • When everyone else is buzzing with energy, they seem disconnected or uninterested.
  • Their go-to responses are often “It’s okay” or “It’s fine,” without much further thought.

This lack of enthusiasm tends to bring down the overall energy of any group they’re part of. It’s as if they’re reluctant to let themselves feel joy or get excited about the future. Whether it’s due to past disappointments or just a general negative attitude, their absence of zest can be palpable.

They Lack Appreciation for Life

When someone doesn’t appreciate the life around them, it often shows in their attitude. They might overlook the good parts, never stopping to enjoy what they have. Simple pleasures like a sunny day, a good meal, or a kind gesture don’t seem to lift their spirits. It’s as if their ability to see beauty in the every day is switched off.

This negative trait can make being in their presence a bit of a downer. They tend not to light up or express joy, even in situations that call for it. It’s a sign that they might be viewing life through a grey lens, missing out on the colors all around them.

They Are Energy Vampires

The term “energy vampires” refers to individuals who seem to drain the energy from those around them. It’s as if they draw out your energy with their negativity.

Here are a few signs of someone who could be considered an energy vampire:

  • Being around them leaves you feeling tired or stressed.
  • They seem to feed off drama and negativity, dragging others into it.
  • Their presence can create a heavy atmosphere that brings you down.

Energy vampires often need a lot of attention and emotional support but rarely give the same in return. Interacting with them often involves a one-sided exchange where you give a lot more than you get.

"...someone who chronically brings conversations back to them and how terrible their life is... negative people tend to make a habit of this practice.

Many people are empathetic to other people's challenges. Most will want to listen and help where they can. The emotional energy vampire is one that, regardless of the help given, may not take it to improve their situation

Emotional energy vampires can drain someone's empathy and create compassion fatigue as everything they talk about is a negative life problem they are experiencing."

Jason Drake, LCSW-S, BCN | Lead Clinician and Owner, Katy Counseling for Men

They Rarely Express Gratitude

Expressing gratitude is about acknowledging the good stuff—saying thanks for a favor, appreciating a friend’s support, or just being grateful for the good parts of life. Negative people, however, tend to have a hard time with this.

Gratitude doesn’t come naturally to them, or they might not see the point in expressing it. Their focus is often on what’s missing or what went wrong rather than what’s right.

This absence of gratitude can make their world and the world of those around them seem less warm and connected. Noticing their lack of gratitude helps highlight their tendency to dwell on the negatives.

They Refuse to Take Up Other’s Perspectives

Some people find it really hard to see things from anyone else’s viewpoint. They often dismiss or ignore ideas and opinions that differ from their own. This kind of rigidity can make conversations with them less productive and even strained, as they are not willing to consider alternatives or adjust their stance.

In personal and professional situations, this can lead to conflicts or missed opportunities for compromise. If one consistently overlooks different perspectives, discussions can turn into arguments quickly, and teamwork may suffer as a result.

Being stuck with one point of view can also limit a person’s growth. They might miss out on learning from others’ experiences or changing their mind when new information comes along. This can make them less adaptable and innovative over time.

They Cannot Limit Their Exposure to Bad News

It’s normal to want to know what’s happening in the world, but some people can’t seem to switch off from the bad news. They’re glued to it, constantly checking for updates, even when it makes them feel down. They’re the ones sharing the not-so-great stuff they’ve heard, adding to the doom and gloom.

It looks like this:

  • They’re always up to date with the latest troubles and tragedies.
  • Conversations with them can quickly turn to what’s wrong in the world.
  • They don’t seem able to focus on the good news, even when there’s plenty of it around.

This habit can really affect someone’s outlook, turning it more negative by the minute. It’s easy to get caught up in the cycle, but it’s clear that constantly dwelling on the negative is not the healthiest choice.

Overthinking Is Their Best Friend

For some, every decision turns into a big deal. It’s a loop of worrying about all the things that could go wrong or that maybe went wrong, even if they seemed okay at the time. It’s tough because it can freeze you in place when you need to move forward.

Even simple things can get blown up in their minds. Choosing what to wear or what to eat can turn into a whole thing. And after they make up their minds, the second-guessing starts and doesn’t stop.

This overthinking can be contagious. Spend enough time around it, and you might start overanalyzing everything, too. It’s one of those signs that tells you someone probably has a negative slant on life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a negative person change their ways?

Yes, with self-awareness and effort, anyone can develop a more positive outlook. This might involve therapy, self-help strategies, or simply practicing gratitude and mindfulness to foster positivity.

Why do some people seem to be more negative than others?

There are many reasons why someone might have a negative attitude. It could be due to past experiences, how they were raised, their self-esteem, or even stress and health issues. It’s often complex and personal to each individual.

What should I do if I have a negative person in my life?

It’s important to set boundaries and protect your mental and emotional well-being. Limiting your exposure to their negativity when possible can be helpful, and when you do interact with them, try to stay grounded in your own positive perspective.

Final Thoughts

Remember, everyone can have a bad day or go through a rough patch. It’s the consistent patterns that truly define negativity. If you find yourself often dealing with someone who fits these descriptions, consider how this relationship affects you.

We all have the power to choose our reactions and who we share our time with. So, as we wrap up, think about the energy you want to surround yourself with and the energy you bring into the lives of others.

Staying positive and spreading that positivity is a choice we can all make daily.

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Clariza is a passionate writer and editor who firmly believes that words have great power. She has a degree in BS Psychology, which gives her an in-depth understanding of the complexities of human behavior. As a woman of science and art, she fused her love for both fields in crafting insightful articles on lifestyle, mental health, and social justice to inspire others and advocate for change.

In her leisure time, you can find her sitting in the corner of her favorite coffee shop downtown, deeply immersed in her bubble of thoughts. Being an art enthusiast that she is, she finds bliss in exploring the rich world of fiction writing and diverse art forms.