Have you ever met someone that just made you feel so… off? By all appearances, they seem normal, but there’s just something sinister about them that you can’t put your finger on.
You might be dealing with an evil person.
Evil people can be particularly hard to detect because they are able to hide their true selves. On the outside, they can appear charming, considerate, or even “good.” But on the inside, they’re rotten to the core.
In this article, we’ll discuss everything about evil people—from the way they’re wired, the signs that give them away, and how to deal with them effectively.
Let’s get started.
How do you consider someone, “evil?”
Let’s face it, we can’t always be good. We humans have a tendency to do “bad” things to advance our personal agendas.
Morality is still a much-debated subject. The concept of good and evil is complicated, even to this day. But I think that’s the problem. This is where we make the mistake of falling victim to evil people.
When we try to understand their motives, we unwittingly simplify what is a complex (and often unexplainable) part of human nature.
Psychology professor Steve Taylor puts it perfectly when he says:
“It’s a dangerous oversimplification to believe that some people are innately ‘good’ while others are innately ‘evil’ or ‘bad.’”
We all have bits of evil and good within us. It’s just a matter of how much of it we let define us.
According to a groundbreaking 2018 study, humans have what is called a General Dark Factor of Personality (D-factor).
Scientists define it as the:
“…basic tendency to maximize one’s own utility at the expense of others, accompanied by beliefs that serve as justifications for one’s malevolent behaviors.”
The 9 D-factors (dark traits) include egoism, Machiavellianism (manipulativeness), moral disengagement, narcissism, psychological entitlement, psychopathy, sadism, self-interest, spitefulness.
Someone who is evil scores highly in the D-factor because they achieve their goals at all costs. Sometimes, these goals include specifically hurting others.
The bottom line? It all boils down to intention. The intention to hurt others in the cycle of a lifetime.
According to psychologist Philip Zimbardo, who led the famous 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment:
“Evil is the exercise of power. And that’s the key: it’s about power. To intentionally harm people psychologically, to hurt people physically, to destroy people mortally, or ideas, and to commit crimes against humanity.”
A person is evil when they intentionally hurt others with a complete disregard for the results.
Some of us may have evil thoughts or may do evil things, but we don’t make it a pattern that fuels every decision we make. That’s what makes someone evil—they let it take over everything.
14 signs of evil people
1. They are pathological liars
We all lie. We lie when we’re afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings. Sometimes we do it to protect ourselves. In a way, we use lies as social lubricants to navigate the intricacies of relationships.
But what sets a truly evil person apart is that they lie just for the heck of it.
Evil people can’t tell an answer straight. You know they’re lying because their story is always changing. One thing is constant though: they lie because it serves them.
According to clinical psychologist David Ley:
“Often, people tell lies because they are trying to control a situation and exert influence toward getting the decisions or reactions they want. The truth can be “inconvenient” because it might not conform to their narrative.”
To evil people, lying is simply a sport. From hiding their true identity to twisting the truth for their convenience, it’s all just a game they love to play.
2. They’re masters of manipulation
Relationship therapist Darlene Lancer defines manipulation as “a way to covertly influence someone with indirect, deceptive, or abusive tactics.”
Evil people take this up a notch because they are willing to cross any line to get what they want. They will use your fears, appeal to your guilt, or play mind games without remorse.
What makes it worse is the uncanny subtlety of it. You won’t notice they’re manipulating you until it’s too late.
“Manipulation may seem benign or even friendly or flattering as if the person has your highest concern in mind, but in reality, it’s to achieve an ulterior motive.”
3. They take no responsibility for their actions
Evil people have a lot of narcissistic qualities. One of them is the blind refusal to take responsibility for their wrongdoings.
Marriage and family therapist Karyl McBride explains:
“Narcissists are not in touch with their own feelings. They project those feelings on to others and are not capable of empathy. They cannot put themselves into your shoes and feel or understand how something might affect you. They can only see how it affects them.”
You know someone is evil when they never apologize for their wrongdoings. They will never admit that they are less-than-perfect.
4. They take pleasure in other people’s misfortunes
We all love bits of juicy gossip here and there. But people who are capable of empathy do not find happiness in seeing other people genuinely suffer.
Evil people do. Famous German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer calls this Schadenfreude, the emotion of pleasure in someone else’s misfortune.
As he explains:
“To feel envy is human, but to enjoy other people’s misfortune is diabolical.”
For evil people, other people’s misfortunes are a source of entertainment. When something bad happens to people in their life or even to strangers, you can just see the joy in their eyes.
