8 “nice guy” behaviors that are actually quite manipulative, according to psychology

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They appear generous, always there to lend a hand, and never short of compliments.

Initially, it’s easy to be charmed by their seemingly selfless actions. 

But what if their kindness isn’t as genuine as it appears? 

What if they’re actually acting nice but harboring hidden ulterior motives?

Of course, real nice goes do exist — let’s not throw them under the bus here. 

What we want is to know how to distinguish between the genuine nice guys and the wolves in sheep’s clothing. 

Why do you think people fall in love with narcissists so deeply and so often? 

It’s because they’ve perfected the art of being “nice.” They know how to imitate it, but they can just as easily pull the rug from underneath you, leaving you wondering “Was any of it real?”

Let’s talk about a few “Nice guy” behaviors that could actually be low-key manipulation strategies. 

1) Excessive praise

“You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.” 

“I’ve never met anyone as talented/special/interesting as you.” 

“You have the most beautiful eyes.” 

Does any of this sound familiar? 

Think back — have you ever felt bombarded with compliments to the point it felt insincere? 

I recall a colleague who would compliment everyone incessantly. 

At first, it boosted the office morale. But soon, it became clear he used this tactic to curry favor and sway opinions. 

Complimenting people to ingratiate them is an old trick — and it works!

When someone compliments you and notices your efforts, it’s difficult not to be swayed a little bit. We all like compliments, don’t we? What’s the use in trying to pretend that we don’t? 

If you’re dealing with a manipulative narcissist, you should expect over-the-top compliments — especially early on. 

Praise is a part of the love-bombing stage. It’s how they deepen their relationship with you.

But what do they really want?

They want the opposite — for you to praise them, and recognize their heroic greatness. 

2) The hero in every story

You know the type of “kindness” that blows its own trumpet? 

It isn’t quiet or low-key, rather, it’s trying to attract as much attention as humanly possible. 

When someone does something kind just for others to see, it’s just a reputation-building exercise and nothing more. 

If it doesn’t come from a genuine place of concern, it isn’t real kindness — it’s vanity. 

Their actions might seem altruistic, but there’s often an underlying desire for control and dependency. 

True kindness doesn’t need an audience — it’s quiet and unassuming.

But for narcissistic manipulators, every act of help is a step towards gaining a foothold in your life and painting themselves as heroes. 

3) Guilt-tripping

Psychology recognizes guilt-tripping as a core manipulation tactic. 

This strategy cleverly transforms acts of kindness into a form of currency. 

“I did all these things for you — you own me.” 

“How could you not help me after I did all these nice things for you?” 

You mean all the things I didn’t ask for?

It’s subtle, but that doesn’t make it any less forceful. 

They exploit the natural human tendency to reciprocate kindness, but they twist it and turn it into something ugly and tyrannical. 

Guilt-tripping can leave you feeling terrible. 

And while they’re the ones deceptively manipulating you, you’re the one left feeling in the wrong. Sound about right?

Despite knowing deep down that they’re manipulating you strategically, they continue to play the victim. 

Don’t play into their hands. 

4) The constant victim

When someone plays the victim, most normal people respond by trying to make them feel less victimized. 

For normal people, when we see someone we care about feeling low, we instinctively want to elevate their moods. 

You might ask yourself 

  • Is it my fault? 
  • Did I do something to hurt them? 
  • Am I being evil without knowing it? 

If you do ask yourself these questions — congratulations. You’re probably not a narcissistic psychopath. 

Recent psychological research shows that playing victimhood can indicate dark triad personality traits. 

And trust me, they’re called “dark” for a reason.  

5) Passive-aggressive behavior

Passive-aggressive behavior is another hallmark of the manipulative “nice guy.” 

They seem nice and avoid fighting, but they show they are upset or want to control things without saying it directly.

They might do things like leave mean notes in a sneaky way or say something that sounds nice but is actually hurtful. 

This lets them keep looking like the good person while they get to have things their way.

Passive aggression is a weird one. 

It’s like you can’t catch hold of it or address it directly. It’s slithery by nature. 

I’m a very direct person. So, when someone’s not being straight with me, I get frustrated. 

I can’t really tolerate underhanded comments or when people say mean things in a “nice” voice. 

It’s like they want to get a dig in but don’t want to be called out for being aggressive. 

7) Sorry, sorry, not sorry

When someone constantly says “sorry,” it might seem like they’re really understanding or empathetic. 

However, if “sorry” comes out of their mouth for every little thing, it’s time to pause and think. 

Over-apologizing can actually be a warning sign. 

It’s not just about being polite or considerate; it often has an ulterior motive.

Why do they do it? 

Well, by saying sorry all the time, they can create an image of being harmless and non-threatening. 

It’s like they’re saying, “Look at me, I’m so sensitive and aware of my actions.”

When someone always seems to be in the wrong or at fault, it naturally triggers a compassionate response from others. 

You might start to feel protective or more lenient towards them.

This tactic shifts the dynamic in their favor. 

It’s a subtle form of manipulation. 

8) Promising the world

They make it sound like they can do anything and everything. And this makes you think you can count on them. 

But there’s a catch to why they do this.

They promise a lot because they want you to see them as your go-to person for everything. 

But the truth is, they don’t always plan to keep those big promises. 

They just like the way it makes them look and the power it gives them over situations.

Over time, you start to notice that they can’t or won’t actually deliver on all the things they said would be “no problem at all.”

This can be disappointing, why get your hopes up only to leave you hanging in mid-air?

People like this are only good at talking. 

Don’t waste your time on them.

Seeing past the facade of “niceness” 

If you’re with a guy who consistently exhibits these “nice guy” behaviors but something feels a bit off, it might be time to evaluate the situation more closely. 

It’s not about cynicism; it’s about staying alert and understanding the real motives. 

Real kindness is genuine, effortless, and doesn’t seek anything in return. 

Trust your instincts.

If something’s nagging on your conscience saying “Hold up, something’s not right here” — listen to it. 

You might initially think “But he’s so nice, how could I possibly doubt him.” 

That might be exactly what he wants you to think. 

Not everyone who acts nice to you has your best interests at heart. 

Learning to differentiate between genuine kindness and manipulative niceness can save you from a world of emotional turmoil.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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