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33 Signs of a Conniving Person & Secrets to Outsmart Their Sly Tactics

What is a conniving person and how can you ensure you don’t fall for their tricks? Dive in to uncover, understand, and stay steps ahead!

conniving person

You know Scar from The Lion King? The cunning villain with the fabulous mane and the less-than-fabulous intentions? Picture him in jeans and a t-shirt, scrolling through social media. That’s your real-life conniving person.

A bit less dramatic, sure, but just as intriguing. Now, before you go on a Disney binge *tempting, we know*, let’s delve into the oh-so-fancy world of ‘Machiavellianism’. Because nothing spices up a chat about sly characters like a term that’s almost impossible to spell on the first try! [Read: Machiavellianism traits: What makes one, signs & how to not fall victim]

Defining the Conniving Personality

We’ve all met them. That conniving person who seems to have mastered the art of saying one thing while plotting something entirely different. It’s like trying to read a text in a group chat where half the messages are in code. So, what makes these individuals tick?

Psychologically speaking, a conniving person isn’t just influenced by one too many sneaky character arcs on TV.

Often, their behavior aligns with what psychologists term “Machiavellianism” – a personality trait that involves using cunning and duplicity in interpersonal relationships. These individuals display methodical and calculating traits.

They’re the friends who can predict the end of a movie you’re watching together or the ones who always seem to have a backup plan for their backup plan. [Read: Dark triad personality – what it is, and 25 signs and ways to deal with them]

No, not all conniving individuals sport those twistable villainous mustaches. But they sure do come with their own set of tell-tale signs!

The next time you’re wondering if you’re dealing with a conniving person or just someone who’s really good at board games, keep an eye out for these clues below.

Signs You’re Dealing with a Conniving Individual

Life isn’t always like a mystery novel, but sometimes, we encounter characters that make us feel like we’re right in the middle of an Agatha Christie plot. So how does one identify the conniving person amidst everyday scenarios?

Let’s decode.

1. Lopsided Listening

You ever notice that one person who seems extra attentive when you speak, but it feels off? [Read: Ways to be a much better listener in a relationship and read their mind]

That’s because a conniving person often leans in more to gather information than to genuinely engage in conversation. They’re like human vacuum cleaners, sucking up details without releasing much about themselves.

2. Constantly Changing Colors

A conniving person can adapt their personality, beliefs, or even their likes and dislikes based on who they’re around. It’s not just being a good social chameleon, it’s switching colors so often that you wonder if they have a genuine hue.

Like someone always changing their order at a cafe to match yours, but never actually savoring the drink. [Read: Narcissistic abuse – what it is, types, 58 signs and ways they hurt and break you]

3. Too Many Secrets

Ever tried to get a straight answer from someone, and it felt like pulling teeth? A conniving person often operates under layers of secrets and half-truths.

They may drop vague hints about things or avoid direct questions. Because, apparently, mysterious vibes are the new black.

4. Perfect Timing

Timing isn’t just a talent for comedians. A conniving individual has an uncanny knack for showing up right when they can gain the most. [Read: Dark empath – what it means, 45 signs and reasons we’re drawn to them]

It’s like they have a sixth sense for opportunities, be it offering a “helping hand” when you’re most vulnerable or appearing just when there’s something to gain.

5. Selective Memory

They remember what they want and “forget” what doesn’t suit them. So, if a conniving person owes you money, expect them to have a memory lapse. But if you owe them? Oh, they’ll remember the exact date, time, and even the weather.

6. Flattery Overload

Flattery can be nice, but with a conniving person, it often feels like they’ve set their compliments on rapid-fire mode. [Read: Decoding compliments – 50 cute words and their true meaning]

No, they’re not just being sweet, they’re trying to butter you up for some future agenda. Because who can resist someone who thinks you’re just so amazing, right?

7. Always One Up

Had a bad day? They’ve had worse. Found a $10 bill on the street? They once found $20.