5. They don’t do anything for other people unless it benefits them
Evil people take the word “self-serving” to a whole new level. They don’t do anything for the sake of others. That is, unless it somehow benefits them, too.
You will know someone is evil when they always try to fulfill their needs first. Never mind that everybody else gets hurt. As long as they get what they need or want, they don’t give a damn if someone else is suffering because of it.
But be careful. Evil people can seem “helpful” sometimes, too. They may appear to give you favors or help without you asking. But eventually, they will use that to get something from you as some sort of manipulation tactic.
6. They can’t face reality
Evil people can’t face reality because they can’t control reality.
Even if a situation is not going their way, they will continue to believe that everything is perfectly alright. When you try to convince them otherwise, they will make you look like the bad guy.
Their complete narcissism makes them believe that everybody and everything has to change for them. They can never accept the fact that things won’t always get their way.
7. They give off a bad vibe
Never doubt your gut instincts. It’s your brain’s way of digesting subtle non-verbal cues that you oftentimes miss.
According to one study, there’s a reason why we feel “bad vibes” from someone. Researchers suggest that we give off “emotional residue.” When we’re feeling a certain way, we leave emotional energy around that others can pick up, which affects how others see and interact with us.
When you meet evil people, you’ll know. Sure, you won’t necessarily be able to point a finger on it, but you’ll feel there’s just something off about them.
8. They’re cruel to anyone they consider as “beneath” them
How do they treat their servers? What are they like when they’re in a position of superiority? Do they abuse their power?
This is the real test that can prove if someone is really evil—by how they treat people they don’t consider useful or equal to them.
That’s because evil people don’t see others as human beings with emotions. They see people as pawns, with their value defined by how useful they could be to them.
French philosopher Gabriel Honoré Marcel calls this “The Spirit of Abstraction as a Factor Making for War.” He defines it as “the practice of conceiving of people as functions rather than as human beings.”
You can always tell the character of someone by how they treat others, after all.
9. They can’t hold healthy and long-lasting relationships
Evil people may appear extremely social, even charming. They could be sought-after and have a number of acquaintances and admirers. But when you get to know them, you’ll realize that these relationships are actually superficial.
In fact, one study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that although narcissists score highly in popularity, they can’t necessarily “retain” genuine friendships.
If they do, however, manage to retain long-term relationships in their life, they’re usually unhealthy, imbalanced, and toxic relationships. And that’s only because they’re so good at manipulation.
Social psychology professor Madeleine Fugère explains:
“Emotional manipulation, such as belittling, demeaning, or even threats of violence against future alternative partners, may be used to maintain the current relationship.”
Look at the quality of their relationships. If they don’t have any genuine people in their life who truly loves and cares for them, it may be a sign they’re evil.
10. They can do no wrong
Another classic sign of evil people is their inability to admit they are wrong. Evil people think they’re always right. Everything they do is perfect.
In fact, they have completely disengaged themselves from reality, that they regularly justify their immorality. They believe everything they do is actually right and good.
According to psychologist Albert Bandura, evil people “sanitize” their actions by “minimizing the injurious effects” of their evil.
It’s their way of repairing themselves psychologically. By minimizing or distorting the pain their actions create, it reduces their feelings of guilt.
11. They have judgmental belief systems
Prejudice is actually something all humans are wired to have. It’s embedded deeply in our flight-or-fight response. Early on, we developed ways to respond quickly to visual cues we deemed dangerous.
That’s why we’re prejudiced in things we consider unknown to us. Our history shows this in the way we tackled race, sexuality, cultural differences, etc.
But these prejudices have no more space in modern society. There’s no more danger. Yet evil people still manage to hold onto their bigotry and unreasonable prejudices.
According to University of Ghent professor Arne Roets, it’s their way of exercising control over ambiguity.
“Of course, everyone has to make decisions, but some people really hate uncertainty and therefore quickly rely on the most obvious information, often the first information they come across, to reduce it. If you provide information that contradicts their decision, they just ignore it.”
Evil people just have to have an opinion on everything. Even when it’s something they don’t actually know anything about.
12. Everything has to be about them
Evil people want to be admired.
As I mentioned before, they have sanitized their evil behaviors to the point that they believe what they’re doing is actually good. Couple this with narcissism and you have someone who believes they are worthy of everyone’s admiration.
This means that evil people will go out of their way to make everything about them, which can manifest in several ways. For example, they may regularly play the savior or the victim role.
Either way, it actually hides a very weak person underneath.
