13 ways to spot a fake person, according to psychology

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Dealing with fake people is so draining, isn’t it?

All they want is superficial attention—not genuine connection. So, no matter how hard you try to get to know them or form a connection with them, it’s just impossible.

Not only do they not show you their true colors, they try to actively deceive you by making themselves seem better than they actually are.

At best, the insincerity is just mildly uncomfortable. But at worst, it feels outright disrespectful.

But sometimes, it can be hard to decipher if someone is being fake. After all, fake people will of course, try not to make it obvious that they’re being fake.

We’ve compiled a list of 13 tricks to help you determine whether someone isn’t being real with you—so you can stop wasting your precious time with them.

Here are 13 ways to spot a fake person, according to psychology.

1) They seduce you with sweet lies

Often, fake people are people pleasers

It makes sense. 

They know they can’t please everybody with their natural personality, so they’ll change themselves to fit in with whoever they’re with at that moment.

By saying the right things to the right people (even if they don’t mean it), they can get what they want from anyone. Or, at least, they won’t have to deal with the friction of conflicting personalities.

Then, when people figure out, they feel betrayed or manipulated. Relationships, whether personal or professional, get damaged.

Why? Because you have no solid proof that they’re being fake, and you have to stay polite with them even if you know they’re lying to your face.

2) They’re inconsistent

Because they always want to say the “right” things all the time, you’ll notice that they can be inconsistent with what they’re saying. 

One day, they’ll tell you they’re big fans of a certain author. 

But when around a group of people who don’t share the same opinion, they’ll backpedal and say they think that that author isn’t really that good.

Huh?

Sometimes, they’ll make too many commitments to please the people around them as well. But then they won’t follow through with these plans, further disappointing these people.

All they want is to fit in—not make genuine bonds with people. 

3) They’re crass

On the flip side, some of them can also be pretty crass. 

Why? 

Because in their quest to sound cool and interesting, they may put someone down with harsh comments.

Their words will not only feel insincere, they might even be outright insensitive. There’s always this air of uncomfortable negativity around them. 

They’re constantly trying to lift themselves up by putting others down.

That’s why they’re prone to:

  • Passive-aggressive comments;
  • One-upping people’s achievements;
  • Gossiping negatively about other people.

4) They don’t listen to you

There’s a difference between hearing and listening. Fake people will hear you but only pretend to listen. 

They’ll nod, say mhmm, and yeah, yeah, but they’re not actually absorbing what you’re saying. 

Or, if they are listening, they’re listening so they know what to say, not because they sincerely want to understand you or empathize with you.

All they care about is determining what’s the best thing to say in that situation so they can be as likable to people as possible.

Then, once you notice this, you’ll realize you’ve been wasting your breath. 

It’s so, so tiring!

5) They only show up when they need something

Do you have that friend who tells you that you’re their best friend but only talks to you when they need something? 

But when you need something from them, they always have an excuse.

Yeah, that’s a fake friend, all right. 

They’re faking how much they like you so they can stay “friends” out of convenience. They’re essentially just using you—manipulating you.

No wonder you feel like they’re sucking the life out of you. They take and take without giving anything in return.

6) They won’t put any effort into the friendship

In general, they won’t put much effort into maintaining or deepening your friendship. This is why you feel like you’re carrying your friendship by yourself

Since they’re essentially using you, they’ll see every interaction with you as a waste of time unless they’re benefitting from it. 

Expect them to:

  • Not reply to messages or reply blandly;
  • Turn down invitations;
  • Be disinterested in things unless it benefits them;
  • Ask to alter plans for their convenience alone.

7) They mostly talk about themselves 

Do you know someone that always redirects the conversation to themselves?

Let’s say a friend is sharing about how a loved one died recently.

Your fake friend will suddenly make it all about their experience of grief from a decade ago.

If the conversation isn’t about them, you’ll either catch them not paying attention or struggling to redirect the topic to themselves (again).

At best, you’ll see them itching to butt in with an anecdote about themselves.

Whenever you share something about yourself, they’ll always relate it to their story, which you somehow find hard to believe (because it’s probably made up). 

According to psychology, this is an indication of attention-seeking behavior, and this shows that they’re fake.