A conniving person often engages in subtle competitions, always striving to be one step ahead or paint themselves as slightly more impressive or unfortunate, depending on the scenario. [Read: Main types of narcissism and 18 steps to treat and help a narcissist change]

8. Emotionally Unavailable

They’re there, but also not there. A conniving person often keeps their emotions locked up tighter than Fort Knox. While they’re great at detecting and manipulating others’ feelings, they’re pros at keeping their own under wraps.

9. Expert Evasion

Got a tough question or cornered them with logic? Watch a conniving person dance around it with the grace of a ballet dancer. They sidestep, deflect, or even toss back a distracting counter-question. They do this to avoid accountability and maintain control over the conversation.

Imagine asking why they missed an important meeting, and instead of answering, they bring up a time you were late. By shifting the focus, they keep you on the defensive and evade the original question.

10. Promise Overload

They’re the kings and queens of tomorrow-land. A conniving person can make grand promises and commitments, painting rosy pictures of future adventures or gains. [Read: 20 non-negotiables in relationships you shouldn’t ever compromise on]

Yet, when push comes to shove, they often come up with excuses or conveniently “forget.”

11. Half-Tales and Tall Tales

When a story from a conniving person sounds more like a Hollywood script than a real-life incident, eyebrows should raise. They have a talent for exaggeration, sometimes sharing only half the story or embellishing details to serve their narrative.

12. Sudden Shifts in Stance

Remember that friend who couldn’t stop praising matcha lattes last week and is suddenly calling them “just green frothy water”? [Read: Selfish people – 20 ways to spot and stop them from using you]

A conniving person often changes their opinions or stances based on their audience, aiming to blend in or appeal to the majority.

13. Guarded with Gadgets

Ever noticed someone being overly protective about their phone or computer? While privacy is essential, a conniving individual might be ultra-guarded, fearing you might stumble upon their secrets or double-dealings.

14. Conditional Kindness

Their niceties come with strings attached. A conniving person’s kindness often feels transactional. You’ll think they’re super kind for offering a hand with your move, only to find out later it came with hidden expectations.

When they need a favor, they’ll remind you of the help they gave, making you feel obligated to return it. Their generosity isn’t genuine; it’s a calculated move to keep you indebted and under their influence. [Read: The psychology and 24 nice and not-so-nice ways to make someone feel bad]

15. The Drama Magnet

Somehow, a conniving individual always finds themselves at the center of drama or controversy. They might play the innocent card, but often, they’ve had a hand in stirring the pot, whether for attention or diversion.

Imagine there’s an office drama brewing, and you later find out the one spreading rumors was them all along. By creating chaos, they divert attention from their own actions and keep everyone else off balance.

16. Divide and Conquer

A tactic as old as time. A conniving person may discreetly pit friends or colleagues against each other, creating divisions that they can exploit. It’s like they’ve taken a leaf out of ancient war strategies!

17. Masters of Misdirection

Like a magician diverting your attention from their next trick, conniving folks redirect focus when they sense danger or suspicion. [Read: 105 Most common gaslighting phrases, techniques, and signs to recognize them]

They might bring up an unrelated emotional event or suddenly shower you with affection to throw you off track.

18. Eerily Empathetic

It’s one thing to be empathetic, but a conniving person uses empathy as a tool. They can hone in on your vulnerabilities, not to comfort but to use them as leverage or for manipulation later.

You told them you’re having a bad day, and suddenly they’re offering just the right words to gain your trust. Later, they might use this information to manipulate you, exploiting your vulnerabilities for their own benefit.

19. Unwavering Eye Contact

While maintaining eye contact is often seen as a sign of confidence or honesty, conniving individuals use it to gauge reactions or intimidate. It’s like they’re trying to download your thoughts just by staring! [Read: Men who stare at women – what’s on a guy’s mind, his excuses, and reasons]

20. Vacuum of Validation

They crave validation and constantly fish for compliments or reassurance. They’re majorly concerned about how they’re perceived, and this need isn’t just about boosting their ego. It’s often about ensuring they still have influence or control over the narrative and people around them.

By seeking constant affirmation, they maintain a grip on others’ perceptions and keep themselves at the center of attention.

