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3 Subtle Signs of Superficial, Fake Charm

beautiful woman with red long hair, eye glasses, wearing a yellow sweater
Image: iStock

In this article, we will talk about superficial and fake charm.

Ever had that feeling in your gut telling you someone was being particularly nice to you just because they needed something?

For example, think about some salespeople. Not all of them, just some of them who fake charm just to sell you their product or service.

They make you feel important treating you like a queen or king.

They call you by your name — as Dale Carnegie taught, our name is the sweetest and most important sound in any language, and these people know it.

The thing is they are charming until the moment they convince you to sign a contract.

You give them what they want and then, if you meet them the following day, they don’t even remember who you are.

This kind of behavior can be frustrating. Especially if we’re not dealing with a salesperson, but with someone who we believed to be a good friend or a colleague we could trust.

Here are a few signs of insincere, superficial charm.

1. Fake Smile vs “Duchenne” Smile

If you want to know if someone is genuinely happy to see you or to be talking to you as they want you to believe, pay attention to how they tend to smile when they’re with you.

As I explained in another article, a person who smiles because they’re glad to be in your company or to see you will smile with their eyes, not just with their mouth. That kind of smile has a name, it’s called the “Duchenne smile”.

In particular, as explained in Healthline,

The Duchenne smile is the one that reaches your eyes, making the corners wrinkle up with crow’s feet.

This is the smile most of us associate to authentic happiness.

As mentioned in Business Insider,

When forcing a smile, we use a muscle in each cheek, called the “risorius,” to pull our lips into the right shape, but the eye muscles don’t contract.

This is what we more commonly call a “fake smile.”

It doesn’t necessarily mean someone is not being sincere with us. It could simply be the smile of someone who’s not feeling enthusiastic in a certain moment but is smiling to be polite.

However, this sign, when combined with the others mentioned in this article, might indicate superficial charm.

2. They Use The Same “Sweet Script” Every Time They Need Something

When I was working in a call center, I used to swap shifts with my coworkers.

I was lucky, because I was the only one who liked the late morning shift, so people always came to me asking me if I preferred to start working at 11 am instead of 7 am.

Most of my teammates were also good friends — 11 out of 12 actually — they didn’t contact me or come to my desk just for shift swaps.

There was only one person in my team who almost never talked to me, but stopped by my desk for fifteen minutes talking to me as we were best friends.

She asked me how my private life was going, then she talked a bit about herself, and then — at minute 14:50 — she always used the same phrase:

“Oh and by the way sweetie, you are the only person I can ask this to, is it ok for you if next week we swap shifts?”

I liked both the “sweetie” and the “is it OK for you if…”

She was charming for fifteen minutes, out of the blue, she feigned interest, she treated me like a friend, and then — obviously — she made her request using her sweet script.

They funniest thing is she used the same tactic with everyone in the team when she needed help or a shift swap.

She used the same sweet script.

3. They Don’t Say Things in Your Face

What Susie says of Sally says more of Susie than of Sally.

— Unknown

As Deep Patel mentioned in an article published in Entrepreneur, inauthentic people can be particularly judgmental.

Their problem is they usually don’t say things in your face.

In a work environment, for example, they are the ones who criticize you, and they usually do it behind your back.

Or they criticize other people in your presence, and when you see them with those people, they are highly friendly with them.

You see them being “charming” with everyone, but you know they’re faking that charm.


I like what Deep Patel wrote in the same article I mentioned in the last section,

There is no skill more important to success than being able to detect who is sincere and who isn’t.

I couldn’t agree more with him. To recognize if someone’s charm is superficial, here are three simple things you can pay attention to:

  • Their smile;
  • If they are nice to you only when they need something;
  • If they talk behind people’s back.
  • Bonus: your gut.

Image: iStock

The Truly Charming