People who are overly polite but lack genuine empathy often display these 11 subtle behaviors

Overly Polite People (OPPs) are finally being seen as the menace they are. With their perfect manners and polite smiles, OPPs make every place they go more disappointing and dishonest.

These folks use refined etiquette to cover up where their heart should be. 

If you’ve dealt with enough OPPs in your life, then you know how much they can wear you down. It’s hard to put your finger on it, but there’s just something about OPPs that’s extremely frustrating and annoying. 

Here’s a look at their subtle behaviors that prove they’re only pretending to care and paper it over with a veneer of performative niceness and politeness. 

1) Fake listening

The first classic behavior of overly polite people is fake listening. 

They cock an ear in your direction and not and smile at every word you say, acting like they are absolutely hearing you

But it quickly becomes clear that they actually are not taking in anything you’re saying, nor do they actually care. 

Classic sign: they say “Yeah totally!” and nod. They don’t care. 

2) Fading out

The next telltale behavior of fake polite people is fading out. 

This can be observed while you are talking to them or interacting with them. Their initial strong apparent interest or engagement with you is suddenly belied by a moment of indifference and emptiness. 

You realize that they not only haven’t been listening to you but that their initial performance of caring about their interaction with you has worn off and their true face of indifference is showing.

Classic sign: their smile fades and gaze goes blank for a moment before rapidly returning to the cheery surface performance. Their empathy isn’t there, it just appears to be.

3) Toxic positivity

Toxic positivity is a major problem, especially in modern society where liking something and being like are so economically and socially crucial online and offline.

Everyone has absorbed the message that only good vibes are welcome here, and they tend to self-censor accordingly. 

Those who are overly polite in a disingenuous way typify this with their overly positive behavior and words. 

It goes beyond being positive to a denial of reality and a refusal to engage in real communication.

Classic sign: they’re so positive it is frustrating and emotionally dishonest. They gaslight anybody for the slightest hint of negativity or sadness.

4) Clout chasing

Overly polite people with nothing behind their smile are very drawn to clout chasing

Both online and offline they engage in behavior that is clearly aimed at those with more prestige. 

If you watch carefully you will notice that they adjust their approach to others based on the social standing and perceived or real benefits of being close with said person. 

Don’t be surprised: this is typical OPP behavior.

Classic sign: the OPP showers praise and attention on a person with high social status, praising that person’s work and talents. Their empathy is “adjusted” according to how much influence somebody has.

5) Frivolous compliments

OPPs love to give out frivolous compliments. 

It costs them nothing and has big social returns. They know that many people are easily drawn in by flattery and frivolous nice words, so they drop them left and right. 

The way to spot this, as opposed to real compliments, is to note how generic and nonmeaningful these compliments are.

Classic sign: the OPP hands out compliments like nothing and puts no thought behind them. They don’t really appreciate much about others, but they know that praise leads to positive impressions so they dole it out.

are you an old soul zodiac signs with wisdom beyond their years People who are overly polite but lack genuine empathy often display these 11 subtle behaviors

6) Copy-paste commentary

This also ties into the previous point, because OPPs love to engage in copy-paste commentary. 

Whether it is on a current event or a discussion among friends or business colleagues, they add in their two cents which turn out to be exactly the same as somebody else’s two cents.

Even more conveniently, what they’re saying is aligned with a mainstream narrative that they actually have no knowledge of. 

They are simply repeating what they think is polite and won’t hurt anyone’s feelings or will lead to social approval for them as a “good person.”

These kinds of walking human echo chambers make the world a more boring and more dangerous place.

Classic sign: the OPP is saying exactly what most people seem to believe around them and helping enforce ingroup versus outgroup prejudices. Their lack of empathy attracts them to whatever position is safest rather than standing up for a real value or belief.

7) Shallow interests and fixations

OPPs can often be spotted by their shallow interest and fixations. 

Many of us have a guilty pleasure that we engage in whether it is reality shows or a little bit of gossip, but the OPP is genuinely entranced by shallow and frivolous pursuits. 

He or she simply can’t get enough junk entertainment, rumors, and drama. 

They are very polite, but when you look at what they actually care about it tends to be pure garbage.

Classic sign: being interested in pure cultural pablum that would never offend anybody but yet is completely meaningless. Their lack of real empathy attracts them to shallow content.

8) Shrugging off heavy topics

It is clear that bringing up overly intense or dramatic subjects, especially when you first meet someone, is generally considered in poor taste.  However the OPP almost never gets into any serious or real discussion. 

They will shrug off heavy topics or intense discussions, not because they are truly considerate or don’t want to hurt feelings but simply because they have no desire to take a risk in sharing how they really feel or discussing something which may be emotionally upsetting to them.

They’d rather just play it safe.

Classic sign: refuses to discuss anything meaningful or potentially upsetting by claiming it’s too “depressing” or “complex.” They have no real empathy for the suffering of others so they just say it’s not worth discussing. 

9) Low-key gaslighting of others

Many OPPs are low-key gaslighters. They hide in the shadows often spreading dissension and doubt about others in highly subtle ways

For example, they may give a backhanded compliment or have a sad wistful expression while complimenting someone, indicating that they don’t really believe the words they are saying. 

In many subtle ways, the OPP finds effective channels to throw shade at others while pretending to spread sunshine.

Classic sign: being polite but tinged with sarcasm or judgment in a hurtful way. They aren’t empathetic, they’re just using politeness as a socially acceptable way to jab others. 

10) Lack of follow-through on actually helping

Perhaps the most telltale sign of an OPP is that their outer politeness is not backed up by any actual helpfulness or action. 

While they are enormously polite and pleasing to others, they do not actually do anything for them, provide useful advice, or physically help them in any way. 

They simply say nice words, smile, nod and do what is socially acceptable, without ever doing anything that goes beyond the basic motions.

Classic sign: all talk, no action. Their empathy ends where real action and help would begin.

11) Reluctance or refusal to say sorry

OPPs maintain a perfectionist outlook and try to always do and say the right thing. 

They have an image of themselves as an ideal person who can do no wrong. 

For this reason they are very hesitant to say sorry, and tend to have a vastly inflated view of themselves in which they are a blameless and wonderful person who everybody else must like and approve of. 

Anything to the contrary causes them to become deeply upset and vindictive.

Classic sign: they’re all nice and pleasant until anybody calls them out or asks for an apology. They have no actual empathy for the harm they’ve done.

‘Wow, really? That’s crazy!’ 

OPPs are some of the worst folks out there. 

Life is too short to spread a thick veneer of unctuous niceness over everything and live in a sheltered bubble of pretend smiles and fake laughs.

By paying attention to the behaviors above, you can make sure that you pick out those who lack empathy and try to cover it by being excessively polite. 

Their etiquette means nothing, so don’t fall for it. 

Stick with the real ones. 

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on and visit his website at

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