6 Signs Someone Isn’t Worth Your Time

Pay attention to the subtle red flags.

Eric Sangerma
Nov 19, 2020 · 7 min read
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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

During my first few weeks at college, I made friends with a guy who seemed really smart and proactive. We barely knew each other but we got along well — we exchanged notes, drank coffee between lectures, I lent him some of my CDs (yeah, those were still a thing at the time). But there was one thing about him that kept pecking at the back of my mind and I couldn’t quite make sense of it.

Whenever I asked him about the time, he would give a vague approximation. For example, if it was 3:20, he’d just say it was 3. If it was 6:35, he’d say it was 7. It was like he was too lazy to use more than one word to respond to my question.

Plus, he was always short on change. Whether it was for the vending machine or the bus, he’d always need a few bucks. He wasn’t struggling financially or anything, he was just careless like that. Although I didn’t mind it at first, the trend slowly became highly irritating, up to the point where I needed to address the matter.

That conversation didn’t end well. Long story short — we stopped being friends from that point on.

It took me some time to really understand that episode in my life. It wasn’t until much later that I understood my ex-friend. Life taught me a few valuable lessons on personality tell-tale signs, and that helped me make sense of it all.

Here are a few signs you should be careful around a friend, coworker, date, etc. Don’t trust them too easily, and don’t be surprised if the relationship crumbles.

1. The Small-Things-Don’t-Matter Mentality

My ex-friend couldn’t be bothered with the small things in life. Extra change or a quarter of an hour meant nothing to him.

I didn’t realize at the time but this was a flaw of character. How can anyone expect to keep relationships alive if they don’t pay attention to detail? This trait indicates that you’re dealing with a person who’s only interested in their own comfort. They may have lofty goals, but they think this gives them the right to be self-centered.

Selfishness warps all relationships, close or distant, old or new.

He was obviously disrespectful of my time and money (no matter how small the amounts were), and it was about time I realized I didn’t need that kind of toxicity in my life.

2. Resolving Conflict By Deepening It

I already mentioned that I brought up the issue with my ex-friend the moment it started bothering me. When I tried having a serious conversation with him, all hell broke loose.

He started throwing insults at me without even considering my words. Although I raised the issue by tiptoeing around his feelings, it made no difference.

People who fiercely react to the slightest hints of criticism might have a problem with their ego, says Psychology Today. This exaggerated sense of self-importance may also be responsible for ingratitude and callousness. My ex-friend surely had his fair share of self-centeredness, and he was too immature to have a reasonable discussion.

Some conflict is healthy in friendships and other relationships. But if someone overreacts and goes straight for insults, you’re better off without them in your life.

3. Money Matters

How people handle their finances is a personal matter and it’s very culture-dependent. Where I’m from, we seldom show the insides of our wallet to others.

But generally speaking, observing how people handle money can tell us a lot about their character. Some people are financially toxic and that is a fact.

They may not appear to be at first glance, though. Certain people are always able to slither out of paying their due. The habit is impossible to catch at first because the amounts of money you give them are so small you don’t even notice. Lending someone five or ten euros from time to time — it’s no big deal, right?

It’s no big deal as long as it’s reciprocated. But these people are happy to be hangers-on and this is because they see you as a convenient source of money (or coffee or rides to work, etc.), not as a person.

I want to be very clear about this — the behavior I’m talking about has nothing to do with people who’re struggling with money. Studies regularly show that poor people are more generous than others. In my experience, those who have to make do with a small budget are very careful to think about their daily expenses. They almost never forget to bring their wallet or run out of money for the bus.

The worst financial leeches I’ve met in life were financially comfortable, spoiled people who simply didn’t care about others.

4. No Joking Around

Everyone loves a good joke, even when it’s on them. Oh, wait. Not really.

Humor can be a great litmus test for relationships.

Some people just can’t take a joke, no matter how trivial it is. That is a sign of a big ego. Egotistical people are seldom capable of joking at their own expense because their sense of self-importance doesn’t allow them to do so.

But that’s not all. Even the type of humor someone prefers might tell you a lot about their personality.

High self-esteem was associated with higher use of affiliative, aggressive, and self-enhancing humor styles but lower use of self-defeating humor. High interpersonal competence predicted greater use of affiliative humor and low interpersonal competence predicted greater use of aggressive humor” (McCosker & Moran 2012).

