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6 Signs Someone Is a Social Hand Grenade Don't wait until that person goes off. Know what behaviors to look for and then keep away.

By Jeff Boss Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


We all know them. People you prefer to avoid rather than confront, text rather than call and minimize rather than maximize the time spent with them. After all, it may just be five minutes but that's five minutes of your life that you'll never get back -- and if you don't think five minutes is a long time try holding the squat position with your legs at 90 degrees and your back against a wall for five minutes.

Anyway, there are people whom we tend to gravitate toward and others we shy away from or avoid like the plague -- or a hand grenade.

In social parlance, a social hand grenade is somebody who "could "go off' at any time and cause complete and utter chaos to what was a well-conducted evening" (thank you, Urban Dictionary). Throw that person into a group of people and watch the crowd disperse. Social hand grenades are toxic people who have the potential to influence you, if you let them, and not for the better.

Related: 7 Toxic People to Avoid When Starting a Business

The best way to avoid the social hand grenades in your life is to listen to the message they send. Is it generally negative? If you're unsure about their potentially explosive status, here are six signs of social hand grenades before they go "boom":

1. They complain -- about everything.

Nothing is ever good enough for some people. You give this person a suitcase full of $1 million and he or she will complain it's too heavy. You buy a habitual complainer a drink and he or she whines about the wine. No matter where this nightmare is, he or she finds the negative in everything -- and it's exhausting.

2. They judge.

There's nothing wrong with judgment. We all make judgments daily, if not hourly. It's when you make a judgment based on little knowledge that the pin begins to slowly work its way out of the grenade. Judgmental people do just that -- they're too quick to decide and they arrive at conclusions without hearing all the facts, most likely because they're unwilling to listen. Speaking of which …

3. They don't listen.

When engaging with a social hand grenade just before they "go off," you see their minds feverishly working while you talk to them because they're anticipating what to say next. When this happens, it means two things: they're thinking while you're talking, which means they aren't listening; and the only thing on their minds is themselves. Boom!

Related: The 5 Mental Barriers to Greatness Only You Can Remove

4. They're critical.

Criticism generally connotes some sort of attack, an expression of disapproval aimed at putting someone or something down to boost yourself up. While some criticism is essential for learning and development, it's when you hear that same voice over and over that constructive criticism quickly turns into a pain in the you-know-what.

Remember this: too much of any one thing is just that -- too much. If you have something to say, that's fine, but be sure to balance out the negatives with the positives.

5. They feel sorry -- for themselves.

These are the folks who always have someone or something else to blame, whether it's "the system," leadership or not having enough time in the day (does anybody have enough time?). In essence, they're victims, and they suffer from the same reactive rather than proactive line of thought. They use words such as "I can't" rather than "I won't" and they quickly turn into the negative "poopy pants" Nancy that everybody tries to avoid like the plague -- or poopy pants.

6. They don't keep secrets.

How many times have you heard, "Jane told me not to say anything, but …" and they reveal exactly what they assured they would not repeat?

Pure friendships are one thing -- friends tell friends everything because that's what friends do. However, it's when you hear this from an acquaintance or somebody who hasn't quite peaked on the friendship scale that you quickly realize that this person is the absolute worst secret-keeper in the world, and his or her potential for gossip has just skyrocketed.

Steer clear of this person because once the rumor mill spins, it's hard to reassert control.

The people with whom you associate are a direct reflection of your brand and values and the person you are and the person you'll become. Choose your relationships wisely.

Related: 7 Strategies for Dealing With Negative People

Jeff Boss

Leadership Team Coach, Author, Speaker

Jeff Boss is the author of two books, team leadership coach and former 13-year Navy SEAL where his top awards included four Bronze Stars with valor and two Purple Hearts. Visit him online at

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