Being taken advantage of


21 Tips to Stop Being a People-Pleaser

People-pleasers “want everyone around them to be happy and they will do whatever is asked of them to” keep it that way, according to Susan Newman, Ph.D, a New Jersey-based social psychologist and author of The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It—And Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever.

“They put everyone else before themselves,” she said. For some, saying “yes” is a habit; for others, “it’s almost an addiction that makes them feel like they need to be needed.” This makes them feel important and like they’re “contributing to someone else’s life.”

People-pleasers yearn for outside validation. Their “personal feeling of security and self-confidence is based on getting the approval of others,” said Linda Tillman, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist in Atlanta, GA and assertiveness expert. Thus, at the core, people-pleasers lack confidence, she said.

They worry how others will view them when they say no. “People don’t want to be seen as lazy, uncaring, selfish or totally egocentric,” Newman said. They fear “they’ll be disliked and cut from the group,” whether it’s friends, family or co-workers.

What many people-pleasers don’t realize is that people-pleasing can have serious risks. Not only does it put a lot of pressure and stress on you, Newman said, but “essentially you can make yourself sick from doing too much.” If you’re overcommitted, you probably get less sleep and get more anxious and upset. You’re also “depleting your energy resources.” “In the worst case scenario, you’ll wake up and find yourself depressed, because you’re on such overload because you possibly can’t do it all,” she said.

Here’s a slew of strategies to help you stop being a people-pleaser and finally say no.

1. Realize you have a choice.

People-pleasers often feel like they have to say yes when someone asks for their help. Remember that you always have a choice to say no, Newman said.

2. Set your priorities.

Knowing your priorities and values helps you put the brakes on people-pleasing. You know when you feel comfortable saying no or saying yes. Ask yourself, “What are the most important things to me?” Newman suggested.

3. Stall.

Whenever someone asks you for a favor, it’s perfectly OK to say that you’ll need to think about it. This gives you the opportunity to consider if you can commit to helping them. (Also important is to ask the person for details about the commitment.)

Newman suggested asking yourself: “How stressful is this going to be? Do I have the time to do this? What am I going to give up? How pressured am I going to feel? Am I going to be upset with this person who’s asking?”

Asking yourself these questions is key because, as Newman said, very often after you’ve said yes or helped out, you’re left wondering, “What was I thinking?” I neither have the time nor the expertise to help out.

If the person needs an answer right away, “your automatic answer can be no,” Newman said. That’s because “Once you say yes, you’re stuck.” By saying no automatically, “you leave yourself an option” to say yes later if you’ve realized that you’re available. And “you’ve also gotten it off your must-do or don’t-want to do list.”

4. Set a time limit.

If you do agree to help out, “limit your time frame,” Newman said. Let the person know that “I’m only available from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.,” for example.

5. Consider if you’re being manipulated.

Sometimes, people are clearly taking advantage of you, so it’s important to watch out for manipulators and flatterers, Newman said. How do you spot them? She said, “Often the people who flatter you will say , ‘Oh you’re so good at baking cakes, would you make a cake for my child’s birthday?’ or ‘I don’t know how to put this bookcase together, but you’re so handy, can you help me out?’”

A classic line is “Nobody does this better than you do,” she said. Also, these people “will either coax you into doing something or try to tell you what your availability is or what your time frame is.” Basically, before you know it, they make the decision for you.

6. Create a mantra.

Figure out a mantra you can say to yourself to stop you from people-pleasing. It can even be a visual as simple as a big “No” flashing when a certain friend who “can always talk you into something” approaches you, Newman said.

7. Say no with conviction.

“The first no to anyone is always the hardest,” Newman said. But once you get over that first bump, “you will be well on your way to getting off the yes treadmill.” Also, remember that you’re saying no for good reasons. “You get time for yourself and for the people you really want to help,” she said.

8. Use an empathic assertion.

Some people initially think that being assertive means “stepping all over people,” Tillman said. Instead, she explained that “assertiveness is really about connection.”

Using an empathic assertion “means that you put yourself in the other person’s shoes as you assert yourself,” Tillman said. So you let the person know that you understand where they’re coming from, but unfortunately, you can’t help. “People need to feel heard and understood,” and this is a respectful way of asserting yourself and saying no.

9. Consider if it’s worth it.

When asserting yourself, Tillman suggested asking yourself, “Is it really worth it?” It’s probably not worth it to tell your boss about his annoying habit, but it is worth it to tell your friend that you can’t do lunch because you’re super busy.

10. Don’t give a litany of excuses.

It’s tempting to want to defend your decision to say no to someone so they understand your reasoning. But this actually backfires. According to Newman, “As soon as you start explaining, you give the other person lots of wiggle room to come back and say, ‘Oh, you can do that later,’ ‘You can adjust your schedule’ or ‘That’s not as important as what I’m asking.’”

21 Tips to Stop Being a People-Pleaser

How To Stop Being Taken Advantage of at Work

Make Yourself a Priority

The empaths are inherently caring people with a strong wish to help others and to support others to succeed. They do it because not because their self-esteem is low, but because they consider others’ feelings just as important as their own. Their selflessness can be confused with stupidity — because, from the outside, that’s what it looks like. They have a very hard time drawing the line to protect their own wellbeing. As helping and caring is an inherently good thing, and by default is positive, it is difficult for the empath to say no to certain situations.

