While it's not always easy to tell if someone is untrustworthy, paying attention to their body language — as well as their overall vibe — can be a great place to start. This goes for strangers on the street, neighbors, and even the people you date. If something seems "off" about them, you should trust your gut, and reconsider interacting with them.
This is especially true if the person is being manipulative, or if they strike you as dangerous in any way. In those cases, it's always a good idea to reach out for help, and to try to remove yourself from the situation as quickly and safely as possible. It's not always possible to do so, but being aware of the signs is key.
"If you have the sense that you need to get away from someone or end a relationship, try not to backpedal on it," Nicole Issa, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist, tells Bustle. Follow your instincts, and reach out to a friend or authority figure for help.
Not every untrustworthy person will be dangerous, but some of them might be, at the very least, toxic to be around. While it's not always easy to spot a manipulator, paying attention to the signs someone is untrustworthy, such as the ones listed below, can help keep you safe.
1. They Ignore Your Boundaries
If someone is ignoring your boundaries, consider it a big red flag. "Some examples include standing too close to you (and following if you step further away), refusing to take no for an answer, or even 'innocent' activities like tickling you when you’ve asked [them] to stop," Amica Graber, a relationship expert for the background checking site TruthFinder, tells Bustle.
While some folks just don't know how to take a hint, dangerous people might do these things as a way of testing you, Graber says, and seeing if it's possible to go further. So if you tell them to stop and they don't, that may be your cue to leave if you are able to.
2. They Don't Break Eye Contact
When it comes to manipulative people — see: sociopaths, narcissists, etc. — many have a habit of staring intensely at others, and making creepy amounts of eye contact.
"They look at their target with [a] focused, intense gaze," usually as a way to test boundaries, Patti Wood, MA, a body language expert, tells Bustle. "They may do or say something uncomfortable right before or after the hypnotic gaze to test how the target responds."
To figure out if the situation really is unsafe, Wood says you can try breaking eye contact or moving away in order to see how they react. If they get upset, or you feel a huge amount of relief, your intuition was likely correct.
3. They Dominate The Conversation
While some people just like to talk, manipulators will try to dominate entire conversations. "This 'over talking' involves auditory space invasion and other paralanguage factors that show they are in control," Wood says. "They are often quite charming and good storytellers, so it may be hypnotic to listen to them." But if you don't feel included, or can't get a word in edgewise, they are likely someone who doesn't have your best interests at heart.
4. Their Mood Changes Quickly
Since narcissists tend to get really upset when things don't go their way, keep your eye out for shocking mood swings when interacting with others. As Wood says, "They can shift all their nonverbal behaviors in the blink of an eye and transform themselves."
This might include switching from really sweet to super irritated a second later. Or they might morph into an entirely different "character" in order to get their way, Wood says. It can be so manipulative, you might not even realize it's happening until the person's already sucked you in.
But the moment you do, don't be afraid to reach out for help, or to leave the situation as soon as you can.
5. They Seem Disconnected
While intense eye contact can be a red flag, the same is true for eye contact that seems oddly disconnected. And this is doubly true if you'd describe the person as being "dead behind the eyes," Wood says, as this is a trait common among narcissists and sociopaths. Not everyone is great at making eye contact, but if you're getting other bad vibes, add this one to the list of reasons it may be safest to cut the convo off and get away.
6. They Open Up Too Quickly
If you only just met someone and they're already revealing all the skeletons in their closet, there's a chance they're not trustworthy or stable, psychotherapist Dr. Laura Dabney, M.D., tells Bustle. This shows a total lack of boundaries, and can easily get out of control.
Basically, if someone is willing to pile all that on you within the first few minutes of meeting, it may mean they don't have total control over themselves.
7. They Make Rude Remarks
If someone is being rude, you likely won't want to spend much time around them. And that's a good call, seeing as it's often a sign of deeper problems.
"Potentially dangerous people will often turn to belittling others in order to manipulate them," Adamaris Mendoza, LPC, MA, a licensed psychotherapist and relationship coach, tells Bustle. So if this person is making you, or those around you, feel uncomfortable, take note.
"How they do it can take different forms but their intention is to make the other person (their intended victim) feel unworthy," Mendoza says. "They can turn to ridiculing how you look, your body, your goals, your friends, your work, and/or your dreams."
Since it's so manipulative, it can be difficult to spot. But by keeping an eye out for the signs, and knowing some of the tricks untrustworthy people pull, you can be safer.
8. They Lack Empathy
If you get the feeling this person doesn't have any empathy, think twice before interacting with them further.
