12 signs someone is a backstabber (and you need to protect yourself)

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As nice as it would be for everyone to be trustworthy and honest, that’s not the world we live in.

Unfortunately, some people think the best way to get by in life is to climb up and over anyone who gets in their way.

It can be hard to spot these backstabbers, but there are usually certain signs you can look out for.

Here are 12 of them:

1. They often involve a third person.

When it comes to solving problems in a relationship, it’s usually a conversation between two people.

However, it is common to seek an outside perspective, particularly when a person isn’t sure they’re thinking rationally.

But this can also be a tactic for manipulation.

Be wary if someone regularly involves a third party to help resolve an issue. They may be feeding their side of the story first to take control of the narrative and paint you as the bad guy.

2. They engage in gossip.

The normalization of gossip is strange. We, as a society, have seemed to accept that it’s perfectly okay to speculate and talk behind one another’s backs.

You only need to look at the number of magazines, podcasts, and television shows that track every aspect of a celebrity’s life for evidence of this.

But this can be a big problem in your personal and professional life.

A gossiper is potentially spreading lies and manipulation without a care in the world. If they gossip with you, they’ll gossip about you. They’re untrustworthy and may be the kind of person to stab you in the back, even if that’s not their intention.

3. They are not transparent.

Transparency is an easy way to tell or see the truth. However, people who don’t want you to see the truth will provide vague answers, withhold information, or evade questions.

This is a method that manipulative people use to control a narrative to their benefit, and it is unacceptable behavior.

Someone who legitimately has your best interests in mind will want to communicate openly with you. They’ll want to give you the information you need to make the decisions that are right for you.

4. They never take responsibility.

Some people are incapable of taking responsibility for their actions. It’s always the fault of everyone else. It doesn’t matter how direct the line is between them and the outcome of their actions, they deny or try to twist it around onto someone else.

Sooner or later, that someone else is going to be you.

These backstabbers will do anything to avoid looking bad, and that includes throwing you under the bus when responsibility comes rolling in.

And, of course, they’ll also be the first in line to take responsibility for others’ work.

5. They demonstrate unexplained resentment.

Some people are simply jealous, spiteful individuals.

They typically have an attitude about the subject of their ire. They’ll gossip, spread rumors, and generally try to sabotage them.

Granted, some people are genuinely wronged, and spite may be warranted. Jealousy and envy may be justified feelings if that person was screwed over.

Still, it’s best to make a mental note of their behavior because sooner or later, it may be aimed at you.

6. They are manipulative.

Manipulation is the most common tool of the backstabber.

They’ll often pit people against one another because it keeps the attention off them. That misdirected attention gives the backstabber room to manipulate the situation. They may also withhold relevant information that shapes the way a situation went down.

Often, they’ll portray themselves as the good guy in delivering the information. For example, “I hate to be the one to tell you this, but…”.

7. They sabotage others.

Decent people don’t go out of their way to make another person’s life harder.

A backstabber will.

In the professional world, it may be undermining their work or spreading gossip behind their back to harm their reputation. The goal may be to prevent their target from succeeding, from getting a promotion, or to force them out.

In personal life, it may be souring that person’s relationships with others.

They may do things like give bad advice, manipulate the perspectives of others, or mislead you regularly.

Granted, sometimes people give bad advice with the best intentions, but if their advice is consistently wrong, that’s a red flag.

8. They offer insincere flattery.

A compliment is nice to receive. It’s an acknowledgment that the other person thinks well of us.

However, insincere flattery is a form of manipulation that’s designed to make you lower your guard.

If this person thinks so fondly of you, why would they do anything to hurt you? Well, because it’s much easier to harm a target that isn’t on the defensive.

A backstabber will heap unnecessary praise on their target, often to an uncomfortable extreme. Normal praise would be something like, “You did great at X, Y, Z!” where it’s genuinely deserved. Insincere flattery is unnecessary and goes on and on.

9. They are overly competitive.

There’s nothing wrong with being competitive. It’s a pretty normal thing to have in a professional and sometimes personal setting.

Competition can be fun and challenging. However, some people take it to such an extreme that it’s not enjoyable and seeks only to harm their competitors.

Backstabbers and manipulators often justify their behavior by telling themselves they just compete hard. That way, if they stab you in the back and manipulate you, it’s your fault for being a sucker and not competing harder.

In reality, they’re just assholes who’ve taken advantage of you.

10. They exhibit inconsistent behavior.

You may witness inconsistent behavior in their interactions with others.

For example, they may smile and be friendly to someone to their face, but then speak ill behind their back.

Their behavior may change in a chameleon-like fashion depending on the group of people they’re interacting with.

This may also appear like a quick switch of loyalties. One day they’re on the side of one person, and the next they flip-flop.

This may indicate they’re trying to pick the best side to be on for their personal gain. Their stories are often inconsistent depending on who they’re talking to, including telling you the same story with varying details.

11. They exclude others.

A person who regularly excludes others may be acting out of spite or isolating that person to take advantage of them.

This is often done to make that person look bad to the social group.

At work, that may look like not sending that person invitations to important meetings or not inviting them to events. In a personal relationship, that often happens by “forgetting” to invite a person to a social function.

12. They relish in others’ misfortune.

Basic humanity and empathy will typically prevent a person from relishing the genuine suffering of others.

A person who is indifferent to, or pleased with, another person’s suffering is not likely to feel bad about stabbing you, or anyone else, in the back to get what they want.

They may have low or no empathy. They don’t care who gets hurt or why, and they may even enjoy it.

These people are best avoided if you can.

It’s not a great leap to think that someday they’ll enjoy your suffering too, particularly if it’s at their hand.

About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.