If someone uses these 9 phrases, they’re only pretending to be happy for you

Imagine you’ve just accomplished something great. You are glowing with joy and excitement. You’re proud of yourself (as you should be)!  

And people are wishing you well.  

Or are they?  

It’s not always easy to know who is truly in your corner. Some people are being genuine, some are just being polite, and others… well. Others may just be pretending to be happy for you.  

Now, I know it’s tempting, but the “‘why” is not your concern. After all, there are many reasons someone would pretend to be happy for you. Maybe they don’t like you very much, perhaps they don’t like themselves, it could be that they’re simply not bothered… we could go on, but we won’t. 

Because we’re not here to consider that. We’re here to find out how you can tell if someone is being fake.  

Remember, people’s tone and body language can tell us as much (if not more) than their words. So be mindful of these when considering if someone genuinely supports you or not. 

So, let’s explore things people say that expose their true feelings…  

If someone uses these 9 phrases, they’re only pretending to be happy for you. 

1) “Oh my, that is such amazing, brilliant, wonderful news! Argh! I’m so happy for you!”

Hyper enthusiasm and layer on layer of verbiage doesn’t always indicate authenticity.  

It’s just like that famous line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much.” 

In other words, what’s being said is too excessive to be believed.  

The use of too many unnecessary words, over-the-top expressions, and repetition suggests someone isn’t being their true selves. It’s more likely that they are putting on an act.  

So, watch out when people overdo the well wishes (and if their voice is higher and shriller than it usually is) … this is often a sign they are only pretending to be happy for you.  

2) “I don’t mean to put a dampener on things but…” 

Translation: It’s my intention to put a dampener on things. 

The sentiment in which a statement is delivered often gives a person’s true intention away. And you don’t get much more miserable than a negative statement with a negative outcome. 

A phrase like this is a great example of how some people will slyly try to steal your joy away.  

It’s as if they cannot bring themselves to say something positive to you without throwing a spanner in the works. 

So, in case you thought that a certain friend was just being a realist every time you shared some great news, think again.  

3) “You actually look great…”

This statement would generally follow a question such as “Did you lose weight?”, “Is that a new hairstyle?”, “Have you been exercising?”  

And unlike a simple, “You look great”, the use of the word ‘actually’ tells you all you need to know about the speaker’s sincerity. It injects the element of doubt into the compliment. So, what they’re really saying is “I didn’t think you could look great” or “I don’t like that you look great”. 

And whichever it is, they’re not really happy for you.  

Now, on to another double-edged sword… 

4) “That’s amazing, especially since…”

Translation: I’m surprised, that was so unlikely. 

It’s the addition of ‘especially since’ that changes it from a well-wishing statement to more of a passive aggressive insult.  

Consider the difference between: 

“You got the part! That’s amazing.”  


“You got the part! That’s amazing, especially since you haven’t been auditioning very well recently.” 

Two very different statements, I’m sure you’ll agree!  

5) “I’m delighted for you, really…”

pic2058 If someone uses these 9 phrases, they're only pretending to be happy for you

Substituting really with ‘honestly’ or ‘seriously’ would also work in this phrase.  

If they were happy for you, they wouldn’t have to add ‘really’, it would simply be a given.  

This is literally someone trying to convince you that they are delighted for you when they are not


6) “Congratulations on the promotion, It’s about time!”

They give and then they take away…  

Whether you’re being congratulated on getting a promotion, receiving an accolade, or announcing an engagement, when somebody adds “it’s about time”, it invalidates the good wishes.  

Why? Because it implies that it took you too long to achieve the milestone or the merit, too long for it to be something to be proud of.  

Basically, the speaker is hinting that you’re behind the curve. (Boohoo!)  

These kinds of phrases are almost like backhanded compliments. And clear indicators that the well-wisher is pretending to be happy for you (and only a little bit at that!)  

So, watch out for any add-ons that diminish the good wishes contained in the initial statement.  

7) “Well done for going out on your own, but aren’t you worried about the economy?”

When someone says something positive about something you do (in this case your entrepreneurial move) and then follows with a question that suggests you haven’t considered something vital to its success (in this case, the market), chances are that they are only pretending to be happy for you.  

In fact, using a phrase like this suggests they are trying to raise doubt about the quality of your decision-making.  

Basically, what they are really saying is you’re being foolish and probably don’t have a clue what you’re doing… They are effectively diminishing your bravery under a thin veil of realism. 

This person is not in your corner.  

8) “Good for you!”

This is such a lazy statement that basically translates to I couldn’t care less.  

Whoever says this isn’t even making much of an effort to convince you that they’re happy for you.  They’re just doing the basics.

Alternatively, it could be meant in a vaguely patronizing way… like an eyerolled, aww, aren’t you great. 

So, as the saying goes, when someone shows you who they are (or how they feel), believe them. 

9) “I can’t believe you did it, fair play!”

It may sound like a nice thing to say but think about it.  

This phrase is akin to someone saying, I literally had no faith in you.  

Not the sentiment of someone who is genuinely celebrating you! 

Another thing to think about.

Final thoughts 

When considering what people really mean when they speak to you, it’s vital to remember that context, voice tone, and body language totally transform how we perceive meaning.  

However, simply considering the words people choose and what they focus on will generally tell you a lot about how they are really feeling.  

And, as ever, your instinct is probably screaming everything you need to know anyway. So, don’t be afraid to trust it.  

Picture of Niamh McNamara

Niamh McNamara

A freelance writer fascinated with human nature and social dynamics, Niamh read literature, history, and philosophy at university before spending time in journalism and PR. Armed with a passion for words and ideas, and a healthy appreciation of the ridiculous, she tries to make sense of it all. Connect with Niamh on X @NBMcnamara123

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