Being an empath is a gift — make sure it is a gift for you as well, not only for others. Empathise with yourself just as much as you would with a friend. Listen to your own needs as much as you would listen to someone in need. Make yourself a priority, be there for yourself, and care about yourself.

You need to know your own limits; you need to understand what things you are doing for yourself and what are the things that you enjoy. You need to think of yourself as much as you think of others. If you are a high-functioning Empath, your inner monologue needs to be addressed to yourself. Instead of musing about: “How could I help him, is he okay with this project, I hope he asks me for help if he gets stuck, I hope he is going home early to his family…” you should be thinking: “How could someone help me in my tasks, what could I delegate? Am I comfortable with this project or should I ask for help? Who should I ask if I get stuck? I am going home early, my family is waiting.’

Define and Keep Your Boundaries

You need to learn to set clear boundaries. You need to identify the fine line between being helpful and when it is already sucking the life out of you. You need to pay more attention to yourself and respect your own time and energy first and foremost. Your job is your responsibility; your time is the only time you are getting paid for, and your energy is yours to distribute. You need to be selfish —you need to practice self-care.

If your projects are already overflowing your working hours, or if you are taking work home and you need to work during weekends, this already means that you need to start drawing your boundaries more strictly. Assuming that you are doing your best at work, it means that you need to reject projects, reschedule timings, and re-organise campaigns and tasks. It means that you cannot help others — you need to help yourself first.

Most of the Empaths I know don’t have any rules for themselves. They think that help means to be there for everyone, all the time — regardless of how this might impact their own lives. Start by defining your boundaries first in terms of time, to manage your work-life balance and your healthy work situation. Boundaries might look like statements like this: “I am working between 9 and 5 only.” “I am taking my 30-minute lunch break.” “I am not checking my emails on the weekend.” “I am not answering my phone after 6 pm.”

Say No — And Be Happy About It

Saying no is not being rude. It teaches others about your needs and boundaries. It’s about telling them how to treat you — and in case they take it the wrong way, the problem lies with them, not you. You are entitled to say no to others who are using you or your help or time or energy, without getting anything in return.

Walking away from toxic situations, quitting a bad job, or declining a social gathering when it doesn’t add any positive energy to your life is the best thing that you can do. The biggest mistake an empath can make is to refrain from saying no to people and things to avoid hurting others. If someone can’t take no for an answer, if they never stop taking what you have to give, if they never reciprocate the attention and affection and never stop depleting you — chances are that you have encountered a narcissist. Narcissists are instinctively attracted to empaths because empaths are capable of filling the void for them.

Saying no doesn’t mean that you fail, and it doesn’t mean that you are selfish. It means that you know your physical, emotional, and mental limits and you do everything to respect them. You need to learn to say no if something doesn’t fit your schedule, your own needs, your expectations.

Saying no is empowering, and you need to be proud of your decision. Don’t look back. Don’t apologise for it. Don’t go back on your word. You need to be happy about saying no, especially if you’re at the beginning of your self-esteem journey. You need to understand that saying no will allow you to say yes to situations, people, and things that you really want.

Don’t Try to Help Others All the Time

As an Empath at work, you need to remind yourself constantly that you have one responsibility: your job. It’s really kind of you to want to help others, and they probably need it too, but think about it twice before you do.
On the one hand, you can help and guide others and you can be there for them, but at the end of the day, you can only help someone who is willing to help themselves too. Their talents, skills and work ethics are independent of you.

On the other hand, everyone has their own journey and learning path. Growth of any kind, including professional and personal, usually comes through painful events and difficult situations. If you take on someone else’s problems and conflicts, it won’t necessarily mean that their life will be easier, but it will surely mean that yours will be more difficult.

Even if you are leading a team, it’s not your job to help people all the time. You are there to give guidance and offer advice, but you are not supposed to solve all of their problems. Not as a coworker, not as a subordinate, not as a leader. Your job is not helping others. Your job is to do the tasks that you are responsible for. You are getting paid for your job — helping has its limits, and you should do it because it makes you feel good, because you are kind, because you are a good person. You are not obliged to help others out.

Taking Back Your Time: How to Avoid Being Taken Advantage of at Work

By Angela Rose On Apr 11, 2019

Browse open Healthcare and Medical Jobs

One of the practice’s other physician assistants called in sick and you’re expected to cover his workload—again. It’s Dr. Smith’s birthday next week and you’ve been asked to pick up a card and order a cake—again. The hospital lost another nurse and now all of those shifts have been piled on you—again. Dr. Clark forgot he was supposed to organize the lunch order for the practice meeting and delegated it to you thirty minutes before go time—again…

Does this sound like a typical day in your healthcare workplace? Are you routinely expected to take over tasks when your co-workers drop the ball? Do you often find yourself saddled with department “housekeeping” like ordering lunch, organizing parties, and cleaning up? Do you regularly clock overtime because the practice or hospital is understaffed? If so, you might be being taken advantage of at work.

