man looking at woman with distrust
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
April 19, 2024 ·  6 min read

10 Red Flags That Someone Can Not Be Trusted, According To Science

Would you consider yourself one who tends to trust people easily? Or are you rather someone who assumes no one can be trusted until they have proven otherwise? So much goes into trust, making it a complicated subject. Some of us don’t trust easily because our trust has been broken. Others don’t trust because they, themselves, aren’t trustworthy; therefore, they think everyone else acts similarly.

Still, others believe so much in the good in people they trust willingly – if not too much. Regardless of where you sit on the trust spectrum, one thing is certain: Trust is critical to human survival and the ability to have healthy interpersonal relationships. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to help you determine how much trust you should put into someone – if any.

10 Red Flags That Someone Can Not Be Trusted

Trusting someone is an essential foundation for any relationship – personal or professional. However, there are instances where our instinct tells us that someone may not be reliable or trustworthy. These unconscious feelings, commonly called our “gut feelings,” are often supported by certain behavioral cues. If you observe human behavior, however, there are often a number of red flags that suggest someone may not be worthy of trust. If you notice some of these, you may want to reconsider how much information you offer up to that person as it may not be as safe with them as you think. (1, 2)

1. Inconsistencies

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One of the most obvious signs of an untrustworthy person is a lack of consistency in their words or actions. They may make promises they don’t keep, tell half-truths, or constantly change their story. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. If the words aren’t holding up, chances are they aren’t true.

2. Lack of Accountability

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People who dodge responsibility for their actions, constantly make excuses, or blame others are often not trustworthy. We all know someone like this: Somehow, nothing is ever their fault. A reliable person takes ownership of their mistakes and learns from them.

3. Breach of Confidentiality

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Sharing sensitive information without consent is a major breach of trust. If someone demonstrates a lack of respect for confidentiality, it suggests they may betray your trust in the future. Pay attention to this behavior. Don’t think just because they are telling you it means that you and them have some special relationship or because they trust you. If they are telling you someone else’s secrets, chances are they will just as easily tell someone else yours.

Another way to look at this is this: Does this person ever tell you any personal secrets? Or is it only ever information about someone else? This ties into the next red flag: Gossiping.

4. Excessive Gossiping

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Individuals who excessively discuss personal matters or spread rumors will likely disregard trust boundaries. Their gossiping tendencies can clearly indicate that you cannot confide in them. Again, if they can’t keep others’ personal information to themselves or enjoy talking about others behind their backs, they’ll likely do the same to you. It doesn’t matter if you are their “best” or “closest” friend.

5. Manipulative Behavior

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Manipulators are skilled at exploiting others for their own gain or twisting situations to suit their personal agenda. Watch out for constant manipulation tactics like guilt-tripping, gaslighting, and emotional blackmail. These people will likely do whatever it takes to get what they want. This includes lying and cheating.

6. Lack of Empathy

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People who lack empathy or exhibit a cold and indifferent attitude toward others often struggle with establishing trustworthy relationships. Empathy is crucial for building trust and showing genuine concern for others. A complete lack of empathy can also be a warning sign for other kinds of personality disorders.

7. History of Betrayal

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As the saying goes: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice; shame on me. If someone has a repetitive pattern of betraying the trust of others, it’s wise to be cautious. While people can change, it’s essential to consider their past behavior to indicate their future actions.

8. Unreliable with Commitments

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Failing to follow through on commitments or constantly canceling plans can erode trust over time. Consistency and reliability play a vital role in building trust within relationships. These people have proven that they will likely let you down when it matters the most.

9. Excessive Secrecy

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While privacy is essential, excessive secrecy can be a red flag. If someone consistently hides important aspects of their life or behaves covertly, it raises questions about their faithfulness and trustworthiness. While not everyone wants to go around divulging everything about their life, there is a certain amount of unnecessary secrecy that raises suspicion.

10. Lack of Integrity

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Honesty, integrity, and strong moral values are important characteristics of trustworthy individuals. People who frequently lie, cheat, or engage in unethical behavior often struggle to gain the trust of others. On the flip, this can also go hand-in-hand with people who always seem to have the same opinion as you, no matter what. When someone always agrees with you, this can be a suspicion-raising tactic of them trying to make you think they are on your side. What you might not realize is that they are doing the same thing with the person who holds the opposite opinion to you. It is disingenuous, self-seeking, and not true.

The Four Cues That Someone Is Lying

While the red flags mentioned above can give us a general idea about a person’s trustworthiness, there are four specific behavioral cues that, when observed together, can indicate untrustworthiness. These cues, often noticed subconsciously, translate into a gut feeling that something is amiss. (3)

  1. Leaning away from the partner: Leaning away during a conversation can signify discomfort or a desire to distance oneself emotionally. It suggests a lack of openness and vulnerability, which are crucial for building trust in a relationship.
  2. Crossing arms: Crossing arms is an instinctual reaction that indicates defensiveness or a desire to create a barrier between oneself and others. This defensive posture can be a sign of guardedness or an attempt to conceal something.
  3. Touching the face: Frequently touching one’s face, especially during a conversation, can be an indicator of anxiety or unease. While it doesn’t automatically mean someone is untrustworthy, it could suggest that they are not completely comfortable or forthcoming.
  4. Touching hands: Excessive hand movements, fidgeting, or touching one’s hands can be a subconscious attempt to self-soothe when under stress. It may indicate discomfort or nervousness, which can be associated with dishonesty or being untrustworthy.

It’s important to note that these cues are not foolproof indicators of someone’s trustworthiness, and individual behaviors can have various interpretations. However, when observed together, they might prompt us to question the authenticity and integrity of a person.

While being aware of these behavioral cues is essential, relying solely on them can be misleading. Gut feelings should serve as a starting point for further exploration and communication with the person to understand their character better.

The Bottom Line

Trust is a valuable asset that forms the basis of any healthy relationship. Being attentive to red flags and paying attention to the subtle cues presented by individuals can help us navigate relationships more effectively. Ultimately, it is a combination of shared values, consistent actions, and open communication that solidifies trust and builds a strong foundation upon which healthy relationships can thrive.

Keep Reading: Can You Ever Trust A Cheater Again? A Psychologist Reveals The Truth


  1. Here Are 23 Bright Red Flags That Someone Can’t Be Trusted.” Thought Catalog.  Lorenzo Jensen III, August 19, 2017.
  2. Why It’s So Easy to Trust a Nice Person.” Psychology Today. Susan Krauss Whitbourne PhD, ABPP. September 22,2023.
  3. Who Can You Trust?HBR. David DeSteno. March 2014.