10 classic ways to spot a fake person, according to psychology

There’s a stark contrast between genuine people and those who are fake.

Fake individuals often have hidden agendas, concealing their true selves behind a well-crafted facade.

On the flip side, authentic people are transparent, giving you the freedom to take them as they are.

Psychology offers fascinating insights into distinguishing the real from the counterfeit. And trust me, there are classic signs that can guide you in spotting a fake person.

Let’s dive in. 

1) They’re always on stage

Fake people often act as if they’re in a perpetual performance, putting on a show for everyone they meet.

They can change their colors like a chameleon, adjusting their personality to match the expectations or demands of their current audience. This constant need to impress and win approval can be exhausting to watch and even more draining to be part of.

As the renowned psychologist Carl Jung once said, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” Genuine people embrace this privilege, while fake individuals continually run from it.

Spotting a ‘performer’ isn’t always easy, but with a discerning eye and understanding of human behavior, you can save yourself the drama of dealing with a fake individual.

2) They’re inconsistent

You know, I once had a colleague who would act like my best friend one day, and then barely acknowledge my existence the next day. It was confusing, to say the least.

This inconsistency in behavior is a classic sign of a fake person. One moment they’re all smiles and compliments, the next they’re indifferent or even hostile.

As American psychologist Rollo May said, “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity.”

Fake people often flip-flop in their behaviors and attitudes based on who they are around, conforming to what they think others want them to be.

When someone’s behavior lacks consistency, it’s a clear red flag that you might be dealing with a fake person.

3) They lack depth

Let’s be brutally honest here – fake people often lack the depth that comes with authenticity and self-awareness.

Conversations with them can feel like skimming the surface of a lake, never diving deep enough to see what’s underneath.

They avoid personal topics and introspection, sticking to safe, superficial subjects. This lack of depth is often because they’re afraid of what might be revealed if they allow themselves to be vulnerable.

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, said, “Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.”

Unfortunately, fake people rarely engage in this exercise.

If you’re left feeling unsatisfied after a conversation, as if you haven’t truly connected or learned anything substantial about the person, there’s a chance you’re dealing with someone who’s not being genuine.

4) They’re quick to brag

Growing up, I knew a kid who constantly bragged about his achievements, whether it was his grades, his sports feats, or his family’s wealth. It was as if he was always trying to prove his worth.

This is a common trait among fake people. They can’t resist the urge to show off their accomplishments or possessions, often exaggerating the truth along the way.

As psychologist Abraham Maslow pointed out, “What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.”

But for individuals who are constantly boasting, it’s clear that their self-awareness is skewed.

If someone constantly feels the need to impress you with their greatness, it might be time to question their authenticity.

5) They’re overly agreeable

Now, this may seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t it a good thing to get along with people and avoid conflict?

Well, yes, but there’s a line between being agreeable and being a people-pleaser. Fake people often cross this line. They’ll nod and smile, agreeing with everything you say, even if it contradicts something they said earlier.

As Albert Bandura, a renowned psychologist noted, “In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life.”

But for those who are always agreeable, this sense of self is often lost in their effort to please everyone else.

If someone never disagrees or has an opinion of their own, chances are they’re not showing you their true self.

6) They’re quick to gossip

Fake people often engage in gossip, spreading rumors and reveling in the misfortunes of others. This is a diversionary tactic to shift focus from their own shortcomings and insecurities.

The well-known psychologist, Carl Rogers, once stated, “What I am is good enough if I would only be it openly.”

However, fake people often struggle with this concept, choosing to belittle others rather than embrace their own authenticity.

Beware of those who are quick to share secrets or talk negatively about others; they may not be as genuine as they seem.

7) They struggle with empathy

I once had a friend who would often dismiss my feelings. I’d share my struggles, and she’d brush them off, making me feel as though my emotions were invalid. It was a painful realization, but it became clear that she lacked genuine empathy.

Fake people often struggle to empathize with others because they’re too focused on their own image and performance. They fail to connect on a deeper, emotional level.

“Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes,” says psychologist Daniel Goleman. But for fake people, these shoes are often left unworn.

When someone dismisses your feelings or struggles to show empathy, it’s a red flag that they might not be as genuine as they appear.

8) They crave attention

Here’s the raw truth – fake people are often attention seekers. They thrive on being the center of attention, even if it means overshadowing others or resorting to dramatic behaviors.

They’re driven by a need for validation and approval, always seeking the spotlight to feel seen and important.

People who crave attention are generally not being true to their most essential nature.

Unfortunately, for fake individuals, this essential nature is often lost in their pursuit of attention.

If someone consistently demands the spotlight and disregards others, it’s a telltale sign of their lack of authenticity.

9) They’re overly critical

This might seem counterintuitive, but fake people are often overly critical of others. While it’s healthy to provide constructive feedback, constantly criticizing others reveals more about the critic than the criticized.

Fake individuals tend to point out others’ flaws and mistakes to divert attention from their own insecurities or shortcomings.

As psychologist Carl Rogers so aptly put it, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

But for fake people, self-acceptance is often replaced with criticism of others.

If you notice someone who is overly critical, chances are they might not be showing their authentic self.

10) They lack reliability

I remember a friend who always made big promises but seldom kept them. It became clear that his word meant very little, making him unreliable and untrustworthy.

Reliability is a trait that fake people often lack. They make grand promises and commitments but fail to follow through, leaving others in the lurch.

Esteemed psychologist Erik Erikson said, “In the social jungle of human existence, there is no feeling of being alive without a sense of identity.”

But fake people often struggle with this sense of identity, making their actions and promises inconsistent.

If someone consistently lets you down or fails to keep their word, it’s a clear sign that they might not be as genuine as they seem.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor 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 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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