"Sociopaths and psychopaths are defined by their lack of empathy," Graber says. "Does someone laugh at others' misfortune or seem oblivious to the suffering of others? They may not be a fully fledged psychopath, but a lack of empathy is a huge red flag."
9. They Move Really Fast
If you only just met someone, and yet the relationship seems to be developing at warp speed, Issa says it could be a sign this person is manipulative.
"Oftentimes, people who are likely to harm others will sweep in quickly and forcefully and try to foster a sense of false trust," Issa says. If it all seems too fast, or too good to be true, you may want to take a step back.
10. They Know Too Much
If you show up on a date, and the other person already knows where you work, where you went to school, etc., you may want to let someone know.
"Many people will frequently [research] a new love interest," Issa says. "But if someone starts telling you about information that likely showed up on, say, page five of your [search] results, this could be a sign that [it] went beyond the norm and crossed over into stalking."
If what they're saying is making you uncomfortable, don't be afraid to reach out to authorities. You can also go up to a bartender or server, if you're out to dinner, and ask them for help.
11. They Tell You How To Feel
You'll also want to listen to your gut if someone is telling you to calm down, claiming a situation isn't scary, or if they're insisting everything's OK — even when it doesn't feel OK, Issa says. And the same is true if they are telling you what to think, as that is a way of disrespecting your boundaries. When that happens, you'll want to cut off communication, and move to a safer space ASAP.
12. They Don't Listen When You Say "No"
If someone isn't respecting your boundaries, it might feel like they are trying to increase the intensity of your relationship faster than you are comfortable with, Theresa Leskowat, MS, LCMHC, a mental health therapist, tells Bustle. This might include not listening when you say "no," or pressuring you to change your "no" into a "yes." You'll feel uncomfortable around them as a result, and that's worth paying attention to.
13. They Refuse To Apologize
While it can be tough to own up to a mistake, narcissists will flat-out deny their involvement in a problem, often to a "creepy" degree.
"When you do something bad it’s normal to feel guilt. But a person that is less empathic and less trustworthy will be likely to avoid accepting any type of responsibility in order to avoid experiencing guilt," Dr. Clinton Moore, a clinical psychologist and founder of Cadence Psychology, tells Bustle. "This will often come across as ... not admitting to mistakes or refusing to [apologize] for anything."
14. They Can't Control Their Emotions
If someone is dangerous to be around, one key giveaway is that they won't be able to control their emotions. For example, if you're on a date and they start yelling at the server, that may be a sure sign that they aren't worth your time. Alternatively, they might talk about how they constantly clash with people at work or they seek revenge for small misunderstandings.
Moore says this behavior means they aren't able to "self-soothe," or calm their emotions in a healthier way.
15. They Have Black & White Thinking
Psychologists have adopted the term "splitting" to describe folks who tend to have black and white thinking when it comes to the people they interact with. "The issue for these people is an inability to hold opposing thoughts and feelings," Moore says.
An untrustworthy person may flip between viewing someone as "all good" and "all bad," Moore says. They won't be able to exist in the middle. Instead of caring about you while reconciling being upset by your actions, they'll decidedly hate you then love you, or love you then hate you.
16. They Pit People Against Each Other
An untrustworthy person may also create arguments wherever they go. "This can sometimes take the form of actions like pitting people against one another through manipulation and gossip," Moore says. They might purposefully spill a juicy secret, knowing an argument between two people could somehow benefit them — and that's all sorts of toxic.
17. They Can't Handle Negative Feedback
Just like apologizing, it can be tough to deal with negative feedback, even for people who are well-adjusted. But for folks who are untrustworthy, it can cause them to lash out in anger.
"People with more narcissistic traits will tend to derive their sense of worth from positive feedback from the people and situations around them," Moore says. "Even constructive criticism will be experienced as an attack on their sense of worth. This type of response means you won’t ever be able to be your authentic self with this type of person, as you can never quite trust how they will react."
It can be super difficult to spot a manipulative and untrustworthy person, since they know exactly what to say and do in order to reel you in. But if you're in a situation that feels unsafe — or if they're exhibiting any of these characteristics — trust your gut, reach out for help, and try to get away as soon as you can.
Nicole Issa, Psy.D., licensed psychologist
Amica Graber, relationship expert for the background checking site TruthFinder
Patti Wood, MA, body language expert
Dr. Laura Dabney, M.D., psychotherapist
Adamaris Mendoza, LPC, MA, licensed psychotherapist and relationship coach
Theresa Leskowat, MS, LCMHC, mental health therapist
Clinton Moore, clinical psychologist and founder of Cadence Psychology
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