How to Tell When Someone is Being Insincere

E.B. Johnson

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by: E.B. Johnson

Insincere people are everywhere. They can be our romantic partners or our friends; our coworkers and our families. It’s not unusual to say things you don’t mean, but the insincere person takes this one step further. When it comes to their words (and their deeds) the goal is simple: tell them what they want to hear in order to get what you want. To protect ourselves from this manipulation, we have to learn to spot their behaviors in our lives.

How to tell when someone is being insincere.

Are you surrounded by insincere people? There are a number of concrete signs that you could deal with someone who doesn’t always reveal their true intentions. Don’t take these warning signs lightly. They can inflict an incredible amount of damage in our lives if left unchecked.

Seeking to benefit

The most common sign of an insincere person or friend in your life can come down to their desire to benefit from you. These are often people who follow power or wealth. Rather than building partnerships and bridges, they need to gain from their relationships (abandoning you when you're down and out on your luck). They only get in touch when they need something, or want to dump on you emotionally. When it comes to dealing with this type of person, it’s all take, take, take. And they’ll say anything to establish that.

Mixing up stories

Because insincerity requires us to behave differently from our actions, it can also lead to a frequent change in stories or opinions. The insincere person can’t keep their stories straight because they’re always telling a different one to a different person. They flip flop their opinions easily to chase trends or garner favor with people. They might also get caught up in their lies or caught-out stirring up drama.

Misaligned words and deeds

The sum of a person can’t be judged in what they say alone. If you’re looking to discover the truth to someone’s sincerity, look at both their words and their actions. Do they align? When it comes to the insincere person, they will tell you one thing only to turn around and do the opposite (especially if this opposite offers a greater benefit than you do). Misaligned words and deeds are always a warning sign to be aware of, and a red flag that authenticity is lacking.

Putting on a show

Believe it or not, the insincere person isn’t always malicious or looking or drama. Sometimes, they’re just a bit if a showboat who likes to be the center of their world’s gravitational pull. They’re always “on” or always seeking to be the center of attention. This isn’t really from a desire to entertain others, but more from a desire to feed their own ego. It can also arise from a need to be in control and at the center of the social group.

Ballistic over-reactions

Have you ever tried to confront someone that you didn’t think was being honest with you? When called out on their patterns, what happened? Did they lose control? Yell, scream, go ballistic? Insincere poeple are manipulators at their core, and the manipulator is not someone who can tolerate being seen for who they are. They lose their cool whenever they get called out, or things don’t go their way. Their actions only work when cloaked in secrecy, so when exposed they blow up.

Disappearing regularly

Perhaps unsurprisingly, insincere people are rarely supportive people. They are usually not to be found when you need support or someone to help you with a project or issue. The disappear regularly from your life and only pop back up when they perceive that you have something to offer, or they have something to gain. They are the fair-weather friendlies of our lives. The devastating disappointers that never show up on time.

Mismatched micro-expressions

We tend to think of communication as a mostly verbal process, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s assumed that a substantial portion of the communication we do with others takes place nonverbally. Among these non-verbal displays are our micro-expressions. As the name indicates, these are small expressions that take over the face and body, and traditionally they align with true feeling. If someone says they’re being open with you, but their micro-expressions (like avoiding eye contact, fidgeting, or crossing their arms over the body) say differently — then they aren’t being sincere.

Superficial niceties

With the insincere person, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to ever get close to anything “real”. This is because the truly insincere person protects themselves with a wall that is meant to prevent other people from seeing who they truly are. Due to this, your relationship never gets past the superficial stage. You never share experiences or memories that are anything more than what you would share with a stranger. It’s all superficial niceties and tiptoeing around anything that might cause drama that impedes workability.

Rumors and gossip

Do you have someone in your life that is an incessant rumor-monger or gossip Are they constantly putting their nose into other people’s business and then airing the dirty laundry to anyone and everyone that will listen? If that’s the case, then you can believe that this person is doing the same to you. The face we show to one person is the same face we will eventually show to another. No matter what they tell you, if they’re willing to gossip about someone else — they’re willing to gossip about you.

The best way to deal with insincere people in your life.

You can’t allow the above behaviors to undermine your happiness forever. You have to take steps to protect your wellbeing and that begins (primarily) with accepting who the other person is and how they impact your life. Then, you can focus on building up the good in your life and creating walls around those who would take advantage of you or cause harm.

1. Accept who they are

The first step in dealing with an untruthful or insincere person is often to accept who they are. This isn’t easy. While their behavior might be hurtful or without faith, we can still find the insincere person to be a crucial part of our lives. This, however, doesn’t minimize the consequences of their behavior or the toll it takes on us and our mental and emotional wellbeing. In order to protect ourselves, we have to accept who they are and how their behavior affects us.

Stop running away from the truth and start identifying the negative patterns. Look for moments when the other person told you something that wasn’t true, or instances in which their actions were not aligned with their words. Have you ever discovered them talking negatively behind your back? Do they often abandon you in the name of “cooler” or more powerful people?

You have to accept who this person is in order to identify the patterns that are impacting your relationship with them. Don’t hold back. Be brutally honest with yourself. This acceptance is in no way a reflection on you, or your worth. It’s also not an allowance. It is simply taking a step back and looking at things for what they really are, so that you can get realistic about getting your own house in order. Stop running from the truth. Accept it so you can start setting boundaries that work.

2. Set boundaries (and stick to them)

Our boundaries are crucial, no matter what relationship we might be considering. We can think of our boundaries like the limits or perimeter fencing around our wellbeing. It keeps the bad stuff out, so that we are better equipped to keep the good stuff in. These boundaries also help us to communicate our expectations to our intimate partners, our friends, our families, and even our coworkers and supervisors. They’re important, but they’re especially important when it comes to an insincere person.

Take some time to yourself to focus on what means the most to you. What do you want from your life? What do you want your partnerships to look like? Your friends? Your family? Really idealize your future, then prioritize the things that mean the most, and the things that mean the least.

Break these items down and allow them to form the boundary lines of what you will and will not accept from the surrounding people. You don’t have to make space in your life for deception and deceit. You have a right to surround yourself with those who want you to be as happy as they are. Build up your boundaries and stick to them. When someone doesn’t tell you the truth, make it clear that they don’t need to be in your life. If they cross the line one too many times, set consequences and then stand beside those consequences with action.

Putting it all together…

Insincere and deceptive people are all around us. They are in the bedroom and in the boardroom. We have them in our families and even in our friend groups. While this insincerity can be relatively harmless, it can also be manipulative and insidious too. When you spot the signs of an insincere person in your life, it’s important to take stock and take note. Then, you have to take action in the name of your personal wellbeing. Accept who this person is and accept the behaviors they exhibit. Notice when their words and deeds aren’t aligned, or when they go behind your back to seek attention or revenge. Set boundaries and stick to them. When they cross the line, let them know, then set a consequence that makes your expectations clear. Other people don’t have a right to access your emotions or your body without your consent. If you’re ready, move on, and stop giving them the emotional fuel and fodder to upset your life.

  • Pinto, D. (2011). Are Americans insincere? Interactional style and politeness in everyday America. Journal Of Politeness Research. Language, Behaviour, Culture, 7(2). doi: 10.1515/jplr.2011.011

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