No matter where you are in life, you’ll want to avoid untrustworthy people. And while you’d think it would be easy to spot a dishonest character from a mile off, that’s simply not the case. It’s often near-impossible to tell whether that new colleague or romantic interest is a compulsive liar at heart — they're just that clever. Thankfully, there are some telltale personality traits that you can look out for.
1. They try a little too hard to charm you
As the old saying goes, “Flattery will get you anywhere.” And perhaps that’s why untrustworthy people often try to get into your good books with a little sweet talk. When someone is excessively complimentary, it’s not always because that person’s nice. Rather, it’s because they want you to see them in a favorable light.
Where you’ll find these over-flatterers
Keeping an eye out for over-flatterers isn’t just helpful in everyday work situations. Lawmakers such as former FBI counterintelligence agent LaRae Quy say flattery is often used by potential perpetrators in interviews. In her experience, excessive admiration is a sign “that one lacks authenticity and sincerity,” as she told Inc. magazine in 2015. According to Quy, what these people say shouldn’t necessarily be taken at face value.
2. They dominate the conversation
Have you ever been at a party where one person has the whole room enthralled with their stories? Well, don’t take much stock in the tales they spin; they may be made up. According to psychologists, owning the room could be a signal of Machiavellianism — the use of manipulation to gain power — and an indication that this person isn’t entirely trustworthy.
Remember this next time
In 2011 psychologist Jesse Berring wrote in Scientific American that Machiavellians “are pragmatic liars who aren’t fearful or anxious.” And this is why at parties “they tend to dominate, but they also seem relaxed, talented and confident.” Because of this, it can be hard to turn your attention away from their lies. Their charms can be “hypnotic,” as body language reader Patti Wood explained to Bustle in 2020.