Why Do People Turn Conniving? The Psych Behind the Sly

While it’s tempting to imagine every conniving person once had their ice cream stolen as a child, leading them down a dark path, the reality is more complex.

What turns someone into a conniving person? Is it genes, environment, a peculiar fondness for watching villain montages on repeat? Let’s dive into the maze of psychology. [Read: Dating a jerk – 37 signs, the psychology, and the best ways to deal with assholes]

1. Nature vs. Nurture Debate

The age-old question—do we come hardwired with certain traits, or are they imprinted upon us by our environment? When it comes to being conniving, it’s likely a blend of both.

Some people might have a genetic predisposition to such traits, making them more susceptible. Yet, without certain environmental triggers, these traits may never fully manifest.

2. Attachment Theory

The roots often trace back to our earliest relationships. According to the Attachment Theory, children who grow up with inconsistent or unpredictable care might develop manipulative behaviors as a coping mechanism.

A conniving person might have learned early on that being direct didn’t get them what they needed, leading them to find more covert ways to secure love, attention, or resources. [Read: Attachment styles theory – 4 types and 19 signs, and ways you attach to others]

3. Adverse Childhood Experiences *ACEs*

Negative events in childhood, from neglect and abuse to more subtle forms of trauma, can lead to maladaptive behaviors in adulthood.

A conniving person might have faced situations where deception was a survival tool, or where they felt that being straightforward put them at risk.

4. Social Environment and Peer Influence

Have you ever heard of the saying, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”? Surroundings play a part. [Read: Toxic friends – 22 types, 54 signs and ways to end friendships that hurt you]

Growing up or spending significant time in an environment where cunning behaviors are rewarded can shape a person.

If a young adult sees that being conniving gets results—whether it’s popularity, material gain, or power—they might adopt similar strategies.

5. Fear of Vulnerability

Beneath the facade, a conniving person often harbors a deep fear of being vulnerable or exposed. [Read: Vulnerable narcissism – what it means, 29 signs, causes and ways to deal with it]

Past experiences of betrayal or hurt could have taught them that showing their true selves is risky. So, they wear masks, play games, and keep people at arm’s length to protect themselves.

6. Need for Control

At the core, many conniving individuals have an intense need for control over their environment and the people in it. This can stem from feelings of powerlessness in the past.

By being manipulative, they feel they can dictate outcomes, ensuring they aren’t caught off-guard or hurt. [Read: Controlling people – 32 common traits, signs, and ways to deal with them]

7. Reinforcement and Learned Behaviors

Sometimes, it’s as simple as learning that being conniving works. If a person consistently benefits from deceitful tactics without facing repercussions, they’ll likely continue. It’s basic behaviorism; behaviors that are rewarded tend to be repeated.

When You’ve Been Outfoxed: What to Do?

Alright, admit it. As you read through these signs and reasons, a face or two might’ve popped into your mind.

Discovering that you’re dealing with a conniving person can be like realizing you’ve been dancing to their tune all along. So, how do you change the song and regain control? [Read: Sneaky people – 20 subtle signs and what defines sneaky behavior in someone]

1. Trust but Verify

It’s like taking advice from ancient stoics while navigating the digital age. When a conniving person shares information, don’t discard it outright, but take a moment to cross-check.

Ensure you have all the facts before making decisions. It’s a bit like double-checking a juicy piece of gossip before spreading it—sometimes, things aren’t as they seem.

2. Speak Their Language

Understand the game, and you’re halfway to winning it. If you grasp a conniving person’s tactics and motives, you can better navigate interactions. [Read: 46 Secrets to deal with a narcissist, break them, and handle their petty games]

You don’t have to resort to manipulation yourself, but knowing their strategies allows you to stay a step ahead. It’s like knowing the rules of chess—you might not always win, but you’ll definitely play smarter.

3. Know When to Fold ’em

Not every battle is worth fighting. Recognizing when it’s time to distance yourself from a conniving individual is crucial.