Unfortunately, it’s not that uncommon—especially, experts say, if you’re a people pleaser and/or a woman.

Patricia Thompson, PhD, corporate psychologist, and president of Silver Lining Psychology, says that situations like these often happen due to power differentials. “People might feel that they don’t have the ability to say ‘no’ because a boss or someone else in a senior position is making requests that are unreasonable,” she explains. “Some people are able to push back more effectively against this than others because they’re willing to be appropriately assertive.”

Teresa Solomita, relationship expert and founder of Therapy2Change, agrees that being taken advantage of is common when people are uncomfortable standing up for themselves. However, she also notes that oftentimes women are taken advantage of in the workplace much more than men are.

The Old Saying Is True: Nice Guys (and Gals) Do Finish Last

If you’re thinking, “That isn’t me! I’m a team player and someday being so accommodating will pay off,” you very well might be wrong.

Solomita says that allowing yourself to be taken advantage of at work—even if you’re doing it for what you think is the best of reasons—is likely to cause burnout. Perhaps even worse, it’s unlikely to help you get ahead. “These people think if they do all this work, they’re going to get promoted,” she continues. “But the people who actually get promoted are the ones who set the boundaries and talk the talk. Playing the political game is going to get you promoted faster than doing more work will.”

“I’m reminded of a book by a psychologist named Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton,” Thompson says. “The book is called Give and Take, and in it, he explains that people who give can be the most successful at work but are usually the least successful because they give to the point of burnout and exhaustion. While being giving in and of itself is a good thing, the trick is finding the fine line and not giving to your own detriment.”

Doormat No More: 5 Tips to Take Back Your Time

Chances are good you got into a healthcare profession because you truly enjoy taking care of people. But you can be an excellent nurse, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or physician without resigning yourself to life as a human doormat. Instead, consider our experts’ tips to help you exercise assertiveness, enhance your worth, and take back your time.

  • Evaluate the Situation – “First thing to do is make an assessment,” Solomita advises. “Ask yourself if you’re really being taken advantage of or if you’re just volunteering too much. Compare yourself to your colleagues and peers.”
  • Set Boundaries – If you determine that your boss or coworkers are indeed taking advantage of you, Thompson says the next step is to set boundaries. “If you have someone who is constantly asking you to save him or her, or to do things you feel are unreasonable, it’s perfectly reasonable to push back,” she continues. “I suggest saying something like, ‘I can’t help you right now because I have other work on my plate,’ or if that seems too abrupt then, ‘This is the last time I’m going to be able to do this for you.'”

  • Thompson adds that you can soften the blow somewhat by offering tips to help your coworker manage his or her time or deal with the issue more effectively. “When you’re resetting boundaries, people may be caught off guard a little bit by your behavior,” she explains. “Be prepared that they might be a little bit disappointed or put off in the moment, but if you’re doing it in a pleasant way, relationships can survive that.”
  • Ask for Clarification on Priorities – If it’s a supervisor who is expecting you to take on too much, Solomita advises telling him or her that you need help setting your priorities. “Tell her, ‘I cannot get this all done at one time so let’s work together to set a timeframe,'” she adds. “Take a really positive approach and explain that you want to do your best for the organization. If no one can possibly do everything you’ve taken on, your boss will see that it is too much.”
  • Thompson agrees. “I’ve seen situations where bosses are constantly delegating activities, maybe even the office housework, because you’ve set the tone that you’re willing to do it or because they don’t actually know everything you’re working on,” she says. “When that happens, it can be helpful to let them know what you are doing and ask which tasks should take priority. This puts your boss into the position of having to help you prioritize and gives a better understanding of what your workload is.”
  • Ask Your Coworkers for Help – If you’re always helping out your coworkers but never asking for assistance on your own tasks, Thompson says you can end up feeling resentful. “Relationships can start to feel like they have a really one-sided quality,” she adds. “I think by being more assertive and asking others for help, you’ll not only get the help you need but you’ll also likely feel less resentful because your relationships will be more balanced.”
  • Be Compassionate to Yourself – “A lot of time, people pleasers are compassionate for others and really want to help them, but sometimes they tend to put other’s needs above their own,” Thompson says. “If you can get in a situation where you realize that your needs are just as important and valuable as those of the people around you, it will give you more motivation to be assertive and advocate for yourself.”
  • Solomita advises adding self-care to that self-compassion. “You’re not helping others unless you’re helping yourself,” she adds. “When you’re on a plane, they say put that oxygen mask on yourself first before you help your child because if you don’t, you’re not going to be available. Change your mindset to know that if you practice self-care, you’re actually going to be able to be better at your job.”

Search for a new healthcare job opportunity today!

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4 Ways to Stop Being Taken Advantage of at Work (Without Losing Respect)

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an activity at work that you really wished you hadn’t agreed to? Maybe you ended up joining the company softball team, even though you hate sports and are embarrassed by your inability to throw in a straight line.

Perhaps you became the organizer of all of the office birthday parties, because no one else would do it. Or, maybe you picked up the slack yet again, and ended up staying late for a colleague who begged you to help him to finish a project at the last minute.

