People who are trustworthy on the surface but manipulative underneath often display these 7 subtle behaviors

I like to believe that everyone has good intentions.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Some people excel at acting like they’re in your corner when they’re actually playing you to get their way.

In even worse news, it can be difficult to discern their true intentions. They’re skilled at presenting themselves in a good light.

Understanding the cunning tactics they use to get under your skin can help you distinguish the pretenders from the ride-or-dies who have your back. 

People who are trustworthy on the surface but manipulative underneath often display these 7 subtle behaviors.

Don’t buy into their bogus act.

1) They are excessively charming

The first thing you should know about people who appear trustworthy and are anything but is that they use charm as a tool to manipulate others for their gain.

When you first meet them, they quickly win you over by complimenting you, flattering you, and agreeing with every word you say.

They go out of their way to be helpful, which enables them to gain your trust. 

After all, we are naturally drawn to individuals who seem friendly and approachable.

However, this charming exterior masks their true aim, which is to use others as they see fit.

Before you know it, you realize that their generosity comes with strings, and their compliments aren’t as genuine as they appeared at first sight.

No one is 100% agreeable 24/7.

When someone is working overtime to win you over immediately after you meet, being suspicious doesn’t make you paranoid.

It’s self-preservation. 

The best kind of trust is earned over time.

2) They are careful about what and when they reveal

Manipulative folk carefully choose which information they disclose to others to maintain their facade of trustworthiness while simultaneously furthering their manipulative goals.

You may think that you’re getting to know them when, in reality, they only tell you what they think will help them get closer to their end goal.

They’re rarely vulnerable, even if they appear as they are.

They also pay close attention to the timing of their disclosures.

Manipulative individuals reveal information strategically, waiting for the moment when their reveal will have the greatest impact on their target.

Imagine you and a friendly co-worker are vying for the same promotion. 

At the same time, you get an offer from another company and are unsure what to do.

You tell your co-worker about it, asking for advice. 

Instead of being honest and helpful, they tell you about a time when they got a tempting offer and turned it down. They explain that they’ve regretted the decision ever since.

By doing this, they’re subtly influencing you to pick the professional opportunity that would leave them the only one in the running for the promotion at your current company.

To call them sneaky would be an understatement.

3) They are strategically kind

People who are trustworthy on the surface but manipulative underneath often use kindness strategically.

They know that kindness is a powerful tool for building rapport with others, so they paint themselves as generous to win your trust.

After a while, though, you notice that their good deeds create a sense of obligation.

When someone is consistently helpful, you feel indebted to them.

Manipulative individuals exploit this sense of obligation to request favors and compliance.

If they ask you to do something you’re not comfortable with, they guilt trip you into caving to their request:

  • Remember when I helped you with that thing?
  • After all the times I helped you, you can’t return the favor?
  • I do so many things for you and when I need you most you turn me down?
  • I guess you’re not the kind of friend I thought you were.

You get the idea.

If the person would be a true friend, their help and support wouldn’t be conditional.

4) They take advantage of your insecurities

pic2196 People who are trustworthy on the surface but manipulative underneath often display these 7 subtle behaviors

I knew this girl in my early twenties who was duplicitous to the bone.

Her biggest strength?

Using your insecurities against you.

It took me forever to notice her true colors because she was charming and kind on the surface.

The more time we spent together and I shared my fears, the more ammunition I gave her.

I had a crush on this guy we were both friendly with, and I confided in her about my feelings.

She pretended to be on my side, but looking back all the “advice” she gave me was garbage.

Plus, whenever we all hung out in a group she would use my insecurities to undermine me, disguising her tactics as “help”.

If we went out to eat, she would tell me that maybe I shouldn’t order dessert because I struggle with my weight as it is. She said it loud enough for everyone, including my crush, to hear.

If we went to a club, she would criticize my outfit in front of everyone and offer to go shopping with me because I desperately needed a wardrobe refresh.

Turns out, she had a crush on the guy, too.

When they got together, she wasted no time rubbing their relationship in my face.

And me?

I felt like the biggest fool in the universe.

If you’re close to someone who makes you feel uncomfortable about what you perceive to be your shortcomings, stop giving them the time of day.

Our loved ones should build us up, not tear us down.

5) They manufacture drama

Manipulative people have a knack for manufacturing drama.

They love to stir up conflict, spread rumors, and instigate disagreements among others.

This strategy lets them create chaos, which distracts people from recognizing their true intentions.

In a friend group, for instance, they might start a rumor about one friend betraying another, causing tension.

While the drama unfolds, the manipulative individual positions themselves as a mediator, gaining influence over the group’s dynamics to serve their own purposes.

In the context of a romantic relationship, a manipulative partner may try to isolate you from your loved ones by suggesting they aren’t good for you or by insisting they say mean things behind your back.

Drama is a powerful tool for manipulating emotions.

Don’t get sucked into it.

6) They give you the cold shoulder for no reason

People who are trustworthy on the surface but manipulative underneath will often give you the cold shoulder with zero warning.

By withdrawing affection or communication without explaining why, they create a sense of unease.

This leaves you questioning what you did wrong and longing for their approval.

They might also distance themselves from you as a form of punishment.

If you do something they don’t agree with, they abruptly stop interacting with you until you apologize or concede to do things their way.

By intermittently withdrawing attention, they keep you guessing about where you stand and dependent on their validation.

This only reinforces their power.

Someone truly trustworthy doesn’t disappear when they’re unhappy with you.

They sit you down and talk about the situation, hoping you can come up with a solution together.

It’s the healthy way to go.

7) They claim they only want the best for you

Another popular manipulation tactic among people who appear trustworthy is to claim they want the best for you to trick you into giving them your cooperation.

They may offer unsolicited advice or assistance to help you grow, when in fact they’re stressing you out to further their agenda.

For example, a manipulative boss will constantly criticize your (great) work, pointing out areas for improvement and offering suggestions for how to do better.

While they insist they’re invested in your professional development, they’re using criticism to undercut your career aspirations.

When you’re perpetually doubting your performance, you’re less likely to jump ship, as well as demand a raise or promotion.

For devious people, support is often a ruse designed to control your behavior.

Don’t let them get away with it.

Bottom line

There’s nothing more disappointing than putting your trust in someone unworthy.

You deserve much better than that.

Listen to your gut and use the information above to spot subtle manipulation behavior from a mile away. 

Avoiding duplicitous people will save you tons of heartache in the long run.

Alexandra Plesa

Alexandra Plesa

Alexandra Pleșa is a freelance writer obsessed with television, self-development, and thriller books. Former journalist, current pop culture junkie. Follow her on Twitter: @alexandraplesa

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