Monday, 14 May 2007

How do you avoid friends taking advantage of your good nature?

I guess many of us have had similar experiences that all amount to being suprised, let down or even totally devastated by the unexpected betrayal of our loyalty by others.

All sorts of questions relate to this particular phenomenon, "how do you avoid people who put you down?" , how do you know if your partner is lying to you?", "how come I was made redundant after 15 years service?" In all forms these questions are manifestations of a social phenomenon that involves a 'guller' - someone who deliberately leads someone on, usually through some form of misdirection, and a 'gullee' the victim or target. We all know this type of inter-relationship in the fun form of stage magic.

For the more serious stage of 'life magic' What I would like to do is suggest an alternative way of seeing the situation, or at least the situations that lead to the crunch point. As we all know, when the crunch/ revelation happens we are usually very confused uttering things such as 'how could they, how dare they, if only I'd known etc etc etc. (See C.Jung, J.Mezirow, Beck and Cowan for ideas on 'crisis points, disorientating dilemmas, gamma phases)

This moment of disorientation is the moment when we realise our expectations have been dashed. Instantly we displace the responsiblity entirely for what has happened onto the 'guller'. Now, and you might not like to hear this at first, ask yourself 'who owns the expectations?' - well of course YOU and I do, and very often expectations are based on assumptions that began as very innocent and simple beliefs and we've simply added to them as time has gone by until we've duped ourselves into believing they hold some real substance.

One way to avoid being taken advantage of is to stop believing your expectations of others. This doesn't mean stop dreaming, and aspiring, it means thinking critically (i.e.testing for evidence)about the expectations you hold. This is not our normal everyday mind-set. Usually we coast along taking things on face value. What thinking critically involves is a bit more personal mental effort. It also means setting and keeping some standards and objectives of your own. Instead of abdicating responsibility for the achievement of your life goals to someone else, set and achieve them on your own. Go on - be brave! (educationalist call this becoming an independent learner, Jung talks about 'individuation')

Now becoming independent might seem strange, if you want to be with someone, or work for a company, however falling unthinkingly for the mantras and PR of others can only lead to tears. You and your aims count, and there's room enough in any balanced relationship for both parties to flourish. Even if one party complains that you should be 'all for them' (witness any biassed contract)this can usually be interpreted as 'all for them' until they decide to make the changes.

So, how do you avoid friends taking advantage of you? Scarcity is a good thing, make sure they ask for your help/advice/ opinion, more than once before you give it. In giving it don't expect anything in return (unless you are consultant in which case you probably know your value) - you have made a conscious decision so live with it. If a pattern emerges - believe the pattern not your expectations and act on it.

How do you stop people taking advantage of you? - simple don't let them.

To learn more about cheaters, con artists, bullies, betrayers, and traitors there are lots more resources to be found here:

How To Stop People Taking Advantage of You

There's no place more suited to friends taking advantage of you than the workplpace. Here's some stuff on Organisational Learning in business. This philosophy lies behind alot of the Human Resource approaches that we see in business. It basically promotes the idea that we should all be repsectful and collaborate in the workplace. In principle its a great idea. In practice it seems rather idealistic and is misused by people to take advantage of the ideas and efforts of others and yet there is pressure on all of us to conform to its ideals.

Th problem with this is that 'friends' at work might not necessarily be 'friends' when push comes to shove. Organisations are places where politics and power are always around. So be wary of the 'lets hold hands and love each other' brigade because they are simply trouble . In this world 'there are those that care' and 'those that don't' for me its that simple, you can only be one or the other - think about it!

Make no mistake, there is a huge gulf between the 'rhetoric' of the friendly workplace and the reality. Check out The Fish Rots From The Head for more about the reality of organisational life and how the people at the top are always the mailed fist in the velvet glove. I would also recommend the following because they are helpful in making sense of how and why people take advantage of others and what you can do about it:

Nasty People: How to Stop Being Hurt by Them without Stooping to Their LevelTo Have or to Be?


