8 Red Flags Someone Is Being Fake Nice to You, Therapists Say
Here's how to spot insincerity—and what you can do about it.
Any time you forge a new friendship or romantic relationship, you're taking a small leap of faith that the other person is who they present themselves to be. Unfortunately, this is not always the case—some people have ulterior motives that incentivize them to be "fake nice" to you while keeping their true feelings to themselves.
Of course, this is not usually apparent at the outset of the relationship. It often takes time to notice that someone doesn't have your best interest at heart. The key, experts say, is recognizing the common signs of insincerity, and trusting your intuition. Once you notice the problem, it's up to you to build safe boundaries, communicate your concerns, or direct your energy elsewhere.
Wondering if someone in your life is being "fake nice" to you? Read on to learn the eight red flags that could mean the relationship isn't real.
Their words are inconsistent with their actions.
One way to spot a person who is being "fake nice" to you is to compare their words with their actions. If they talk a good game but ultimately don't follow through with support when you need it, they may lack sincerity.
"They might shower you with compliments, but their actions don't align with their words," explains Bayu Prihandito, a life coach and the founder of Life Architekture.
They hide their negative emotions.
It's normal to want to keep some things private, but if you notice your friend only ever shares positive emotions, it may mean they're hiding their real feelings and frustrations in your presence.
"It's natural to experience negative emotions, and someone who hides them completely may not be showing their true self," explains Ryan Sultan, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist, therapist, and professor at Columbia University.
That said, your friend's tendency to hold their cards close to their chest may be more about them than it is about you. Prihandito says that asking open-ended questions and observing how they respond can help you better understand their intentions and motives—and determine whether they're being "fake nice" to you or just emotionally guarded.
Their body language is telling.
They may be saying all the right things, but if their body language seems to suggest a lack of sincerity, it's important to trust your gut.
"Non-verbal cues can often be more telling than words. Someone might say they're happy for you, but their body language (like avoiding eye contact, forced smiles, or closed posture) can suggest otherwise," explains Niloufar Esmaeilpour, MSc, RCC, SEP, founder of Lotus Therapy & Counselling Centre in Vancouver.
They flatter you often.
The experts also say that you should exercise caution when a new friend or romantic interest relies heavily on flattery to draw you into the relationship.
"While we all love compliments, excessive flattery can sometimes be a sign of insincerity. If someone is praising you without a genuine connection or reason, it might be a tactic to win your favor for other underlying motives," says Prihandito.
They gossip about others.
Observing how your friends treat the people in their lives will give you some pretty good clues about how they're likely to treat you.
"If someone speaks negatively about others to you, there's a chance they could do the same about you when you're not around," says Esmaeilpour. "Listen to how they talk about mutual acquaintances or friends. Is it mostly negative or backhanded?"
If you notice a pattern of negativity concerning others, the therapist says it's best to set some healthy boundaries in the relationship. "Limit the personal information you share with this person and maintain a level of distance," she recommends. "It's also possible to gently confront the behavior, expressing discomfort with negative discussions."
Their kindness is conditional.
You may notice that someone in your life is especially present and kind only when it seems to serve them most. This is a major red flag that could suggest they're being "fake nice" for some ulterior motive.
"If their kindness seems conditional, meaning tied to specific situations or benefits, it's a red flag," says Prihandito. "Genuine kindness and love is unconditional and not used as a means of exchange."
The relationship feels asymmetrical.
A sincere relationship is based on mutual trust, understanding, and interest. If you notice that things feel asymmetrical between you and a friend, or that the relationship only has their partial participation, it could mean they're being "fake nice" to you.
"While they may ask a lot of personal questions about you, they might be highly guarded when you inquire about their lives. This asymmetric curiosity can be an attempt to create an imbalance of emotional investment in the interaction," explains Lachlan Brown, a relationship expert with a background in behavioral psychology.
They mirror your opinions, actions, or expressions.
It's also a red flag if the relationship feels a little too symmetrical. For instance, if you notice that you always tend to agree on everything, or that your actions are always in sync, this could be a sign that they're simply mirroring your personality to deepen the bond.
"I have to admit that mirroring is a natural part of human interaction," says Brown. "But extreme mirroring (e.g., copying your opinions, actions, and even your tone of voice) can indicate an attempt to win you over quickly, often for manipulative reasons."
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