We’ve all been there. And, let’s be real: There definitely will be times when you have to do things at work that you would rather not. However, if you find yourself in this position more than you would like simply because you don’t want to let other people down, then you could be a people pleaser.

And it may not seem like a big deal in the short term. But in the long-term, the cons far outweigh the pros. Accommodating others too much can result in feeling overwhelmed (because you’ve taken on too many commitments), resentful (because of the inherent imbalances in the relationship), and stifled (because you’re constantly ignoring your own needs in a quest to be liked).

It can also make you feel inauthentic, because when you’re smiling on the outside—despite feeling frustrated on the inside—you’re essentially pretending to be someone who you’re not. In fact, research suggests that smiling to appease others when you’re not genuinely feeling happy, is linked to a decreased sense of well-being, and “withdraw from work.”

So what’s a people pleaser to do? Here are four tips to deal:

1. Give Others More Credit

Sometimes when you’re bending over backwards, it might come from a place of not giving others enough credit. For example, you might tell yourself, “If I don’t help him, how will he manage?” or “Nobody else is going to do it, so I have to jump in.” The reality is, people are often much more resilient than we believe.

If you say, “no,” most people can either find someone else to say, “yes” if they’re motivated to do so or even solve the problem themsleves.

2. Be More Compassionate (to Yourself)

People pleasers tend to be very compassionate when it comes to others. They frequently anticipate others’ needs and do their best to try to prevent the people around them from feeling uncomfortable.

However, to stop being taken advantage of, you’ve got to learn to treat yourself with that same level of respect. Recognize your own worth and be willing to be an advocate for yourself.

A good rule of thumb is to consider, “If this request was being made of someone else, what would I think?” If you start to feel protective, then it’s a sign you might be getting close to being taken advantage of.

3. Set Boundaries

Fact: You can’t say “no” to every single task you don’t want to do. After all, everybody has to spend some time each day doing things they would rather not.

But, figuring out what’s part of the job and what’s above-and-beyond takes practice. As does turning down that extra work.

Experiment with saying “no” or at least, “not now” to requests. Respectfully disagree with someone in a meeting instead of just going along with them (Psst—here’s how). You’ll likely find that speaking up more helps you to feel more confident each time you do it.

4. Learn to Deal With Conflict

At first, you may feel uncomfortable setting boundaries because it’s new for you. But once you step up and say something, you may find it’s a total non-event. In other words, when you say “no,” the other person simply says “OK,” and that’s the end of it.

However, there may be an instance in which advocating for yourself results in conflict. Now, it could be that the other person genuinely needs your help or expertise, and that’s part of being on a team. But, it could also be that they’re simply used to you pulling the extra weight, and you’ll need to wade through the conflict.

Instead of avoiding it, prepare your conflict management skills in advance so you can approach these situations with a greater sense of confidence. Practice deep breathing to manage your stress in the moment, consider the issue from your co-worker’s point of view, and prepare “I” statements that convey how the situation makes you feel.

Finally, run what you are planning to say past a trusted friend or colleague to get another perspective. If you anticipate a really difficult interaction, you might even want to roleplay it with someone.

The final step in recovering from being a people pleaser is to start asking for things. Delegate. Let others assist you. Doing so will help you to shift your relationships from one-sided to more reciprocal.

And, as you get used to receiving from others, you’ll realize that being a doormat simply isn’t necessary for having positive relationships. Make sure to consider your own needs with the needs of those around you, and you’ll be able to find the right balance.

6 signs you’re being taken advantage of – and what to do

Especially when you’re a natural-born overachiever, going above and beyond at the workplace is second nature to you. Not only because you want to impress your manager but you have high standards for yourself and your performance. While this is a positive trait to have, those who are incredibly self-motivated run the risk of being taken advantage of. Those who aren’t as hard working or enthusiastic can prey on you, since they know you’ll deliver whatever project, deadline or presentation is put in front of you.

Branding and career expert Wendi Weiner challenges those who may feel undervalued to speak up… stat! “Standing up for yourself shows empowerment and self-respect. If someone is continuously taking advantage of you, then they aren’t showing you the respect that is due and owing. You then become a doormat to the person and their expectation is they can always walk all over you,” she explains.

Here, clear signs you’re not being respected:

You never feel good enough

After weeks of working diligently on a new launch for your company, the big day comes and goes swimmingly. But even though you gave your all and exceeded expectations, your boss fails not only fails to acknowledge your work, but has negative feedback. You probably find yourself scratching your head and wondering what you missed the mark on, which can be bad news for your sense of self-confidence. When you never feel like you live up to expectations, it is more likely that you shrink, instead of rise to the next level of your career.

This type of upper leadership attitude illustrates your manager’s perception of you, according to branding expert and career coach Ali Craig. “It is human nature to crave validation so withholding verbal praise is an easy way to control someone,” she explains. “The same holds true if your efforts are always being nitpicked. Living in a state of constant criticism increases anxiety and stress responses.”

When your boss lists out what you did wrong – or doesn’t say anything at all – take a deep breath and ask for feedback. What specific tasks could you have done better? How can you improve? What did they think – and why?