In my experience, people who make cruel jokes like testing the waters. If you react negatively, they’ll take it back and insist they were just joking and you should just lighten up. But if you agree, they’ll let the cruelty run free.

On the other hand, people with a wry, self-deprecating sense of humor are generally easy to talk to. They can make dark situations a little better by joking about them.

5. Gossipping

We all enjoy sharing some juicy gossip every once in a while.

The purpose of gossip is complex. It gives us validation and new knowledge, but it also helps us build relationships, find protection… and there’s a natural element of social enjoyment as well (Hartung et al. 2018).

However, when gossip starts occupying the central place in someone’s communication, it’s a big red flag.

The dark triad of personality traits — narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy — show consistent associations with the tendency to gossip.

It’s been indicated that “psychopathy and narcissism had a positive relationship with social enjoyment and negative influence gossip, whereas Machiavellianism was positively correlated only with negative influence gossip” (Lyons & Hughes 2015).

In layman’s terms, people who have these personality types have a greater chance of engaging in gossip only for the sake of enjoyment or to harm the target.

So if you have a friend who loves to gossip, consider the specifics. How often does the person bring these stories up? What are they getting out of it? Is anyone likely to be harmed by this?

Additionally, it’s important not to trust these people with sensitive, private information. They have a gift for making you feel included — you may feel like a co-conspirator when you’re talking about someone else. This builds trust. But chronic gossipers will take everything you tell them and turn it against you sooner or later.

6. Obsession with Self-Image

When you befriend someone in real life, you’ll probably start following them online too. This may reveal that they’re different from what you were expecting. In fact, you might find out that they present a different face to everyone they meet.

Sometimes you don’t even have to see someone’s Facebook wall or their Instagram feed. You can just take a look at their profile photo.

Narcissism was found to be a predictor of profile pictures that emphasize attractiveness and personality (Kapidzic 2013). So if you run across a profile picture that looks like a glamor shot, that might be a hint that this person is prone to narcissism.

On the other hand, some people are just awkward about choosing profile pictures and they go for the best pic they have — so photos alone won’t tell you all you need to know. More important is the behavior people exhibit online.

It’s awkward to catch someone lying to their followers but it’s happened to me more than once. Some pretend to be more wealthy than they are, others exaggerate wildly about their romantic relationship(s). Some pretend their children are geniuses and make up stories about them.

Using social media enhances everyone’s natural desire to impress strangers. But some people get entangled in lies — and this leads to unhappiness and hollow relationships. It’s safer to keep your distance from people who are obsessed with seeming perfect 24/7.

Not Everything Is a Red Flag, But…

Did you know that our food choices and eating styles also reveal a lot about our personality?

A study found that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables (and low on meat and soft drinks) was characteristic of high openness. Also, they found that conscientious people were less likely to overindulge in sweet and savory foods. Another study linked neuroticism with slow eating and low enjoyment of food.

Still, you probably wouldn’t choose your relationships based on this information alone. How someone eats won’t really determine how they treat you.

It’s not always easy to decide whether someone is worth your time. You don’t want to make snap judgments and unfair generalizations. But you also don’t want to spend time with people who make you uneasy.

Don’t worry too much about detecting personality flaws in advance — at the same time, you should never ignore the small details that stand out to you.

Even though some people are good at hiding their ugly side, these things always find their way to the surface. After all, everything we do mirrors our state of mind and personality.

If someone gives you a bad feeling or irritates you for no obvious reason, honor your intuition.

You don’t need to immediately cut ties but start paying attention. Most of the time, all the small hints will add up and start making sense. Once you figure out what makes the person tick, it’ll be easier to decide whether they’re worth your attention, trust, and affection.


Déjà you, but better.

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Eric Sangerma

Written by

Dad, Husband, Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of Wholistique. Connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericsangerma/


Our goal is to increase health and wellness awareness , to promote healthy lifestyle behavior through well-researched content. We aim to educate and inform, as well as to raise debate and reflection. Check us out: http://wholistique.com

Eric Sangerma

Written by

Dad, Husband, Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of Wholistique. Connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericsangerma/


Our goal is to increase health and wellness awareness , to promote healthy lifestyle behavior through well-researched content. We aim to educate and inform, as well as to raise debate and reflection. Check us out: http://wholistique.com

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