Underhand tactics are understandably hard to spot.
Sneaky people often adopt subtle tactics to get their own way, hide wrongdoing, and twist the facts.
That’s why we need to be vigilant for seemingly innocent behavior that is actually pretty sly.
1) Excessive flattery
I guess the tricky part here is knowing what is authentic and what isn’t.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of flattery in general.
I’ve always found it a bit creepy when someone lays on the compliments too thickly.
Having a silver tongue doesn’t impress me, because words are ultimately cheap.
Actions count a whole lot more. Yet actions demand that someone takes the time and effort to prove themselves.
Words on the other hand can hide ulterior motives.
Charming words can become spell-like, intended to sweet talk you into something.
That’s why we need to watch out for love bombing.
When flattery is turned up to excess, it’s a strong red flag that someone cannot be trusted.
2) Always playing the victim
Constantly seeking sympathy is actually a sneaky behavior.
It’s ultimately manipulative yet it’s designed to fly under the radar so that it goes unnoticed.
You are focused on pitying them, so you may not see how they are pulling your strings.
They may make you feel like it’s always your fault. You may notice you end up saying sorry all the time, even when you’ve done nothing wrong.
They may try to harness your sympathy for them by enlisting you to take responsibilities in their life that you really shouldn’t.
This brings me nicely to the next behavior on our list.
3) Asking for one too many favors
It’s kind to help each other out.
But what if someone is constantly asking for things from you?
No matter how politely they do it, it’s actually rude.
When we like someone and they’re important to us, we can start to feel obligated to say yes to them.
There comes a point when a sneaky person may try to take advantage of this.
It becomes burdensome to you, yet they don’t seem to notice. Or perhaps it is that they do not care!
If someone is selfish enough to always put you out, yet never return a favor, they probably can’t be trusted.
4) Badmouthing people who they claim are friends
If someone talks about their friends being their backs, it tells you something significant about their character.
None of which is particularly good.
It suggests that they are neither loyal nor straightforward with people.
Because badmouthing often happens when we have a problem with someone, but we don’t know how to voice it.
Rather than be honest about how we feel, we keep quiet about it…but only to their face.
Because when we try to avoid conflict at all costs, it ends up becoming insidious.
Unvoiced irritation has a habit of seeping out in ugly ways.
5) Secretly relishing in other’s misfortune
“Well, they brought it on themselves”.
If someone they know is going through a hard time, they don’t exactly take a sympathetic stance.
In fact, they can be pretty judgemental and unfeeling.
But more than that, it’s as though they get a kick out of bad things happening to other people.
They rush over with wide eyes and a gleeful tone to their voice to ask if you heard about what happened to Jenny yesterday.
Other people’s sadness and struggles provide gossip and excitement for them.
6) Habitually pointing out people’s flaws
It’s really easy to point fingers.
But rather than being about high standards, it’s more about superiority.
Some people feel better about themselves by bringing others down a peg or two.
Much like relishing in people’s misfortune, it’s a sneaky habit that shows they don’t have others’ best interests at heart.
If someone loves nothing more than to look for the worst in people, how can you trust them?
7) Making snide and subtle putdowns
Way too many open digs masquerade as jokes.
They get passed off as “just kidding” when really they are clear insults.
Humor that belittles you or makes you feel bad about yourself becomes abusive.
It’s a classic sneaky tactic used by people who want to passive-aggressively knock you without owning up to it.
Backhanded compliments, making fun of you, or teasing that goes too far isn’t just sneaky, it’s cruel.
8) Taking credit for others’ work
- Suggesting it was “a team effort”.
- Inflating their role in something.
- Not correcting the bosses’ misunderstanding that it was their brilliant idea.
Let’s face it, we all enjoy praise, but it has to be earned.
Trying to muscle in on someone else’s success and hard work is dishonest.
If they will happily take credit for something they haven’t done, they’re not totally trustworthy.
9) Sharing secrets they don’t have a right to tell
Let’s call it what it is:
Whether it takes place in a group or privately one-on-one makes no real difference.
The outcome is the same:
It’s using someone else’s private information and circumstances as entertainment.
If someone trusts us with details that we know they want us to keep to ourselves, that should be honored.
Otherwise, it’s breaking the trust that all close relationships should be built upon.
10) Twisting stories to their advantage
There’s a blatant lie. There’s the honest truth. But then there’s something in between too.
Sneaky people aren’t always so obvious to get caught out in telling a whopper.
But they may prefer to bend the facts and embellish a story instead.
Their exaggeration could be to inflate their self-esteem. Or it could be to diminish and downplay their part in something negative.
Pay attention to if someone retells a story to their own advantage.
It shows that the truth is flexible if it suits them.
11) All talk and no follow-through
They talk a good game, but it never materializes into action.
Whilst blatant broken promises never go unnoticed, the same cannot always be said for general flaky behavior.
For example, they say they’ll call you on Sunday, but they never do.
They volunteer to help you with something, but nearer the time, the excuses come out.
They want to people please and so they say all the right things. But that’s not backed up by their behavior.
Part of the problem is that no one is nice all of the time. This is why you should be very wary of anyone who pretends to be, as we’ll see next.
12) Acting like they’re perfect
Now, you might say I’m a cynic but I’m always a bit cautious when I meet someone who is “too nice”.
That’s because nobody is perfect.
So when it seems like someone is presenting themselves as always happy, always caring, always in a good mood — I can’t help but suspect there is a catch.
Being authentic means admitting our weaknesses as well as our strengths.
So when someone goes out of their way to try to be seen as flawless, I smell BS.
Rather than be perfect, realistically there is probably just a side to them you haven’t seen yet.
Being sneaky is about trying to get away with something
We should all try to be mindful of when sneaky behavior creeps in.
Because sometimes it’s not always about trying to maliciously trick or deceive. It can be about avoiding uncomfortable situations or even trying too hard to please.
The truth isn’t always easy to muster up. But it is important if we want to be known as honest and credible people.
Lost Your Sense of Purpose?
In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.
Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.
Her uniquely insightful values exercises will illuminate what inspires you, what you stand for, and how you aim to operate. This serves as a refreshing filter to tune out societal noise so you can make choices rooted in what matters most to you.
With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.
Stop drifting without purpose. Rediscover what makes you come alive with Jeanette Brown’s values clarity guide.