You are always helping others

Someone needs help editing an email? You’re there. Another person needs you to pick up the slack where someone left off? You got it. Though this helpful mentality is appreciated, it is also easy for many to take a people-pleaser for granted.

“It is one thing to help out a co-worker who is in a pinch, but if it becomes a weekly situation, then it’s a red flag that you are being taken advantage of,” Weiner continues. The best way to handle it is to advise that you are buried in time-sensitive projects and can’t help right now, she says.

Your boss never takes responsibility – or takes all of it

When a client meeting bombs—are you left with the burden of the fail? Or when it goes swimmingly—is your name somehow left off of the big company-wide announcement email? When your manager refuses to take responsibility for the bad stuff but always steps up for the praise, Craig says you’re treading on unhealthy grounds.

“It may seem like a cultural phenomenon, but lack of assuming responsibilities isn’t just bad manners, it is also a sign that the relationship isn’t valued,” she explains. “The person taking advantage usually never takes responsibility for anything from their words, actions, and subsequent outcomes, and instead puts all of the responsibilities of the other party.”

When this happens, pull your boss aside and have a discussion. Though it might be uncomfortable to articulate, coming armed with examples will help make your case, and hopefully, provoke a change.

You are doing way more work than you’re paid for

No matter the industry, everyone is short-staffed sometimes — whether because of vacation or a slew of folks jumping ship for new opportunities. Being understanding of the company’s needs, you might step up and take on extra work. Though that is a welcomed short-term solution, it isn’t one that should be insistent … if you’re not getting a salary bump or title change in exchange. “If your boss doesn’t acknowledge your new additional responsibilities, you are being taken advantage of, and you may want to have a conversation with your boss about how you can be compensated for your extra help,” she advises.

You’re always apologizing

Two words that are far too often in the frequent vocabulary of most professionals (particularly, females)? ‘I’m sorry.’ And 99 percent of the time, you have no reason to apologize—you’re merely showing how antsy or on edge you feel with your manager. As an experiment, keep a record of how many times you slip these words daily. You’ll probably be surprised by the number!

“If you find yourself always apologizing especially if you are doing it just to ‘keep the peace’ – you aren’t being respected. This increases the giving party’s stress level but it also subconsciously increases their commitment to seeing the relationship through,” Craig explains.

The solution here? Stop apologizing, unless necessary. Instead, justify or stand firm on your choices and actions, showing your manager or co-worker how tough your backbone actually is.

Your ideas are never taken seriously

You spend countless hours brainstorming ideas and you take your time to provide thoughtful, thorough suggestions when your manager requests them … but nothing is taken seriously. This can be a big downer on your own opinion of your work and contribution to a team, and as Craig says, a clear indicator that your boss is taking advantage of you.

In this extreme, recurring case, it might be in your best interest to seek new employment, where you can recreate a respectful relationship from day one.

How to Avoid Being Taken Advantage Of

When you create relationships and strike up deals, there is rarely an exact point of fairness, a precise set of conditions that make all responsibilities and benefits balanced. Most business deals involve an input of capital, expertise, and other resources, the value of which can be difficult to measure.

I never try to make a deal exactly fair, because I don’t believe in exactness. I think of fairness as a range. Imagine a measurement device (such as an applause meter or thermometer) with a colored bar that covers a portion of it. That colored bar is how I think of fairness. It is a range, not a point.

When I do deals, I imagine that bar before I negotiate. At the one end is what I think is fairest to me. At the other end is what I think is fairest to my negotiating partner. I mentally prepare myself to settle on anything in between. By doing so, I benefit in four ways:

1. I save time.

2. I save money.

3. I show myself as fair-minded.

4. I avoid second thoughts.

This process has been enormously helpful to me in my career. It has allowed me to have productive partnerships — enjoyable and profitable joint ventures — with people who had reputations of being “difficult.”

And there has been an unexpected, ironic compensation as well. Several times, after settling on “the other end” of the range of fairness, I found that, after a few years, my partner’s contributions turned out to be much more substantial than I had thought they would be. Consequently, the deal that I initially thought may have been a bit more in his favor turned out to be much more advantageous to me. This strategy will make it easier for you to negotiate deals and easier to keep them. But, there will be times when you will not be able to make a deal. No matter how far you extend the range of fairness, the guy on the other side of the table will want more. I call this type of person a “more-for-me” negotiator.

It would be easy for me to say “Just avoid such people.” But the truth is that they are usually very seductive — especially to people with big hearts. (Could that be you?) They are also very skilled at making their “more-for-me” deals seem pretty good to you.

One clue to watch out for: You feel that the deal isn’t very good for you but you want to do it anyway because you really want to make the other person happy.

As someone who falls into this hole constantly, I can tell you from experience that doing something against your gut instincts purely because it will please someone else is not a good idea.

Don’t get me wrong. You want your colleagues and associates and partners to be happy with the deals you make. In fact, wanting the deal to be good for them is necessary for its long-term success. But when the deal is off balance — and you are fundamentally unhappy because you know that the other person has pushed you into an “it’s-better-for-him” arrangement that you don’t think is fair — you must sit back and wonder whether the entire relationship is worthwhile.

