7 traits of people who seem kind but are actually really manipulative

by Cat Harper | June 26, 2024, 4:25 pm

We all want to see the best in people, right? We never want to be cynical and think that someone’s kindness is not genuine, but unfortunately, it happens. 

One of the most common ways that manipulators get control over their victims is by faking kindness and tricking people into trusting them. So how can you avoid falling for their tricks?

Although manipulation is incredibly hard to spot, if you look closely you’ll see manipulators often show common signs that reveal their true nature.

Today we’re highlighting 7 traits of seemingly kind people who are actually really manipulative so that you can recognize manipulation early and steer clear of it. 

Let’s dive in. 

1) They’re always willing to help out

Do you know anyone who’s always willing to lend a hand or do a favor for someone in need? 

This seems like a kind and admirable trait but before you trust this person, you might want to look a little closer. Sometimes manipulative people seem like they’re being kind and helpful by offering to help you out when really their goal is to make you feel a debt to them. 

There’s this thing called the rule of reciprocity which is all about how human beings feel obligated to pay someone back what they’ve received. It’s like if someone buys you a coffee today, you feel like you should buy them one back tomorrow. 

Manipulators often try to exploit the rule of reciprocity for their own benefit. They’ll offer to help out and do favors for you, just to make you feel like you owe them something. When you feel like this, it’s easy for the manipulator to influence and control you

Keep an eye out, if someone is showing genuine kindness by offering to help, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. But if they lend a hand and then use it as leverage to get something from you, it’s a sure sign you’re dealing with a manipulator

2) They’re super positive and supportive of you 

There’s nothing quite like a positive and supportive friend or partner, right? It’s comforting to know that even when times get tough, you’ve got someone cheering you on and spreading positivity in your life. 

But what if it’s too good to be true?

Manipulators often create the illusion that they’re positive and supportive friends as a way to make you feel secure around them. They’ll shower you with compliments and praise you for everything you do. 

And don’t get me wrong, compliments and praise are a normal part of friendship. Supportive friendships are very important, contributing to health, happiness, and overall quality of life. 

But when someone is overly positive and supportive giving you constant praise and compliments then take note, it’s a typical trait of someone who seems kind but is actually really manipulative

3) They’re very agreeable

Have you ever met someone and right from the start it felt like you guys just clicked? This can happen with romantic partners but with friends too.

It’s like they just get you, agreeing with everything you say and laughing at all your jokes. 

It feels good, doesn’t it? So what’s the problem? 

Here’s the thing: acting super friendly and agreeable is a sneaky tactic that manipulative people use to win you over. They’ve perfected the art of making friends quickly so that when the time comes, they’ll be able to influence you to do whatever they want. 

I fell into this trap becoming friends with someone very quickly as a teenager. At the time I thought we were really similar but I soon realized they were acting very agreeable just to gain my trust so they could manipulate me later. 

When someone is truly agreeable, it’s a great personality trait to find in a friend but if you notice someone is faking it just to seem kind, there’s a good chance they’re trying to manipulate you.

4) They’re an open book

It’s pretty rare to meet someone who is open and honest with you from the start, right?

It’s like they trust you immediately, not even hesitating to share personal stories and be emotionally vulnerable with you. They’re an open book and it’s refreshing. 

It makes you feel pretty special that your new friend trusts you with things that are so deeply personal to them and it encourages you to be more vulnerable and open with them too.

The problem is: manipulators pretend to be open and vulnerable with you so that they can gain your trust and get you to share personal things with them. Their whole game is to get you to open up to them so that you share things they can use against you in the future. 

Manipulators know that “opening up helps build trust and honesty with others, fosters empathy, and builds stronger bonds” and this is exactly what they want because all of these things make it easier for them to control you. 

When someone is willing to overshare a little too early in your friendship, it’s a red flag that they could be a manipulator. Before sharing your secrets, always ask yourself “Do I know this person well enough to share personal things?”. 

5) They’re super affectionate and caring

Picture this: you’ve made a new pal who seems really kind and friendly. They’re keen to hang out, immediately inviting you to make weekend plans. They’re texting you non-stop throughout the week just to see how you’re doing and just generally showering you with affection. 

All of this attention feels great. You feel like you’re developing a special bond with this person. You’ve just met but already it’s like you’re best friends. 

But be careful: sometimes this is intentional. You’ve probably heard of love bombing in romantic relationships but love bombing exists in friendships too. 

Manipulative people often friend-bomb you so that they become a big part of your life quickly. This encourages you to let your guard down and makes it easier for them to control you later on. 

Making new friends is great but if things are moving too quickly, you’ve got to pause and question why. People who are super affectionate and caring might seem kind at the start but it could be an act to get into your life, hiding their manipulative side from you.

6) They’ve got a victim mentality

Do you know anyone who seems to always be the victim in every story they tell you? 

It sounds like they’re dealing with some nasty people and it’s never their fault. You can’t help but feel bad for them. 

Does this remind you of anyone? 

The thing is: playing the victim like this is a classic trait of someone who seems kind but is actually really manipulative. They paint themselves as the victim to make you feel sorry for them. It makes it easier for them to get what they want from you that way. 

It takes a while for you to see the pattern and understand what’s really going on. In the early stages, it’ll seem like your new friend is genuinely a victim. 

If you notice that someone has a victim mentality, proceed with caution, it could be a sign that although they seem kind, they’re actually quite manipulative. 

7) They’re generous, welcoming, and fun

A few years back I made a new friend on my first day at a new job. She seemed so kind and sweet. She made me feel really welcome, offering to give me a tour of the office, taking me to lunch and even buying me a bunch of flowers to celebrate the end of my first week. 

At first, I felt so lucky to have made such a great friend in my new job. She let me know that she’d always wanted my seat by the window. As a thank you for her kindness, I agreed to swap seats with her. It was the least I could do, right? 

But then I started to see a pattern develop. 

I wasn’t the only one who benefitted from her welcoming and fun nature. Her generosity and welcoming hospitality were conditional. Anytime she wanted something from someone she’d do something nice for them first, to make it easier to get what she wanted from them.

She manipulated me so that she could get the window seat she’d always wanted. It’s a pretty trivial thing to manipulate someone over but that didn’t stop her. 

When someone is very generous and giving, when there’s something in it for them, there’s a good chance they’re feigning kindness and hiding their manipulative tendencies underneath

The bottom line

Master manipulators usually display traits that seem kind and friendly at first, to help them gain your trust. 

To avoid falling into the hands of a manipulator, pay attention to people who display the 7 traits we’ve shared today, whenever you’re welcoming new people into your life. 

And always remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

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