Fake vs genuine people: 14 ways to spot the difference

Are you wondering how to tell if someone is genuine or fake?

It’s not always easy, and the truth is that some fake people are pros at hiding their true colors.

But if you know what to look for, you can fine out who’s genuine and who’s just taking you for a ride.

Here’s how to tell if someone is genuine or fake

Fake people and genuine people can look the same on the surface, but underneath they’re nothing alike.

The key difference is sincerity.

Fake people may act nice, but they just do it to get something or manipulate. Their words may sound wonderful, but they’re just saying it to butter you up or get something.

Genuine people don’t try to manipulate people and if they say something they mean it. They help people because they can, not to get something from it.

The difference couldn’t be bigger.

Are they ‘fake nice’ or genuinely nice?

Some of the biggest personal parasites out there are fake nice people. They’re all over, but they can be hard to spot.

So before we look at how to tell who’s genuine, let’s look at how to weed out the fake nice folks.

As Psych2Go explains in this video of 10 signs of being fake nice:

“There’s usually a reason behind why fake nice people are acting so kind and considerate.

In most cases, it’s because they want something from you. This might not be immediately obvious, but eventually they’ll start slowly, steering the conversation to their needs and desires.

Usually, they’ll ask you to do something or you’ll discover that you have something they want.”

YouTube video

There are a number of other signs to look out for among fake nice folks that make them a hazard to your health and a major drain on your energy.

Here are 7 outer traits of fake nice people who you should avoid at all costs.

7 ways for how to tell if someone is genuine or fake

1) They lead people on with sweet lies

Fake people tend to be major people pleasers. They want to make everyone happy in order to get what they want.

Deep down, they don’t care. But outwardly they will say all the right things and check all the right boxes.

The end result is that they end up leading a lot of people on in relationships, career and every other way.

When this happens, you’ll feel drained and frustrated.

“Notice how you feel when you’re with this person, and afterward. Are they draining you?” asks spirituality writer Sarah Regan.

If the answer is yes, you’re likely dealing with someone who’s full of sh*t.

2) They cancel plans constantly

One of the biggest ways for how to tell if someone is genuine or fake is paying attention to whether they keep their word.

Fake people cancel constantly. Whether they invited you out or vice versa, they have no shame in cancelling at the last minute.

They treat you as a fallback option or ditch you as soon as there’s nothing in it for them.

The result is that you feel used, low value and confused. That’s why fake people are so harmful to your wellbeing.

“Fake people are toxic, and they don’t have a long shelf life, but they can do significant damage to you within that short period, and hence they need to be weeded out in time,” advises Devika Malik.

3) They love to spread rumors and gossip

Rumors and gossip are catnip to fake people. It’s practically their chosen currency.

They traffic in drama and rumors and love to mock and insult people behind their back by talking about the messed up things going on with other people.

Remember that what they can do to others they will also do to you. In fact, they probably already are.

Their pathetic attempts at puffing their own ego and enjoying other people’s misfortunes are not something you want to have any part in.

As Paired Life writes:

“Phony people may share stories in which they star as the victim and ‘an evil other’ commonly stars as the villain.

Remember though that if someone will gossip with you, they’ll gossip about you.”

4) They act nice all the time even when they’re pissed off

Genuine people have bad days and don’t always act like a paragon of virtue.

Fake people have a smile plastered on and never even admit when they’re upset. They just passive-aggressively sabotage you and cut you down while pretending they’re doing well.

The truth is that everyone gets upset sometimes or loses their temper.

People who never do can seem great on the outside, but they’re fake.

All that fake niceness can easily turn into aggressive toxic venom behind closed doors, so be careful of anyone who’s too perfect on the outside.

Let’s face it:

Many of us can fall into this pattern even as genuine people.

Many modern societies prize being polite and nice even when you want to burn the world down…

But if you don’t find a way to express your authentic self, you will eventually burn out into a fake, smiling husk…

When it comes to your personal spiritual journey, which toxic habits and fake attributes have you unknowingly picked up?

Is it the need to be positive all the time? Is it a sense of superiority over those who lack spiritual awareness?

As this powerful free video from the shaman Rudá Iandé digs into, there’s an effective way to undo the disempowering spiritual beliefs that are trapping us and tempting us to be fake in order to win approval.