“More-for-me” behavior is easy enough to detect. But how do you protect yourself against it? This is what I try to do:

The moment you realize what’s going on, try to take a break from the discussion to “think a few things over.”

Figure out, in the peace of your own head, what you would be willing to accept as “fair” and what would be an unquestionable “deal breaker.”

Determine how you could live without the deal. (There is always a way.)

Admit to yourself: “This person is trying to take advantage of me by trying to make me want to please him. If I attempt to please him, he will continue this negative approach of his. I will be enabling bad behavior. That will not only make things worse in the future but also cause himto disrespect me.”

Gird yourself emotionally to be as ruthless with him as he is planning to be with you.

Call him to reconvene the meeting — but make some sort of arbitrary demand.

Something like starting the meeting 15 minutes later than the time he uggested or meeting in another room. It should be something so small that he can’t reasonably refuse you. If he does, cancel the deal.

Having established your new “tough-guy” persona, lead the conversation with a prepared statement. It should be something like this: “John, I’ve thought about this deal and I believe that the fair way to do it is for me to have . . .” (Give him some version of what you think is fair, but not your last-ditch one.)

Negotiate to your last-ditch position and settle there . . . or walk out.

There’s nothing like feeling you’re part of a team, working toward a common goal, being able to count on each other when things get stressful. But a team only works among equals, with each person pulling their own weight. You might end up working with someone who expects you to do more than your fair share of work, is overly critical, or takes the credit that you deserve.

It’s an unfortunate situation and one that can make you miserable. Fearing retaliation, negative attention for “making a fuss,” or even termination can keep you from addressing the fact that you’re being taken advantage of. Yet taking a stand against misuse is the only way to make it stop.

Are you being taken advantage of?

Maybe you love jumping in on someone else’s project when they’re overloaded. And you certainly don’t mind answering a phone and taking a few messages. Dealing with customers while a coworker takes their lunch? Of course! These are reasonable requests and situations. Yet someone who seems to always pull you away from your work to help with theirs, or outright handing you work they should be doing, is taking advantage of you by abusing your willingness to lend a hand.

An easy way to assess if you’re being taken advantage of is to ask yourself,” Do I feel like I’ll get in trouble in some way if I try to refuse?” Being afraid to say no is a problem. If fear is keeping you quiet, then the situation has become unhealthy.

Some signs you’re being taken advantage of:

  • You’re not getting credit for extra work you do/someone else takes credit for your work.
  • You’re the catchall person for extra tasks and duties beyond your normal job.
  • You’re not compensated for extra hours you regularly work.
  • You’re assigned tasks other people won’t do at the same level as you because you don’t push back.

What to say to someone taking advantage of you in 3 common situations:

Confrontations can be scary. And the kind of person who gladly hands their work off to you probably isn’t easy to have a constructive conversation with. But this isn’t about them. This is about you taking agency over your situation. Next time someone pushes your boundaries, use these tips and phrases to push (politely) back.

1. When someone attempts to give you extra work that’s not your responsibility.

Try “My plate’s full today. I won’t have time to handle that for you.”

Do not apologize. This person is trying to use you. That’s not your fault, and nothing to be sorry about. If they keep pushing, don’t be afraid to bring in mention of your boss. Simply say she told you to make your own tasks a priority today, or that you’ll have to check with her before you take on anyone else’s work.

2. When you’re not given credit for your contribution.

You work hard, and deserve to be recognized, especially if you want to use this job to launch your career to the next level. Have a private conversation with the coworker or boss who failed to mention you, and make your point simple and brief: “I was disappointed to see I wasn’t given credit for the work I did on this project. Can you tell me why I wasn’t included?” Put your feelings front and center with simple statements. “I feel __ because of __.” Then ask for clarification.

3. When you’re being micro-managed or excessively critiqued.

Working with someone looking over your shoulder, and always frowning when they do, will put a ding in anyone’s confidence. Eventually, it can even affect your performance. Whether you’re being crowded by a coworker or your boss, don’t be afraid to ask for space. A simple “I’m happy to keep you up to date on my project, but I work better with a little breathing room” might suffice. Again, state your need and then, if possible, supply a possible solution.

How to stop being taken advantage of:

Standing up for yourself is no small thing. It’s a skill to cultivate at work and beyond. Being able to handle situations in a mature and professional way will make you far less likely to fall prey to any would-be advantage takers. And while it can be difficult at first, like any other skill, it gets easier with practice.

1. Build your confidence.

If you’ve fallen into the habit of saying yes to everything, take a look at why. Are you a people pleaser in general, or are you afraid to say no?

A lack of confidence will make it difficult for you to fend off someone trying to take advantage of you. Build yourself up. Give yourself credit for being the awesome employee that you are, and someone who deserves far better behavior from others.

2. Set some boundaries.

Part of being confident is knowing where your boundaries are. At work, you already know how many tasks you can handle in a day. Make this clear to anyone trying to overload you. If they keep pushing, recognize that they aren’t showing respect for your boundaries. Which means you aren’t the problem here. They are.

