How to Tell When Someone Has a Hidden Agenda

Tay Jnr/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Relationships are always challenging, but they are especially difficult when you are unsure about the motives of those around you. By asking questions and watching body language, keeping an ear out for single-mindedness or exploitation and being cautious of certain personality types, you are more likely to tell who has a hidden agenda.

Eye Contact and Trustworthiness

Like lying, those with hidden agendas may have body language that could tip you off. If you ask him directly about his goals and he avoids eye contact by staring at the ceiling, you might have a problem. Likewise, crossed arms, leaning away from you, getting nervous or angry, turning away or avoiding the topic might mean that he is hiding something. If you think that he might be trying to get in bed with your sister and he avoids answering the question, stutters or seems agitated beyond what would be normal, you might be dealing with someone trying to protect a hidden agenda. Just don't assume that an absence of these signs proves that he isn't.


Does he bring the conversation back around to a specific topic over and over again? Does he ask about it in different ways over the course of the day? If so, you might be dealing with someone who has an agenda outside of just hanging out. If you ask what he wants for dinner and he says, “Not sure. How many dinners do you think you can buy with your grandma’s inheritance?” take it as a red flag.


Those with hidden agendas may know what your weaknesses are and be able to exploit them. Depending on the agenda at hand, some goals take time to acquire. If someone knows that you get anxious about certain things and uses these to isolate you from others, she may have a hidden agenda of eroding your social supports to make you more vulnerable in a relationship with her. If she knows that you get upset when she is mad at you, she may use this to get what she wants in other areas. If you are constantly on edge because she uses what she knows about you against you, she might have a hidden agenda that includes using you or someone you love.

Manipulative Personality

Certain personality types are more likely to have hidden agendas because they are prone to manipulation, according to WebMd. Narcissists and those with Antisocial Personality Disorder both possess traits that lead them away from genuine concern for your well-being and toward using you to accomplish personal goals. If the individual you are dealing with lacks empathy, shows little concern for those around him, lacks remorse or has a history of manipulating others, you are dealing with someone more likely to have a hidden agenda.