If we are willing to be radically honest and face ourselves in the right way.

5) They’re only around when they need something from you

At some point or other, all of us have rough patches. That’s where it’s nice to know we can lean on our friends and trust those who are close to us.

But a fake person will be nowhere to be found.

When they wanted your help finding a job with a friend of yours they are all smiles and texting a mile a minute.

But now that you have an issue or even just need a hand moving? They’ve dropped off the map.

“Disappearing acts are common among fake people,” writes Lachlan Brown at Hack Spirit.

“They hang around when they get what they need from you, but the minute you need something from them, they bail.”

6) They subtly cut you down and compete with you

Deep down, fake people are insecure and jealous strivers. They don’t like when others succeed.

If you’re a friend of theirs, the fake person will not celebrate your wins.

In fact, you may notice they cut you down in various ways that you don’t even notice until you think back on them.

As Regan notes:

“Similar to competitiveness, a fake friend may feel the need to sabotage you in certain scenarios.

Say you’re out at a bar with friends and flirting with a stranger. This kind of friend may come up to you and say something purposefully embarrassing about you to deter your potential suitor.”

7) They always want the spotlight to be on them

Fake people are attention hogs who are obsessed with themselves.

They are emotionally manipulative narcissists who need to turn the limelight onto them in order to feel a sense of identity and worth.

For this reason, you will notice that when talking to or interacting with them, they constantly seem to relate everything back to them and how great or important they are.

As couples therapist Dr. Stephanie Azri notes:

“Is the focus always on them, no matter the topic?

If yes, you’re probably dealing with a fake person.”

7 ways for how to tell if someone is genuine

The best way to separate out fake nice people from genuine people is to look at motivation. Outer behavior is only one factor.

Deeper motivations under the surface can tell you whether someone is really genuine and not just putting on an act.

Here’s the 7 best ways for how to tell if someone is genuine.

1) They actually care about their friends

Authentic people care about their friends. They’re far from perfect, but at the end of the day they do care about their friends and show up for them whenever possible.

They tend to have a smaller group of friends. These friends are also usually folks from all walks of life and not people of a certain status or type who can benefit them.

While not every genuine person is a great friend, all great friends are genuine people.

As Carina Wolff writes:

“People who are down to earth tend to engage in some similar habits, and looking out for these telltale signs can help you navigate towards people who are truly themselves.”

2) They follow through on what they promise

Genuine people keep their word whenever possible.

Unlike fake folks, they don’t promise things they don’t mean just to please people. They say what they mean and then they do it.

Fake people over-promise and under-deliver, genuine people under-promise and over-deliver.

They stand on their words and do what they say.

As Devika Malik writes:

“Making promises is effortless but standing on your words is an actual test of character, which only authentic people can succeed at.

Genuine people always try to live up to their promises, and fake people will always fear commitment and run away from responsibility.”

3) They boost others up and compliment them

Genuine people don’t feel the urge to cut others down or compete with them.

They are happy for the success of others and admire the accomplishments of those around them.

When it comes time to decide what to do or how to respond to a situation, the authentic person acts on his or her values. They don’t act based on what will get them the most attention or recognition.

“Genuine people don’t make decisions based on their egos because they don’t need the admiration of others in order to feel good about themselves,” writes Travis Bradberry.

“Likewise, they don’t seek the limelight or try to take credit for other people’s accomplishments.”

4) They admit when they’re upset and mad

Authentic people express their emotions and admit when they’re pissed off. They don’t put on a perfect outer surface that hides all sorts of toxic stuff underneath.

Sometimes this can be annoying or upsetting, because part of being a genuine person is that you have days when you’re off your game.

The good thing is that instead of having a fake smile pointed your way, you’ll be able to tell that a genuine person is being honest about how they feel.

5) They’re there for you when times are tough

Genuine people show up for you when the chips are down.

They prove that actions really do talk louder than words.

Unlike fake people who say all sorts of nice things but are gone when times get hard, genuine people don’t waste all their breath on self-promotion and people-pleasing.

But they do come around when you’ve had a bad breakup, or need a friend or even maybe need a small loan to get through the month.

They are a real friend and they care about you.

6) They have a realistic image of themselves

Genuine people don’t tend to be egotistical or low-confidence. They usually have a realistic self-image.

