9 habits that make people doubt your sincerity (and how to fix them)

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You could be a genuine and authentic person. 

But there are certain habits that make you come across as sketchy and unreliable. 

Here are the top habits that make you look fake and how to fix them. 

1) Being overly polite 

Being overly polite is the first of the habits that make people doubt your sincerity.

We’ve all experienced extremely polite people

It can be pleasant and classy to be treated with enormous consideration and courtesy. 

But it can also reach a stage where extreme politeness can almost sound like a “f*ck you” or very fake. 

Be careful with treating other people very formally or politely. 

It can make you seem less approachable and kind of fake even though you might not intend it that way.

Fix it by being respectful but not sycophantic. Talk respectfully and be courteous, but do not be over the top or excessive in your politeness. 

2) Showering people with flattery

Next up we come to flattering people too much. 

Flattery has its place, and saying nice things about people is a great idea in many cases!

But doing so much does two things:

  • It lowers the value of your praise since people see you praise them and everyone else all the time regardless of what they do. They figure you’d give them a high five just for parallel parking well and no longer attach much value to your appreciation. 
  • It comes across insincere since even if you really mean it, flattering people is coming associated with trying to manipulate folks and get something from them. Even if that’s not how you mean it, that’s how it can come across and be perceived. 

Fix it by only praising people and flattering them when something really stands out. When you feel unsure what to say or whether you’re connecting with somebody, resist the urge to randomly compliment them. 

3) Laughing at jokes you don’t find funny

Laughing at jokes you don’t find funny is in a related category to over flattery. 

There are many situations where you want to fit in, make a good impression or show you appreciate someone. 

It could be a colleague, a friend, a romantic partner or even somebody you just met telling you a story and talking to you. 

They tell a joke that’s not really funny at all, but you chuckle and nod in appreciation. 

Wrong move. Especially when you do this repeatedly people will lose some respect for your sincerity. 

Fix it by just laughing at jokes you actually find funny! 

4) Smiling all the time

There’s a time for smiling and there’s no doubt that a sincere smile can lighten up an interaction and deepen trust.

But smiling all the time comes across as insincere

You look like Justin Trudeau at a political rally, some kind of humanoid mannequin with a clownish smile pasted on at all times. 

Smiling too much makes you seem fake. It just does. 

Even if you actually are smiling for real, many people will interpret it as you trying to take advantage of them or pretend to like them. 

Fix it by practicing moderating your facial expression in the mirror. If you’re constantly smiling, try some different expressions on for size. 

5) Mismatching your face with your message

On a related note, one of the habits that makes you look the most insincere is mismatching your facial expression with what you’re saying, or what somebody else is saying. 

If your neighbor is discussing the loss of her husband last year and you’re beaming a smile the whole time it’s going to come across pretty bizarre. 

If your son comes home ecstatic about his victory in a hockey tournament and you’re scowling while telling him great job, he’s going to think you don’t mean it. 

Maybe you do! But your facial expression should try to match what you’re saying or responding to.  

Fix it by  practicing active listening and trying your best to not get lost in your own separate thoughts and feelings while somebody is telling you something or you are saying something to them. 

As Anett Grant writes:

“If you’re delivering a positive message, your face should read as being positive as well. If you’re giving a message that isn’t so positive, your face should look serious.”

6) Incessant fidgeting and nervous tics 

Some of us fidget more than others or have nervous tics that we may barely even be aware of.

We may be a completely genuine person. 

But these tics and fidgeting behaviors make you look shifty and insincere. 

You could be the most honest fellow or lady on God’s green earth. 

But when your thumbs seem to be dancing the tango and you can’t stop shuffling like a clown who’s had too many energy drinks it scares people and makes them think you must be trustworthy. 

Fix it by practicing meditation and calming exercises to limit how much you fidget and shift around. 

7) Flaking out on commitments and promises you make 

You may have a very busy life with many things coming up at unexpected times. 

It’s the reality in many cases. 

But when your busy life causes you to make too many commitments and promises that fall through, it can make you seem insincere. 

This also leads to folks putting much less stock in your word.

Fortunately the solution is fairly simple. 

Fix it by under promising and over delivering. If you don’t promise and commit to as much but still come through, people will be pleasantly surprised. 

8) Name dropping famous or accomplished friends and acquaintances 

You may know quite a few famous people or some very connected and wealthy individuals. 

This is a great thing, and can be a big networking benefit. 

But when you mention them too much in conversation it can make you seem cocky and insincere as if you are trying to brag. 

You may actually just be trying to mention who you know and help somebody out, but it’s going to make you look like a show-off in most cases.

Fix it by only mentioning prestigious or famous people you know if the specific subject comes up or somebody asks. 

9) Sending mixed messages to people based on what you want from them 

Everybody has interests and things they want from each other. 

That’s life and there’s no shame in it. 

The issue occurs when you begin to slide into transactionalism.

In other words, when you begin to treat people noticeably differently based on whether you want something from them or not. 

This can be something you’re not even aware of:

You soften your voice when talking to your girlfriend because you want her to go shopping later, or you call your brother and ask how he is, but you actually are just calling to get a ride to the airport next week.

Normally you are dismissive to your girlfriend and you usually rarely call your brother simply for social reasons.  

You may not even consciously admit that you’re changing how you treat people or being more in touch with them based on what you want, but you are. 

Fix it by being conscious of treating people with respect and interest whether or not you want something from them. 

Yours truly 

Many of us learned to sign our name after writing “yours truly” to end a letter or request. 

This sign off says we are sincere and that what we have written is what we mean and is true. 

In life, also, we should think of every interaction as being true and authentic. 

If you have bad habits that make you seem shifty, work to correct them using the tips I’ve outlined above. 

If the bad habits point to actual deeper insincerity, work to untangle the roots of that first and then proceed to eliminate the habits themselves. 

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