3. Say “no” the right way.

Being confident and clear on your boundaries will help you say no without blowing a fuse. It saves you from a stress meltdown, maintains your professionalism and also sets an example for the rest of your coworkers. This might make saying no easier for them, too.

4. Turn confrontation into conversation.

Think of meeting with your problem person as having a conversation, not a confrontation. This isn’t about blaming or accusing, but rather stating your needs and asking for help to resolve the situation. Whether the other person chooses to participate as calmly as you is up to them.

5. Get help.

You’re not alone. Your company should be willing to help you resolve this difficult situation. By all means, ask to have a private conversation with your boss or, if your boss is the issue, someone above them. Again, stay confident and clear.

6. Accept what won’t change.

Let’s face it, a negative or unfair work environment can be soul-crushing, inspiring neither confidence nor success. If you’re unable to resolve a situation in which you’re being taken advantage of, leaving may be your only choice. But don’t worry. Finding a new job might seem stressful, but staying would be worse. Don’t let a bad situation keep you from being happy, and advancing your career.

Last word

Being taken advantage of at work is an unhealthy situation. Whether you feel like you’re too young or too new at a company to say something, or you just want to keep the peace and support the team, fear is keeping you from resolving the situation. The only way to stop being taken advantage of is to become more confident and firm about your boundaries. Be clear: no means no.

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Heather Adams is a storyteller. Find her on [email protected]

The Fear of Being Taken Advantage Of

Many of my client’s fear of being taken advantage of gets in their way of learning to trust someone else. This fear is potent and triggers something primal, I think. No one wants to let other people see that they can be “gotten.” We often choose to miss out on connecting with someone than risk being hurt.

It’s a real fear because people do it to us, right? They betray us, we get “ghosted”—but to deal with all this shame/embarrassment/vulnerability/anger we often swing to the extreme and just say “Eff It! I’m never going to let myself be taken advantage of again!”

This can guard us from getting smothered in an unhealthy relationship as well as guard us against reading into things that aren’t there.

But we really do end up missing out.

Learning Basic Trust Early On…

This fear gets started early and the psychologist Erik Erikson said the first thing we need to accomplish as babies is to figure out whether we can trust others–or not. If we don’t believe someone will feed us, clean us, or come when we cry/call, then we are primed to distrust the world. We hard ourselves early on if this is the case.

The developing us thinks:

  1. age 2: no one will pick me up from day care,
  2. age 9: dad won’t come to my soccer game,
  3. age 15: that girl will never return my call,
  4. adult: my wife/partner/husband will eventually leave me,
  5. adult: my kids/friends don’t really care about me.

The list goes on and on because as we become self-sufficient (I can get my own food and clean myself, thank you very much) we find new ways to expect to be forgotten about. This haunts us in relationships and friendships and keeps us holding our cards close to our vests.

We become like the Mafia Don who can only sit with his back against the wall so he can see the whole room. There’s a sense that the moment you let your guard down will be the moment the person you trusted is going to pull out that rug.

Maybe your greatest fear is to become Charlie Brown who keeps running toward that football, believing that THIS time Lucy won’t snatch it away.

…But Doing it Slowly

The trouble with the Charlie Brown analogy is that it’s all about “Or”. Either Charlie Brown trusts Lucy or he doesn’t kick the football. But we don’t need to live in that binary of trust fully vs. don’t trust at all.

Part of relationship building is learning to trust…but slowly.

Learn to see whether this person is worthy of your faith in them. Do they show up when they say they are going to or call if there is a problem? We don’t need to trust them with the big stuff yet, but are we going through the process of building with them?

Feeling like you’re ready to jump in and learn more about your current issue? Contact me here.

It’s not easy to do, because even sending that first email on OkCupid is letting out a hand that may be slapped. Or worse, ignored–so many unanswered questions in that. How do you manage that anxiety?

And that hurts. There’s talk about the “fragile male ego” and often we have one. Many of us!

It’s good and healthy to be aware when your feelings are hurt, but is that ego

  • stopping you from taking chances?
  • leading you to respond in an explosively angry way?
  • not letting you sit with feeling hurt for a little bit, but still get up again with enthusiasm for the next possibility?

Some of us would rather choose to never engage at all than to slowly take chances and deal with the small bruisings that come with that.

Trust Via a Calculated Risk

Let me be clear: being taken advantage of sucks.

It does. Big time.

Especially if you’re doing everything “right”. You’re being kind, you’re thinking of others, you’re being empathic, you’re thinking the best of people. It is damned unfair when someone “takes advantage of your good nature” (I think I’m quoting Livia Soprano, but I may have gotten that wrong—sticking with the Family theme, though.)

But what’s the alternative?

Many people move between extremes. We isolate and when that becomes unbearable we move too fast to connect with someone new. Once that person takes advantage of us we are reminded that we shouldn’t trust anyone. Then we’re back to isolation.

Charlie Brown could take Lucy aside and have a talk. He could have Schroeder come along. He could play a game that would let them both have some power and was more equitable. He could build up to the football before just blindly trusting her.