If they’re not very good at math, they’ll admit it. If they’re skilled at cooking they’ll admit they know a thing or two about the kitchen.

They’re not necessarily humble or egotistical, they’re just normal.

Unlike fake people who won’t admit when they’re wrong, authentic people have no problem with admitting shortcomings.

As Guy Winch observes:

“Genuine people are likely to recognize their faults and shortcomings, to accept them, and to take responsibility for their actions as a result.”

7) They live by their own values, not just what’s popular or brings them benefits

Authentic people have their own core values that guide them.

They don’t base what they believe and say on what’s popular or will get them ahead in society or at work.

They base it on what they believe is true and right.

Fake people are the opposite.

As The Powerful Mind notes:

“They will pretend to like all the same things that you like, just so that they can be included.

They aren’t worried about forming their own individual identity and opinions, they just want to agree with whomever is around who will elevate or include them socially.”

Fake people are dangerous…

Fake people aren’t just upsetting, they can also harm your health.

When you put time and energy into a friendship or relationship and it turns out to be one-sided, it hurts badly.

Plenty of studies show that when we have bad relationships our mental and physical wellbeing suffers.

If your relationships are hollow, you can start to feel pretty hollow yourself.

Think of it this way:

You have a flat tire, but none of your 20 friends will come help out;

Versus, you have a flat tire and one of your two close friends comes as soon as he can to help.

A few real friends are worth so much more than a hundred fake friends.

Here’s how to deal with fake people

Fake people can make you feel overwhelmed and depressed. They pull your strings and take advantage of you.

If you have any problem setting boundaries, they will use that weakness.

That’s why it’s so important to have a grasp on your personal power.

Begin with yourself. Stop searching for external fixes to sort out your life, deep down, you know this isn’t working. 

And that’s because until you look within and unleash your personal power, you’ll never find the satisfaction and fulfillment you’re searching for. 

I learned this from the shaman Rudá Iandê. His life mission is to help people restore balance to their lives and unlock their creativity and potential. He has an incredible approach that combines ancient shamanic techniques with a modern-day twist. 

In his excellent free video, Rudá explains effective methods to achieve what you want in life and to find joy and love.

So if you want to build a better relationship with yourself, unlock your endless potential, and put passion at the heart of everything you do, start now by checking out his genuine advice.

Here’s a link to the free video again.

10 surefire behaviors that show someone is a fake person

In addition to the 7 signs of fake people above, these 10 signs will tell you for sure if you’re dealing with a fake person.

After all, sometimes people are just going through a rough patch. But if they’re engaging in these behaviors on a regular basis you should steer clear.

If more than half of these are correct then this person is not authentic.

1) They’re always bragging

Fake people brag every second time they open their mouth.

They’re the star of their own little show and the most you can ever hope for is an accompanying role.

They don’t really care about others and will steal credit without shame.

Plus, their bragging gets super annoying and embarrassing.

2) They jerk you around

Fake people see those around them as means to an end.

Whether that’s a romantic partner, a friend or even a family member, they will jerk people’s strings to manipulate them and get what they want.

They often use emotional blackmail and gaslighting to do this.

They will also jump on the bandwagon of controversial issues at times to pile on somebody as part of a mob and back them into a corner.

Fake people are bullies.

3) Their emotions are jaded

Emotions are an important part of life. Even though they can get messy, expressing our emotions is part of how we connect and relate as human beings.

Fake people’s real emotions are buried somewhere deep beneath the surface.

The emotions they express are usually not real, because their real feelings are fully repressed.

It’s sad to be around someone who’s chosen to push down their feelings, and nothing good can come from it.

4) They judge you harshly

There’s a time and a place for brutal honesty, and it can be helpful.

But fake people judge you for a totally different reason. They do it to get power over you.

Whether it’s criticizing how you dress or denigrating your job background, they will find something to pick at that makes them feel superior and gets you in a subservient position.

If you allow them to do this then the toxic behavior will only grow.

5) They have a hurtful sense of humor

Fake people use humor as a weapon. They will disguise harsh judgments and mockery as “just a joke.”

The purpose is to boost their own self-esteem and bring you down.

They want people to feel like they have a right to be above them, and humor is one way to show that they’re superior.

It’s sad and it’s really not funny.

6) They’re always in flux

Fake people are the opposite of consistent. They’re always at work on some new project or vision that’s going to be the next big thing.