  1. Wordsmith master, thank you. I simply don't like people that's how I avoid the gullibility and cry at work, well at least in the bathroom,(darn those contacts in my eyes) or is it just the banale work duties my quick thinking brain must endure. I am also close to ending everything because people are basically vicious.If you don't care, they hate you and then you don't get the horrid cellular phone bills and if you do care, then no matter what travisity you'e just incured a car accident, you get maybe 5 seconds of airtime. Yes, I am a loser. I love Single Malt Scotch now more than people. It doesn't talk back and let's me enjoy the taste of it's fine liquid in my own time.
    Thank you.
    I take from now on.
    My Christmas presents were all spent on me!

  2. Hi, thank you for commenting, it's realy appreciated. Can I check? which people don't you like? How do you not like them? It seems also that you might explore other forms of employment? What might be stopping you do this? A bit of prescriptive advice , chuck the phone away or go on pay as you call - I did!! Then you;re in control not the phone company. If people choose to interpret your actions as 'not caring' that is their 'take' (sic) on the world in their world. it is not necessarily true in any way. Check out my post on Inside Track for the value memes of poele (after Spiral Dynamics) There are other less harmful ways to learn how to get 'air time' seek them out. I'm glad you enjoy Scotch! I don't see anything that makes you a loser, I sort could be some out there are a winner

  3. i have this problem. friends that i thought where "friends" have totally used me for my assets and abilities, screwed me over and then dont understand what my problem is when i get angry.. it seems to happen to me alot. i am forever getting hurt by the people i love the most and even though i make it clear to them that this is happening i still cant get out of this pattern. what should i do. it kills me

  4. I'm right there with you Anonymous. I feel your pain. I just need to know how to change the pattern that I obviously have started. I'm going to look into self help books, even though I hate those. We must have some sort of problem with our screening of people. We are not finding the correct friends. I think we need to change who we meet, how and why. Next time you meet someone who is nice, who you know you would not normally befriend, befriend them. Try it. Why not?

  5. I understand the situation of a person when a friend decieve him. It is better to avoid by saying a white lie, without hurting their hurt. Also send sms to that person to that friend with beautiful friendhsip quation, how friend is valuable n make to understand how good you are.

  6. This girl in my class kept asking if she could borrow my textbook, first I said yes, no problem. Then she borrowed it again and then she left it at a friend's place (or maybe that friend was using the book too, IDK) I was persistant a few times, finally got the book back. She asked if she could use it again along with some whining that she had no money and didn't have her book yet after a month or two. I told her in a message that I don't mind if she makes copies of it in the library, or she can check out a book with the same stuff there. Didn't hear back from her after that. Go figure. I guess she just wanted to use my book because I was so nice but I learned to be more protective of my stuff, especially if I paid a pretty penny for it! Not being greedy, just wise.

  7. I think the last comment is really interesting. Some clues as to what is going on here can be found in Bob Cialdini's work on social influence. The first thing was that the 'book borrower'asked for a small request, which set you up to be consistent with that behaviour on future occaisons 'I Am A Book Lender'. She then came back and asked again and to be 'consistent' you lent the book again, this time taking advantage of your generosity. The other factor is 'scarcity'. You seem to have realised this now. You should have made the borrower work a bit harder before you acceeded to the request. In that way you have added 'value' to your book and she wouldn't have been so cavalier about when she returned it.

    Two suggestions.
    (i) Be conscious of the 'norms' you set, the expectations you signal in the first place. Lending once doesn't mean you must lend twice.

    (ii)If its valuable to you make sure everyone understands how 'scarce' it is.

  8. I am fed up with every one around me always wanting my help whilst I may have time to help them I am now aware boundaries are important. I am also feel no one helps me, but hey that is a good thing Iam self sufficent. Its so easy to say yes, does that make me a push over, I think they percieve me as an target it angers me so much.