8) They get jealous

A true friend will be happy for your achievements. But a fake friend will feel jealous and resentful.

When you share positive things about your life, expect them to use passive-aggressive phrases like:

  • “Well, good for you then.”
  • “At least one of us is lucky.”
  • “You’ve always been the better person.”
  • “I wish I was you. I’m just (insert negative adjective here).”

It’s tiring, isn’t it?

At worst, they’ll ditch you as a friend because they won’t be the center of attention in the friend group anymore.

9) They have different personalities

Fake people have a roster of masks they choose from, depending on who they’re with.

With some people, they’re the life of the party, cracking jokes and being the center of conversation. 

With others, they try to play it cool, reserved, and collected. You know, trying to be sexy and mysterious and all that.

Of course, we’re all like this to some extent. How we act when we’re with our parents is probably a bit different from how we are when we’re hanging out with friends.

But when regular people do this, they show different sides of themselves. They’re not faking anything.

Fake people will completely make up a personality just to be as likable as possible to whoever they’re with.

Whether they want attention, career opportunities, or even sex, they’ll try to impress the person they’re talking to—even if it means pulling stuff out of their butt.

10) They want to be the center of attention

They do this because they want all the eyes on them. 

This is a big sign of a fake person. They simply tend to be quite narcissistic. 

This is because a big chunk of their self-worth and self-identity rests on how much attention they can get from others. 

They’ll interrupt you while you’re talking or try to one-up you when you share something.

Think of it: Is the focus always on them, no matter the topic? Do they want to compete with you all the time?

If yes, you’re probably dealing with a fake person.

11) They’re never in the wrong

Fake people will refuse to admit that they’re wrong. They want to preserve this image of always being in the right or always “winning” the debate.

They rarely apologize, retract their statement, or even at least stop to reconsider. In their eyes, they’re never at fault. 

Or, if they fail at something, they’ll always have an excuse.

Or even if they know they’re wrong, they’ll refuse to admit it publicly. They’ll feign ignorance or insist that you’re misunderstanding them. 

They’ll fake anything just to be liked by people!

12) They’re overly defensive when criticized

And that’s why you’ll notice that they’ll get overly defensive when criticized.

I remember when my fake “friend” was constantly cutting off another friend we were with.

When I told the fake friend—as politely as I could—to let our other friend finish, they were suddenly offended.

They accused us of not being interested in what they had to say, even if most of the conversation had been about them until that point!

Here are a few ways fake people get overly defensive:

  • They’ll tell you that you’re insulting them;
  • They’ll tell you that you simply don’t understand;
  • They’ll criticize you back about something completely unrelated;
  • They’ll tell you that they didn’t mean it (even if they completely did).

13) They (try to) act nice always

Genuine friends will let you know if they’re feeling well or not. We all have bad days.

But fake friends will always act like they’re happy or that their life is going so perfectly (to the point of bragging). Again, all they want is attention and admiration.

Even if they’re upset about something, they’ll do their best to hide it. They strive to be this beacon of positivity, friendship, and… I don’t know, rainbows. 

The funny thing is that it’s actually so obvious when they’re upset because their “niceness” manifests in passive-aggressiveness or sarcasm.

To sum up

When people are being fake, it often stems from a desire to manipulate people for attention or other benefits. 

The thing is, most times, you won’t be able to tell with 100% certainty if they’re being sincere or not. That’s why it can be confusing, tiring, and uncomfortable dealing with such behavior. 

Thus, it’s important to be able to set boundaries with people. If you don’t like where a certain interaction is heading, no matter the reason, you need to know how to exit that situation politely.

This way, you can save your precious time and energy with people who are being real with you.

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Anna Dovbysh

With 8 years of writing experience and a deep interest in psychology, relationship advice, and spirituality, Anna’s here to shine a light on the most interesting self-development topics and share some life advice. She's got a Master's Degree in International Information and is a life-long learner of writing and storytelling. In the past, she worked on a radio station and a TV channel as a journalist and even tought English in Cambodia to local kids. Currently, she's freelancing and traveling around the globe, exploring new places, and getting inspired by the people she meets and the stories they tell. Subscribe to her posts and get in touch with her on her social media:
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