Just the same way they promise the world and deliver nothing, they get hyped up in their own head all the time but nothing comes of it.

The reason is that their approach to life is all talk and no action.

That’s true with how they behave to others, but also with how they behave in their own life and plans.

7) They don’t learn from their mistakes

Fake people usually have a victim narrative where life has hurt them and they’re innocent.

For this reason, any mistakes they make are somebody else’s fault or at least are understandable and excusable.

They will not take responsibility for what they do wrong and will expect someone else to clean up the pieces.

Gaslighting is a favorite tactic as well, in order to point at those close to them for what’s gone wrong and claim they should shoulder the blame.

8) They expect you to be their slave

Fake people want the world to perform for them like a dancing marionette.

They have grand expectations about what life owes them and how it should turn out.

If it doesn’t, they begin pointing fingers at those close to them and manipulating anyone they can into achieving their objective.

For this reason, they may be brutally manipulative and seem to look through you when talking to you.

The horrible truth is they don’t see you as a person, just a means to an end.

9) They always have to be the leader and get recognition

Fake people steal the spotlight whenever possible.

And they have no compunction about doing so.

They may apologize and pretend to be ashamed of their behavior, but it will be easy to see that they don’t mean it.

Especially when they do this again.

At work, in relationships, among friends, the fake person circles like a vulture, stealing credit, ogling the achievements of others and demanding recognition even when they didn’t do anything.

They are drama queens who are annoying as hell.

10) They want respect but don’t give it

The biggest sign of fake people is that they don’t respect your boundaries.

If they have a need, they will pop up and demand that you respond. They just don’t respect you at all.

But they themselves expect to be treated like royalty and have all their boundaries respected.

They refuse to learn that most fundamental lesson of life: you get respect when you give respect.

Why are there so many fake people?

There seem to be a lot more fake people these days than ever.

Social media and clickbait culture has created a lot of attention whores who use people.

Fame is all about gaining attention and generating clicks off drama and controversy, so it’s basically a breeding ground for fake behavior.

When you turn to the internet to stop feeling lonely, you can sometimes end up just feeling even worse than before.

Sadly, fake people haven’t learned their lesson and are hooked on any kind of attention and achievement that gives them a fleeting sense of worth and purpose.

As Ell writes at Forgetting Fairytales:

“They’re self-absorbed, they think about themselves more than they think about you.

It’s like they think they’re above you.

The truth is, inside, they don’t feel great about themselves. That’s why they have such a facade, that’s why they can’t just be genuine or true.”

Why do people act fake?

People act fake because:

  • They’re unhappy deep inside
  • They feel like shit about themselves
  • They crave attention and recognition they missed growing up
  • They believe that controlling others will improve their life
  • They feel victimized and believe life and people ‘owe’ them

Everyone is fake sometimes

The truth is that everyone acts fake sometimes.

The dividing line comes when you meet or know someone who is fake almost all the time.

As the above signs for how to tell if someone is genuine or fake show, there are all sorts of toxic behaviors that can really ruin your life if you let them.

Authenticity, on the other hand, is not about being a perfect person, it’s just about being real. 

Sometimes the ugly truth and messy reality is better than the varnished fake smile. Real friendship and love doesn’t start with fake smiles, it starts with real conversations and connection.

That’s why authenticity is so key to finding ourselves and truly connecting with others in life.

Being genuine attracts genuine people to you

When it comes to separating the fake from the genuine, it can be difficult. Even when you’re sure you are dealing with a fake person, you may feel sympathy or believe that you should just go along with their sad behavior.

But the fact is that fake people thrive off those who have trouble setting boundaries.

By contrast, when you’re true to yourself and your boundaries you attract other genuine people who are also true to themselves.

As Rudá Iandê says, the search for authenticity requires that you “feel your emotions without resistance, trust your instinct and value your body.

Then you can ground in your basic nature and flow with the life which exists within yourself.”

Life’s too short to spend on fake people. Be authentic and express who you really are: it’s time for a revolution of authentic people.

Picture of Jess Carpenter

Jess Carpenter

I studied at The University of Utah where I earned both my B.S. and M.S. and am a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES certified). My favorite spot to write is wherever I can see my toddlers to ensure they aren’t jumping from the second story or coloring on the walls.

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