People who are friendly on the surface but manipulative underneath often display these 6 specific behaviors

Could you tell the difference between someone who’s genuinely friendly and someone who’s being nice to you so that they can manipulate you? 

Manipulators are incredibly hard to spot, especially when they’re masking their intentions with friendly and kind behavior. 

But don’t worry, I’ve dealt with my fair share of manipulators and I’m about to share 6 behaviors you can watch out for to make sure you don’t get tricked by a seemingly warm, friendly individual.  

1) They always agree with you 

Ever met someone who just agrees with everything you say? 

They laugh at all your jokes and nod along with every word you say. It’s like they’re your biggest fan. They’re yes people, like Jim Carey’s character in the movie ‘Yes Man’.

And it feels pretty great, doesn’t it? So what’s the problem? 

Here’s the deal: being super agreeable can be a sneaky way for someone to win you over. In the beginning, they seem like the best friend you never had, you guys just click. 

Although it looks and feels like true friendship, people like this have mastered the art of making friends quickly so that when the time comes they can get their way. 

Next time you notice a new friend is always agreeing with you, pause and ask yourself; is this genuine or is there something else going on here?

2) They shower you with affection and attention

In romantic relationships, this is known as love bombing where a new partner seems like they can’t get enough of you and they smother you with love. 

But make no mistake: you don’t have to be romantically involved for someone to shower you with affection and attention. 

Picture this: you’ve got a new pal who seems really friendly. They’ll check in with you throughout the day via text, they might like or comment on your recent social media posts to show support. And they invite you to hang out a lot. 

It feels like the friendship goes from zero to a hundred super quickly. You just met and now you’re best friends. But sometimes this is intentional. 

It’s a common tactic that manipulative people use. They make themselves a big part of your life quickly which encourages you to let your guard down making it easier for them to control you.  

New friendships are great but just like in a romantic relationship, if things are moving very quickly, you need to pump the brakes and ask yourself “Why”? 

3) They flatter you with compliments

We all appreciate a nice compliment every once in a while, right? 

It’s normal for friends to compliment each other. It’s a nice gesture and can even make someone’s day. 

But sometimes, manipulative people use compliments as a way to make you feel secure around them. 

Remember Saul Goodman (played by Bob Odenkirk), the super friendly yet crooked lawyer from Breaking Bad (and Better Call Saul)? He was incredibly charming and always quick to give a compliment. 

He was also a master manipulator and his charm and overuse of compliments were tactics he used to fool his unsuspecting victims. 

A compliment here and there is fine, but if you start to realize that someone is constantly flattering you, take a moment to consider if it could be more than just genuine admiration.

4) They overdo it with the physical affection 

Is there anything more comforting than a warm hug from a friend or loved one? 

When you think about it: whether it’s a pat on the back, an encouraging squeeze of the shoulder, or a soft reassuring touch on your forearm, it’s not unusual for friends to show affection through touch. 

And over time it can make you feel closer and deepen your bond. In fact, “research has shown that hugging can release large quantities of oxytocin, the human pair-bonding hormone” as outlined by Psychology Today

However, if you find someone is always showing you physical affection, it might be a tactic to create a false sense of closeness. 

Manipulative people know that if you feel close to them, it’ll be easier for them to control you and get what they want from you. 

Pay attention to how much affection your friends are showing you, a little is fine but if it seems excessive, you might be dealing with a manipulator, no matter how friendly they seem. 

5) They offer strategic kindness and generosity

In one of my first jobs out of university, a girl in the office befriended me on my first day. I was grateful for it. We were around the same age and seemed to have a lot in common. 

She was so lovely, she even got me a bunch of flowers to congratulate me on completing my first week. 

At first, I was delighted to have made such a great new friend. But as time went on I started to notice a pattern. 

I wasn’t the only one to benefit from her kindness and generosity. Whenever she needed something from someone, she’d do something kind or generous for them first. That way, it’d be much harder for them to say no after she’d been so kind. 

Do you know anyone who shows kindness and gives gifts often? Maybe they’re genuinely kind and there’s nothing in it for them. 

But look closely, if the gift comes with strings attached, or only when they need something, that’s strategic generosity and classic behavior of a manipulative person.

6) They overshare quickly 

Have ever found yourself in a situation where someone you don’t know that well is confiding in you and looking for your advice on a personal matter?

They could be going through something at home or need some advice about a problem at work, and they come to you with it. 

Typically when someone shows you emotional vulnerability like this it suggests they trust you and that you’ve developed a strong bond.

It feels good to be trusted and encourages you to show vulnerability too. 

But be cautious – if it feels like this person is oversharing very early in your friendship or relationship, it could be a ploy to make you open up and share your secrets too.

It’s a tactic manipulative people like to use because if they can get you to open up, they can gather valuable information that they can use against you later to get what they want. 

Always remember, before sharing too much, ask yourself “Do I know this person well enough to trust them with this information?”. 

Final thoughts 

Although they may seem friendly on the outside, some people are often using sneaky tactics to manipulate you. 

Emotional manipulation is rooted in your trust and care for the other person which is why they often go to these lengths to create the illusion of real friendship. 

Watch out for these behaviors and trust your gut. If something feels off, take a step back and assess the situation. If they’re a true friend they’ll understand your desire to slow things down. 

And if they’re a manipulator, you’ll stop them in their tracks. It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.

Cat Harper

Cat is an experienced Sales and Enablement professional turned writer whose passions span from psychology and relationships to continuous self-improvement, lifelong learning and pushing back on societal expectations to forge a life she loves. An avid traveler and adventure sports enthusiast, in her downtime you'll find Cat snowboarding, motorcycling or working on her latest self-development project.

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