Sometimes, the best strategy is to minimize contact or cut ties altogether. Protecting your mental and emotional well-being should always be a priority, even if it means letting go of certain relationships. [Read: Breaking up with a narcissist – 28 must-knows, what to expect, and how to do it]

4. Establish Boundaries

Just as a painter needs a canvas, a conniving person thrives where boundaries are undefined.

Clearly outline what’s acceptable and what isn’t in your interactions. By setting firm boundaries, you restrict the playground they have to manipulate and control situations.

5. Seek Support

Remember, there’s strength in numbers. Talk to friends, family, or professionals who can offer advice, or at least lend a sympathetic ear. [Read: True friendship – 37 real friend traits and what it takes to be a good, loyal one]

They might provide insights you hadn’t considered, or simply be there as a pillar of support when dealing with a tricky conniving individual.

6. Stay True to Yourself

Amidst the cunning games and tactics, don’t lose sight of who you are. It’s easy to get caught up and start second-guessing oneself.

Remember your values, beliefs, and stand firm. A conniving person’s influence wanes when faced with unwavering authenticity. [Read: 33 Secrets to be true to yourself and 15 signs to unfake your life]

Turning Conniving Energy into Positive Outcomes

So, you’ve been nodding along, and a sneaky thought pops up: “Wait, am I the conniving person being described here?” First, kudos on the self-awareness!

Having some traits doesn’t mean you’re destined for villainy. With a tweak here and a nudge there, you can channel these energies into positive, impactful directions.

1. Channel Traits for Good

Every trait has its silver lining. If you find that you’re naturally persuasive or assertive, use that to champion causes close to your heart. [Read: 28 Self-improvement secrets to improve yourself and transform into your best self]

Rally people for community service, be the voice for those who can’t speak up, or lead teams with clarity and conviction. Being influential isn’t bad; it’s about how and where you wield that influence.

2. Empathy Training

Perhaps you’ve been the strategic, always-three-steps-ahead kind. But have you considered using that foresight to understand and resonate with others better?

Engage in active listening, try putting yourself in others’ shoes, or even attend workshops focused on building empathy. [Read: How to show empathy and learn to understand someone else’s feelings]

A deeper connection with others can transform the most calculating mind into a compassionate heart.

3. Use Insight for Mediation

If you’ve been adept at reading situations or people, consider becoming the peacemaker. With your insights, you can mediate conflicts, helping parties find common ground.

It’s not about manipulating the outcome, but guiding people towards understanding and resolution. [Read: How to resolve conflict – the best ways to cut out the drama]

4. Harness Adaptability

Being able to change and adapt based on situations or company, if done transparently, can be a boon.

This trait can be invaluable in diverse settings, from multicultural workplaces to navigating complex social dynamics. It’s about using adaptability to bridge gaps, not create them.

5. Commit to Transparency

If you’ve been the master of secrets, flip it by becoming the beacon of transparency. Start by being open about your intentions, thoughts, and feelings. [Read: How to build trust in a relationship and learn to be loyal and loving]

In work, it might mean clear communication about goals and expectations. In personal relationships, it’s about building trust through honesty.

6. Seek Feedback and Grow

Recognizing one’s own conniving tendencies is just the first step. Regularly seek feedback from friends, family, or colleagues. [Read: 25 Honest, self-reflection question to recognize the real YOU inside]

Understand how your actions impact them, and be open to making changes. It’s a continuous journey of self-improvement and growth.

Don’t Fall Prey to Them

Understanding relationships and the intentions of those around us can be a bit of a challenge, especially when deciphering the maneuvers of a conniving person.

But with this guide in hand, you’re primed to spot those sneaky behaviors and ensure you stand firm, not falling prey to them.

[Read: 29 Secrets to set boundaries with a narcissist and typical ways they’d react]

Next time you encounter a conniving person trying their best Scar impression *sans the catchy villain song, of course*, you’ll be steps ahead, ready to tackle the situation with knowledge and confidence. Remember, understanding is half the battle, and the other half? Well, that’s just being your awesome self!

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...