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

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We often believe we’re great judges of character. But sometimes, it’s tough to discern the good guys from the bad ones.

According to psychology, there are certain signs that can help you determine who’s genuinely good and who’s not.

Rather than relying on first impressions or gut instincts, let’s delve into the science of personality traits. After all, actions speak louder than words, and some behaviors just can’t be ignored.

In this article, we’ll explore nine clear signs that someone might not be as good as they seem. These are indicators backed by psychological research, designed to help you see through the facade.

Let’s get started. 

1) They lack empathy

One of the most telling signs that someone might not be as good-hearted as they seem is a lack of empathy.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It’s the trait that allows us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to feel their joy and their pain. It’s a fundamental aspect of human connection.

But some individuals lack this crucial quality. They may seem indifferent to others’ suffering or even derive pleasure from it. This kind of behavior is often associated with personality disorders, such as narcissism or sociopathy.

Psychology tells us that an absence of empathy can indicate a deeper problem. It’s a red flag that shouldn’t be ignored.

A person who doesn’t care about others’ feelings is unlikely to care about yours when it really matters. So keep an eye out for this trait when evaluating someone’s character.

2) They break their promises

A big red flag that someone might not be a good person is their inability to keep their promises. Consistency and reliability are key characteristics of a trustworthy individual.

I remember once, I had a friend – let’s call him Mark. Mark was charismatic and fun to be around, but he had a habit of making big promises and then never following through on them.

For instance, he once promised to help me move into my new apartment. I was relying on him because I didn’t have anyone else to help. But when the day came, he never showed up. He didn’t even bother to call and apologize.

This was a pattern with Mark. He would make commitments and then break them without a second thought.

According to psychology, this behavior is often indicative of self-centeredness and a lack of respect for others’ time and feelings. It’s a clear sign that someone may not be as good-hearted as they seem.

Mark’s lack of reliability was certainly an eye-opening experience for me. It taught me the importance of looking beyond surface charm to see how people truly behave.

3) They are overly critical

There’s a thin line between constructive criticism and simply being mean-spirited. Good-hearted people know how to express their concerns or disagreements in a respectful manner.

However, individuals who display a continuous pattern of overly critical behavior may not be as good as they seem. They might disguise their negativity as honesty, but constant harsh criticism can often be a sign of underlying resentment or superiority complex.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that individuals who regularly engage in destructive criticism tend to have higher levels of neuroticism and lower levels of agreeableness – two traits commonly linked to negative personality characteristics.

When someone is always finding fault and rarely offering praise, take note. Their behavior might be telling you more about their character than you realize.

4) They frequently play the victim

We all face hardships and challenges in life, but some people have a tendency to cast themselves as the victim in every situation. They constantly blame others for their misfortunes and refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

Such behavior might seem harmless at first, even eliciting sympathy. But over time, it can become a toxic pattern. By always playing the victim, these individuals dodge accountability and manipulate others into feeling guilty or responsible for their problems.

Psychology tells us that this ‘victim mentality’ is often a sign of manipulative behavior, immaturity, and a lack of empathy. It’s a key indicator that someone might not be as good-hearted as they initially appear.

If you encounter someone who seems perpetually stuck in the role of the victim, be cautious. It may signal deeper issues with their character.

5) They disrespect your boundaries

Respecting personal boundaries is a fundamental aspect of any healthy relationship. It shows that someone values your feelings, your personal space, and your individuality.

However, not everyone understands or respects these limits. Some people will constantly push your boundaries, whether it’s by invading your personal space, disregarding your feelings, or ignoring your wishes.

Such behavior is not just disrespectful; it’s also a major red flag. According to psychology, individuals who persistently overstep boundaries often exhibit traits of narcissism and control issues. They have a fundamental lack of understanding or disregard for others’ rights and feelings.

If someone in your life consistently disrespects your boundaries, be wary. It’s a clear sign that they might not be as good a person as they portray themselves to be.

6) They belittle your accomplishments

There’s a certain joy in sharing our victories with those close to us. It’s a way of celebrating our efforts and basking in the shared happiness. But what happens when someone persistently downplays or outright dismisses your achievements?

This behavior can be incredibly hurtful. It diminishes your feelings of accomplishment and can even make you question your worth. Yet, some people feel the need to belittle others’ successes, either out of jealousy or a desire to assert dominance.

Psychology tells us that this behavior is often rooted in insecurity and low self-esteem. By undermining your accomplishments, these individuals attempt to boost their own self-worth.

A good person will celebrate your successes with you, not cast a shadow over them. If someone consistently belittles your achievements, it may indicate that their character is not as benevolent as it seems.

7) They are unkind to those who can’t offer them anything

I still remember a date I had years ago. We went to a restaurant, and everything seemed to be going well until our waiter made a mistake with our order. The man I was with berated the waiter in a manner that left me stunned. The waiter was clearly upset, but my date didn’t seem to care.

This incident opened my eyes to an important truth: how someone treats those who can’t offer them anything in return says a lot about their character.

People who are only kind and respectful to those from whom they want something are not genuinely good people. They view kindness as a tool for personal gain rather than an inherent value.

Watch how people treat waiters, janitors, or anyone else who is in a service position. It can reveal much more about their character than their words ever could.

8) They are consistently dishonest

Honesty is a foundation stone of any relationship, be it personal or professional. We trust people who are honest and transparent with us.

But when someone consistently lies or twists the truth, it’s a serious warning sign. Whether it’s small white lies or significant deceptions, dishonesty erodes trust and can cause serious harm to relationships.

Psychology tells us that chronic liars often exhibit traits of manipulativeness, selfishness, and a lack of moral standards. Such individuals may not only deceive others but also themselves, to maintain a certain self-image or avoid facing the consequences of their actions.

If you find that someone in your life is habitually dishonest, take note. It’s a clear indication that they might not be as good a person as they seem.

9) They don’t show remorse

We all make mistakes. It’s a part of being human. But what separates a good person from a potentially harmful one is the ability to recognize their mistakes and feel genuine remorse.

When someone does something wrong and doesn’t feel any guilt or remorse, it’s a significant red flag. It shows a lack of empathy for those they’ve hurt and a refusal to take responsibility for their actions.

Psychology links this behavior to various personality disorders, including narcissism and sociopathy. Such individuals often harm others without feeling any guilt, which makes them potentially dangerous.

Genuine remorse shows that someone cares about the impact of their actions on others. If someone lacks this basic human trait, it’s a clear sign that they might not be as good a person as they appear to be.

Final thoughts: It’s all about empathy

The complexity of human behavior can be perplexing, but psychology provides us with valuable insights.

One fundamental truth emerges: the importance of empathy in determining a person’s goodness. This ability to understand and share the feelings of others is a cornerstone of compassion and kindness.

According to renowned psychologist Daniel Goleman, “Empathy represents the foundation skill for all the social competencies important for work.” In essence, it’s a vital trait that distinguishes genuinely good people from those who merely appear to be.

Being aware of these signs helps us navigate our relationships more wisely. It allows us to surround ourselves with truly good-hearted individuals, fostering healthier connections.

As we journey through life, let’s remember that observing actions often speak louder than words. And perhaps most importantly, let’s strive to embody the empathy and kindness we wish to see in others. After all, the world could always use more good people.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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