As psychotherapist Leon Seltzer puts it:
“Narcissists diligently cultivate personal “strengths” or “virtues,” which—accurately comprehended—are rather pitiable attempts to conceal their underlying feelings of weakness, inadequacy, and non-deservingness.
13. They don’t show appreciation
Because of their narcissism and lack of empathy, evil people can’t feel and express gratitude.
One study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that people who have narcissistic tendencies don’t have any disposition towards gratitude.
Jo-Anna Tsang and her team explored traits like envy, materialism, narcissism, and cynicism in people with relationships. They found that people who scored highly in these traits have lower life satisfaction. This makes it difficult for them to express gratitude.
You’ll never hear evil people say thank you. You will also never hear them admit that they needed other people’s help to achieve something. In fact, they will gladly take the spotlight of success, never mind that they needed you to get there.
14. They are aggressive
Not all evil people become serial killers, that’s true. But that doesn’t mean they’re not all sadists. One thing you’ll notice is that they’re aggressive when it comes to inflicting pain.
Psychology professor David Chester and his team studied the behavior of sadists. They found that evil people use aggressive behaviors to inflict pain because they simply enjoy it.
“Sadistic tendencies don’t just exist in serial killers, but in everyday people and are strongly-linked to greater aggressive behavior.”
Some evil people may not be physically aggressive, per se. But they might be sadistic to others in psychological and emotional ways.
How to deal with evil people
When it comes to dealing with evil people, I think the first thing you need to do is evaluate whether or not it’s worth engaging with them.
If they’re someone that’s not really important in your life, it’s better to just avoid or cut them off altogether.
However, it’s much more complicated when they’re someone you’re close to. They might be a family member, a close friend, or an intimate partner.
You see, people who are evil are hard to change. You cannot fix them. And most of them lack the self-awareness to even admit that they need to change.
So don’t entertain any notions of trying to change them. Here’s a great reminder from psychologist Tarra Bates-Duford:
“One problem with this is that the other person may not want fixing or may not even see a need to be fixed. Partners that are in a relationship with someone they perceive to require fixing are doomed to experience a failed relationship.
“Healthy relationships consist of mutual respect, love, and acceptance between partners. Relationships that include one partner feeling that the other is “not good enough” as they are and require work to make them more acceptable often leads to frustration, sadness, anger, and resentment.”
Maintaining good relationships with evil people can be impossible. However, here are 3 ways you can deal with them effectively.
1. Set boundaries
Setting boundaries is crucial in any relationship, especially when dealing with a toxic person.
Boundaries set the standards of how you let people treat you. It keeps them in line. When you establish strong boundaries, you basically tell someone, “You can’t treat me this way.”
Here are two steps to developing boundaries that stick, according to mental health counselor Dr. Tracy Hutchinson:
- Know your limits. Dr. Hutchinson explains, “Identifying your limits in relationships is the first step in maintaining healthy boundaries. What is acceptable behavior within a relationship?”
- Stick with your boundaries and know what to do when they’re crossed. “Often, those who lack assertiveness skills who “don’t want to be mean” may be at risk for boundary violations because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings and put their needs on the backburner.”
Be firm. Know your worth. By doing this, you won’t ever tolerate any mistreatment from evil people.
2. Distance yourself
“Rising above” may prove difficult when dealing with toxic people. Narcissists, particularly, are hard to reason with. You can go around in circles with an evil person, be the more logical one, and still feel like you’re losing.
Sometimes, rising above is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself. There are just some battles you can’t win.
You need to learn how to distance yourself. Learn how to walk away from situations that are just not worth it. Tell yourself to just let it go. Keep evil people at arm’s length and try your best to keep exposure at a minimum.
3. Cut them off
There are things in life we just can’t control. No matter how you love or care for someone, if they are constantly hurting you and damaging your self-esteem, the healthiest thing you can do is to just remove them in your life.
According to psychotherapist Jodie Gale:
“If the person’s toxic behavior doesn’t change, or the relationship is just too toxic for you, send them forward in life with love and compassion, and then move forward with your life.”
You cannot allow evil people to stop you from living your best life.
It’s important to ask yourself, is it possible to have a loving and mutually-beneficial relationship with them? Or are they just dragging you down and hurting you more? Which is more important, your wellbeing and happiness or keeping evil people in your life?
So if it comes down to it, quit that job, end that relationship, stop engaging with an evil person. Instead, reserve that space to people who are genuine, kind, and loving. A good life is out there just waiting for you, you just need to cut off anything that is holding you back. Start by cutting off the evil people in your life.