Have you ever had a fake friend that you never saw coming? Or met someone who made you think they were actually on your side, but ultimately ended up stabbing you in the back instead? The scary truth is, while we’d all like to think it’s easy for us to spot a fake person from a mile away, sometimes some people are just so good at pretending that we can’t help but buy into their lies and fall for their facade.
How do we know who’s worth trusting and who’s not? How do we decide which of those around us we should and shouldn’t let in? Or figure out someone’s intentions to protect ourselves from getting hurt? Well, according to psychology, here are the 8 most common and definitive signs that someone is being fake towards you:
1. They make plans they don’t keep.
The first sign that someone doesn’t really care about you as much as they would like you to believe is if they make plans they don’t usually keep. Whether it’s giving you some flimsy excuses, asking for a last-minute rain check, or even flat-out standing you up, fake people never really keep their promises when it comes to the plans you make together, no matter how important they may be to you. They will simply smile, nod along, and agree to anything, but when the time actually comes, they bail on you. They can’t be bothered to be there even if it’s just for a quick coffee date or a phone call.
2. They never initiate contact.
Similar to the last point, another way you can tell if someone is being fake towards you is if they never initiate contact with you. They’re never the first to strike up a conversation, or make plans, or check up on you, most likely because they are only being your friend out of convenience or circumstance (Motion, Heath, & Leitch, 2015). Maybe you’re next-door neighbors who go to the same school; maybe you’re their lab partner who’s better at academics than them; or maybe you’re friends with someone they want to get closer to. Whatever the reason may be, they’re not making much of an effort to be a good friend and stay in your life, so it’s best not to bother with them anymore.
3. They talk and never listen.
Think back on the last conversation you had with this person. How did it go? What did you talk about? When it comes to fake people, most of the time they only ever want to talk, talk, talk, and never listen. They interrupt you, talk over you, and act uninterested in whatever you have to say because they only ever want to talk about themselves. They don’t really care what you think or how you feel because they just want someone to care about them and their own needless drama.
4. They’re only around when it’s convenient.
Remember what we said about someone only being your friend out of convenience? Well, people who are fake have a tendency to only pop up in your life when they need something (Walton & Hassreiter, 2015). They disappear for long periods of time but suddenly want to hang out with you whenever they’re bored, have no one else to hang out with, or need someone to accompany them or do something for them. So be sure to watch out for people like this.
5. They’re never there when you need them.
Whenever they need something from you, a fake person will come rushing by your side and acting like you’re their favorite person in the world. But the moment they get what they want from you and it’s your turn to ask them for a favor, they disappear into thin air faster than you can even blink. You know why? Because when a fake person feels like they no longer have anything to gain from their relationship with you, they’re no longer interested in being your friend. So don’t expect them to stick around, especially when you’re going through a tough time, because they will find every excuse not to help you.
6. They act passive-aggressive towards you.
Even the most patient person in the world can get angry sometimes, so don’t believe anyone who says they never get mad at you about anything. Fake people, in particular, tend to act passive-aggressively towards their friends (or should we say, “frenemies”?) by doing things like: giving back-handed compliments, making snide comments, and passing off harsh criticism and judgment as a “joke” or a “sarcastic remark” (Bowker, 2011). And you can just tell – whether it be from the tone of their voice, or the look on their face when they say it – that they are jealous of you, upset with you, or have some sort of problem with you, but they don’t want to come out and say it.
7. They only care about people in power.
A fake person only cares about those who they think can do something for them, and they tend to gravitate towards others for superficial reasons. Some fake people only like to hang out with popular people or attractive people, while others seek out those with wealth, status, or power (Hoccutt, 2007). They want to climb straight to the top of the social ladder and don’t care if they have to use other people to get there. You’ll know for sure someone is a fake friend if, the moment you lose what they’re after (be it, power, status, or success), they suddenly act like they don’t want to be caught dead spending time with you. And that is what you call a fair-weather friend.
8. They talk about you behind your back.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, someone who is fake will act nice and say good things about you to your face, but the moment you turn your back, they turn into a completely different person. They use their kindness to gain your trust and then stab you in the back by talking smack about you, gossiping about you, or spreading the secrets you shared with them in confidence. Some of them may even talk badly about you behind your back to get other people to like them more, especially those who aren’t exactly your biggest fans.
So, do you relate to any of the things we’ve mentioned here? Did anyone in particular come to mind as you were reading this list? While we might all secretly hope that we’re wrong about a person’s trustworthiness, we need to protect ourselves from the dangers of having a fake friend in our midst. And no matter how much it stings to admit, a fake friend is only going to hurt you more the longer you go on believing them.
Being with someone who’s only pretending to care or act like someone they’re not is definitely going to take a toll on your mental health, and may even give you trust issues if you’re not careful. And life is too short to spend with fake friends, so don’t waste it on anyone who can’t be real with you and doesn’t actually like you for who you really are.
- Motion, J., Heath, R. L., & Leitch, S. (2015). Social media and public relations: Fake friends and powerful publics. Routledge.
- Walton, M., & Hassreiter, S. (2015). Real friends and fake friends: Research relationships in an era of global social media. In Ethical Quandaries in Social Research.. Cape Town: Human Sciences Research Council.
- Bowker, J. C. (2011). Examining two types of best friendship dissolution during early adolescence. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 31(5), 656-670.
- Hocutt, M. A. (2007). Relationship dissolution model: antecedents of relationship commitment and the likelihood of dissolving a relationship. International Journal of service industry management.