People who are kind on the surface but mean underneath often display these 9 specific behaviors

There’s often a stark contrast between surface kindness and underlying meanness.

The difference is all about authenticity. Kindness that’s only skin-deep usually masks less pleasant intentions.

People who display this behavior may seem nice at first glance, but their actions often reveal a different story.

Being able to identify these telltale signs can help you avoid the sting of hidden malevolence.

And those in the know are aware that there are nine specific behaviors that these individuals often exhibit.

Here we’ll delve into these behaviors to help you spot the difference between genuine kindness and a falsified front.

1) Compliments that sting

One of the most common characteristics of those who are outwardly kind but inwardly mean is the art of the backhanded compliment.

A backhanded compliment is a tricky beast. On the surface, it seems like a genuine compliment, but underneath, there’s a sting that leaves you feeling a little deflated.

For instance, someone might say, “I love how you just wear anything,” or “You’re so brave for trying new things no one else would dare to.”

These comments are initially flattering, but the hidden implication is less than kind.

Recognizing this behavior can help you distinguish between sincere compliments and veiled jabs.

Remember, genuine kindness doesn’t come with a sting in its tail. So, keep an eye out for these seemingly sweet but subtly sour comments.

2) Ignoring your boundaries

I’ve come across people in my life who seem kind and considerate, but often cross personal boundaries.

For example, I had this one friend who always seemed to be there for me, supporting me through my ups and downs. But as time went on, I realized they had a habit of disregarding my personal space and boundaries.

Whenever I mentioned needing some alone time or specified certain subjects that were off-limits for me, they’d seem to understand and apologize. But then, they’d repeat the same behavior, almost as if our conversation never happened.

This was confusing because on the surface they seemed so nice. But their consistent disregard for my boundaries showed a different side to them.

It’s important to remember that genuine kindness respects personal space and boundaries. So if you notice a pattern of boundary violations, it’s a potential sign of underlying meanness.

3) Always playing the victim

People who are outwardly kind but mean underneath often portray themselves as the victim, no matter the situation.

Psychologists call this ‘victim mentality’, and it’s more than just a simple personality quirk. It’s actually a type of cognitive distortion, which is an irrational thought pattern that distorts reality.

When individuals constantly see themselves as the victim, they’re effectively shifting the blame onto others and avoiding taking responsibility for their actions.

For example, if they’re late to a meeting, instead of apologizing for their tardiness, they might blame their delay on bad traffic, a slow barista, or a faulty alarm clock.

This constant shifting of blame and inability to accept responsibility is a sign that their kindness may just be a facade. Genuine kindness acknowledges mistakes and strives to learn from them.

4) Frequent criticism under the guise of concern

One of the subtle signs of people who are kind on the surface but mean underneath is their tendency to criticize under the guise of concern.

They may make comments like, “I’m just worried about you,” or “I’m saying this for your own good,” before launching into criticism or advice that you didn’t ask for.

This is not to say that every piece of unsolicited advice is mean-spirited. Genuine friends can sometimes offer advice out of care and concern. But when this becomes a regular pattern and leaves you feeling belittled or judged, it’s a clear sign that their kindness might not be as benign as it seems.

Always remember, true kindness doesn’t critique every aspect of your life under the pretense of ‘concern’. It respects your autonomy and ability to make your own decisions.

5) Negative gossiping

We may all indulge in a little gossip from time to time, but there’s a line between harmless chatter and malicious gossip.

Those who appear kind but have mean tendencies often engage in negative gossip. They might speak kindly to a person’s face, but the moment that person’s back is turned, the negative comments start flowing.

It’s as if they can’t resist the opportunity to spread rumors or share unflattering information about others. And while they may argue that they’re just ‘sharing news’ or ‘making conversation’, the reality is that their actions can harm reputations and relationships.

Remember, genuinely kind individuals uplift others, they don’t bring them down with harmful gossip. So if you notice this behavior, it could be a sign of hidden meanness.

6) Inconsistency in their behavior

In my experience, one of the most heartbreaking signs of someone who is kind on the surface but mean underneath is inconsistency in their behavior.

One moment, they are your biggest cheerleader, offering support and praise. The next, they’re cold and dismissive, making you question what you did wrong.

This inconsistency can leave you on an emotional rollercoaster, never quite sure where you stand. It’s a behavior that creates confusion and insecurity, as you can’t predict how they will react or treat you from one day to the next.

True kindness is consistent and reliable. It doesn’t fluctuate based on their mood or circumstances. So if you’re dealing with someone whose kindness seems to come and go, it may be time to reassess the relationship.

7) Lack of empathy

I remember a time when I was going through a particularly tough phase in my life. I was dealing with personal loss and was in a fragile state of mind. During this period, I leaned on a friend who always seemed kind and understanding.

However, when I confided in them about my struggles, their response was far from empathetic. They dismissed my feelings, saying things like, “Well, everyone has problems,” or “You need to toughen up.”

That’s when I realized that despite their outward kindness, they lacked genuine empathy. They were unable to understand or share the feelings of another – a key trait of true kindness.

So if you find yourself feeling unheard or dismissed by someone who portrays themselves as kind, it could be a sign of their meaner side. After all, kindness is not just about being nice; it’s about understanding and acknowledging the feelings of others.

8) They’re only nice when they need something

People who are kind on the surface but mean underneath often show their true colors when they need something from you.

Suddenly, they’re showering you with compliments, taking interest in your life, and going out of their way to be nice. But once their need is fulfilled, they revert back to their indifferent or dismissive self.

This pattern of behavior is a clear red flag. Genuine kindness is not conditional or self-serving. It doesn’t switch on and off based on personal needs or gain.

So, if you notice someone being exceptionally kind only when they need a favor or assistance, it might be time to question the authenticity of their kindness.

9) They don’t respect your time

The most important thing to understand about people who are kind on the surface but mean underneath is that they often have little regard for others’ time.

They might cancel plans at the last minute, show up late without apology, or keep you waiting without a second thought. While they may seem apologetic, their repeated disregard for your time speaks volumes.

Remember, genuine kindness respects not just you as a person, but also your time and commitments. If someone continually disrespects your time, it’s a clear indication of underlying meanness. After all, kindness isn’t just about words, it’s shown in actions too.

Final thought: The power of empathy

At the heart of all human interactions and relationships lies the fundamental principle of empathy.

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is a cornerstone in maintaining healthy relationships. It’s the basis for genuine kindness and compassion, and it’s what differentiates authentic individuals from those who are kind on the surface but mean underneath.

Understanding these 9 specific behaviors can help us navigate our relationships better, and more importantly, it can help us cultivate empathy in our own actions.

Remember, genuine kindness is not just about being nice; it’s about acknowledging and respecting others’ feelings, needs, and boundaries. It’s about being consistent, reliable, and respectful.

So as we move forward in our interactions with others, let’s strive to foster a deep sense of empathy. Let’s practice kindness that doesn’t just reside on the surface but echoes in our actions and resonates in our words.

As Leo Buscaglia once said, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Let our kindness be an authentic reflection of this sentiment.

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Picture of Lachlan Brown

Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the editor of Ideapod and founder of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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