  9. I hate those people ask for favor that can be settle easily by their own especially those that can save their own pocket, they had the guts to beg you over and over again for your help.
    I had a friend I knew for a long time that always taking advantages of me by consiously and unconsiously take a free ride from me. His always expecting that I am willingly fetch him because it is too used to it.

  10. who is really to blame, the victim or the user? I've basically been letting a friend use me and I've been nagging about it for quite sometime promising myself that I'm gonna stop and I'm gonna confront my friend. Most recently...she was broke for dinner and a movie yet a couple days later had enough for a nose piercing?

  11. what do you call a person who was taken advantage of? is it victim of abuse. dont sound right. please shed some light. Thanks!

  12. i am also way too trusting of people, and only realize this in periods of revelation or crisis.. I was taken advantage of by a sociopath who I believed was one one of my good friends, and after realizing this, have fallen again into a vicious cycle, is this a disorder? This website has really helped me and its nice to see other people with the same trust issues...

  13. Its going against what the article says but I live buy five key points. EGSHG. Not really a really a great acronym but the message is a good one.

    First be expectant. Expect the best from others and yourself, and when you see yourself our theirselves behave anyway else then confrontation is a must.

    Be grateful. You have one life, and its yours. You don't need a giant social web to have a fulfilling life. Often absences of "friends" induces constant thought and practice of socializing. These kind of people, who want to be a good person hold some of the best conversations.

    Don't stare. It's as simple as it sounds. Focus on something or Act on someone you think is good looking.

    Don't hoover. Nothing makes someone look worse than expecting someone else to direct a conversation or event. Make your own path, if there is nothing else to talk about walk away (serisously).

    Be genuine. This doesn't mean to only be yourself, because yourself may want inappropriate things in all honesty. Be the person you want to be. Be the self you want to be not who others want you to be. You must be the right girl/guy to meet the right guy/girl.


  14. This is simply great advice. Yes. I suppose my post is a bit on the cynical side. I think you're right that people often behave as you expect them to do. Being genuine is crucial. Many people who 'gull' other people are not sadly. Thank you for adding to this conversation its very much appreciated.

  15. i have been taken advantage of .... my girlfriend took $1350 dollars over a period of time and now she can't pay me back ....

  16. I have a friend and it's like his whole family are con-artist and scammers. everyday it's hard dealing with these people. I don't hate them i've just realized they prey on kind hearted people and I developed my own methods to shake them off. Should I still be friends with them or move on with my life and completely shut them off out of my life?

  17. i have a flatmate who has been taking advantage of me for over 3 years. She was a friend before we started living together but after she would drive me crazy by making me decide everything for her & what she should wear in special occasions..sometimes i feel like im her second brain & that she cant be bothered using hers. I told her she has low confidence issues & should seek help & that i can no longer advise her but she never seems to stop. I use to sware at her & get angry & scream as she would never listen & i realised i would be going out of myself in order to make her understand. Finally i managed to solve my anger issues & tell her whenever she needs advise to just pray about & do meditation to take out her stress there & not on me cause i have changed because of her & also become a stressful person. I dont want to push blame on anyone for what ive become but ive realised its good to face these problems & not just leave houses & escape but you are in danger of changing urself. for example even during my exams for university she would come to ask me advise about issues with her boyfriend or uni. Also she never cleans the house. Never hovers. only her room. she is an only child and very spoilt so i can understand that but what i expect is at least to clean up after herself. im sick of being her mum, councillor, friend, doctor, etc. I told her but she doesnt listen. So i think from next year i will start to look for another house if she doesnt leave.

  18. Yes good hearted people...usually do get taken advantage of. When I do for someone, or the ask me to do something...I do it. I ask them, usually doesn't get acknowledged. I never EVER expect something back, I knew they needed it or wanted something, I could help..great. I stopped this 3 years ago because of a neighbor, will NEVER set myself up for one of those again. I NOW will help ONLY Seniors and take care of pets, have adjusted my life to this and this only.