7 subtle signs that someone is pleasant on the surface but manipulative underneath

Eliza Hartley by Eliza Hartley | June 7, 2024, 11:37 am

We all meet people in our lives who seem charming and pleasant at first, but with time, their darker side begins to reveal itself.

They may be the life of the party, or the shoulder you lean on during tough times. But have you ever wondered if beneath their delightful exterior lurks a manipulative personality?

How do you know if what you’re experiencing is genuine kindness, or a hidden agenda wrapped in a charming façade?

After observing and interacting with different people in my life, I’ve identified 7 often overlooked signs that may indicate someone is not as pleasant as they appear.

Let’s get started. 

1) They always seem to get their way

Perhaps you’ve noticed that they always seem to come out on top, regardless of the situation. At first, you might admire their knack for negotiation or their persuasive abilities.

But, with time, you may start to realize that they have a way of subtly steering every situation to their advantage.

Pleasant conversations subtly shift into them dictating terms or conditions. Events and plans mysteriously always fall in line with their preferences. Are they just lucky? Or could there be a more manipulative strategy at play?

This could be a sign that they’re gently pulling the strings behind the scenes, manipulating situations and people without appearing forceful or demanding. It’s a subtle art form, one that requires both charm and cunning.

2) They’re overly agreeable

This may seem counterintuitive. After all, aren’t agreeable people generally pleasant and easy to get along with?

That’s certainly true, but it’s important to watch out for those who never seem to have a differing opinion.

Manipulative individuals are often experts at mirroring others, agreeing with you on just about everything. They may shower you with compliments and praise your ideas. This can make you feel validated and secure, fostering a deep connection.

But beware: their constant agreement could be a tactic designed to gain your trust and approval.

By always siding with you, they make it easier to influence your decisions later on.

3) They play the victim card

We all face difficulties and hardships in life. But have you ever noticed that some people seem to be perpetually playing the victim?

They always have a sob story to tell, or a situation where they’ve been wronged. And somehow, they are never to blame.

Manipulative people often use this tactic to evoke sympathy and distract from their own shortcomings or mistakes.

By painting themselves as the victim, they subtly shift the focus away from their actions and place it on their alleged suffering.

 Everyone has problems, but consistently playing the victim could be a strategic move designed to control and influence those around them.

4) They’re skilled at ‘gaslighting’

Gaslighting is a psychological manipulation tactic that makes people question their own memory, perception, or sanity.

The term was inspired by a 1944 movie called ‘Gaslight’, where a husband manipulates his wife into believing she’s losing her mind.

This form of manipulation is often subtle and hard to detect. A manipulative person might deny saying something that you clearly remember, or they might accuse you of misunderstanding or overreacting.

Over time, this can lead to confusion, self-doubt, and a feeling that you can’t trust your own judgment.

5) They use guilt as a tool

We’ve all felt the sting of guilt at some point. It’s a natural emotion that arises when we believe we’ve done something wrong. But in the hands of a manipulator, guilt becomes a powerful tool to control and influence.

Have you ever found yourself apologizing for things you didn’t do or taking the blame for situations that weren’t your fault?

Or perhaps you’ve been made to feel guilty for asserting your own needs or setting personal boundaries.

Manipulative people tend to make  others feel guilty, even for the most trivial things. They use this guilt to exert control, making you feel like you owe them something.

6) They flatter you

Who doesn’t enjoy a compliment now and then? A well-timed and sincere bit of praise can brighten our day and boost our self-esteem.

But what if the flattery seems too constant, or too good to be true?

Manipulative individuals often use flattery as a tool to win your trust and favor. They know that people are more likely to help those who make them feel good about themselves.

This may seem like a positive trait, but consistent, over-the-top flattery may not always be genuine. It could be a tactic designed to disarm you and make you more susceptible to their influence.

7) They’re often vague or evasive

Manipulative individuals often use evasiveness as a tactic to maintain control.

By keeping their cards close to their chest, they ensure that they always have the upper hand. They may dodge questions, change the subject, or give noncommittal answers that leave you guessing.

While we all hold back or hedge at times, consistent evasiveness is not a sign of shyness or modesty.

It’s a tactic designed to keep you in the dark and maintain control. As with all these signs, awareness is key. Recognizing this behavior for what it is can help you make informed decisions about the relationship.

Understanding the underlying dynamics

To understand someone who is pleasant on the surface but manipulative underneath, it’s important to look beyond their actions and try to understand the dynamics at play.

These individuals often have a deep-seated need for control that drives their behavior. Their pleasant demeanor serves as a smokescreen, hiding their true intentions and making it difficult for others to see their manipulative tactics.

But it’s also crucial to remember that not everyone who displays these signs is inherently malicious or intending to cause harm.

Sometimes, people develop manipulative behaviors as a coping mechanism or as a result of past experiences. This doesn’t excuse the behavior, but it can provide some context for understanding it.

Remember, it’s okay to question someone’s intentions if their actions don’t align with their words. It’s okay to distance yourself from someone if you feel manipulated or used. You have the right to protect your mental and emotional well-being.

Embracing self-love in this current situation and beyond

As I’ve journeyed through my own experiences and observations, I’ve come to understand one crucial truth: the importance of self-love, especially when dealing with manipulative individuals.

When someone seems pleasant on the surface but is manipulative underneath, it’s easy to lose sight of your own worth.

You might begin to doubt your perceptions or feel guilty for things that aren’t your fault. But remember, their actions reflect on them, not on you.

But self-love isn’t just a shield against manipulation; it’s a guiding principle that can enhance every aspect of your life.

When you love yourself, you’re less likely to tolerate mistreatment or disrespect from others. You’re more likely to pursue goals that truly resonate with you, rather than trying to live up to someone else’s expectations.