There are people who will take advantage of you. There are lots of people who won’t. You’ll lose out on getting to know that second group if you don’t learn how to weed the others out. And that means you need to take some calculated risks.

The Irony in Avoiding Being Taken Advantage Of

The surprise is that when we are the most successful at isolating ourselves. When we stop allowing anyone to take advantage of us we often end up lonely and feeling bad about ourselves. There’s a fable of a guy who ties a brick to a bungee cord so when he gets mad he throws the brick at someone and the bungee cord ensures (because he gets mad at people so often he doesn’t want to lose the brick) that the brick comes back. Trouble is, it usually hits him in the face. The moral of the story is that we need to wonder if our defenses don’t end up harming us just as much as—if not more than—others.

Yes, you can shield yourself from being taken advantage of by not trusting anyone.

But is it worth it?

Do you find yourself in this rut of isolation or over-trusting? If you’d like to talk about how you can find your way out of that, please get in touch with me for a FREE 15-minute phone consultation–even if you’re worried you’ll have nothing to talk about in therapy.

Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert. He is a Brooklyn therapist (as well as also seeing clients online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been working with men and their families for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be.

Is Your Partner Taking Advantage of You? 10 Ways to Know

Being in a relationship should mean having a partner who’s also your equal. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. When the scales are out of balance, it’s only a matter of time until the relationship is left teetering on the edge of a breakup.

Here are 10 dead giveaways you’re being taken advantage of.

1. They refuse to define the relationship

If your partner refuses to have the DTR conversation, they could be taking advantage of you. |

If you’re more than ready to have the talk, yet your partner has been dragging his or her feet for far too long, you’re probably being taken advantage of. It’s time to stop making excuses for them. Quit waiting around, and let your partner know that making it official is what you’re after.

2. They’re preoccupied with someone else

Your partner shouldn’t be staring. |

We’re not talking about a little innocent flirting every once in a while. While every relationship is different, one thing that’s definitely not OK is giving all your time and attention to someone who’s not your partner. Regardless of what kind of bond you and your partner have, every relationship has some sort of boundaries in place. Whatever those are for you, they need to be respected. A partner who’s preoccupied with someone else doesn’t have your best interests in mind.

3. Your partner is perfect only when you’re alone

Your partner should be proud to be with you in public. |

Everyone wants someone they can be proud of. Or, at the very least, someone they can take out in public. Feeling confident with your significant other is a sure sign you two, at least for right now, are in a great place. So, heed caution when this isn’t the case. As The Bolde says, “He might be perfect when you’re alone between the sheets, but is he willing to be seen with you in the street? If the answer is no, RUN.” We couldn’t agree more.

4. They never make time for you

Spending time together is super important. |

It’s crucial for any relationship to survive. After all, the reason you two got together in the first place was because you enjoyed each other’s company. Making time for your partner is imperative. It’s not fair for you to be the one constantly trying to make plans. Much like friendships, romantic relationships are a two-way street. If your partner isn’t putting in the effort to actually spend time with you, it’s time to reconsider.

5. You work harder at the relationship

Both people need to be as equally invested. |

Relationships are about give and take, and if you’re the one doing all the work, it’s clear your partner is taking advantage of your good nature. According to YourTango, any relationship requires some reciprocity. If yours doesn’t, it’s time to sever ties. There’s no reason you should be putting in 150% when your partner’s only making the bare minimum.

6. They guilt you into things you don’t want to do

You shouldn’t feel guilted into doing anything. |

When equality within a relationship is out of whack, it can often seem like one person is calling all the shots. Do you ever feel guilted into doing things you really have zero interest in doing? If so, it’s quite possible your partner is taking advantage of you. Even if your willingness to allow your significant other to make all the decisions stems from a certain neediness, it’s still unacceptable.

7. They pay more attention to your appliances than you

They love doing laundry … at your house. |

This one’s a no-brainer, but says it’s a problem when a partner only comes over to do his or her laundry or gets more use out of your full kitchen than, say, the bedroom. Clearly, someone using you for your material possessions isn’t your best match. These signs may sound easy to spot, but that’s not always the case. Be on the lookout if you suspect this may be happening to you.

8. They’re constantly asking for favors

Relationships should be equal parts give and take. |

Does it seem as though your partner is always cashing in on huge requests, yet is reluctant to do even the smallest of favors for you? If this is the case, Bustle says they’re obviously not around for the right reasons. They should put in the same effort when you need something, too.

9. It’s all about their needs

There should be a fair amount of give and take in the relationship. |

According to FamilyShare, you should proceed with caution if your partner never asks how your day was. Or they never “go out of their way to make sure you are genuinely doing OK.” Your partner should engage in your life by asking questions about what’s going on with you. If this isn’t happening, they clearly think everything’s about them, and likely don’t care much about you.

10. Your self-esteem declines and you feel unappreciated

It’s important to feel appreciated. |

It’s only natural to want to feel appreciated, especially by your partner. After all, this is the one person you’ve decided to spend time with. Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D., writes in Psychology Today, “Regrettably, in many marriages the end result is that such a person experiences a loss of self-respect and positive self-regard generally. They may begin to view themselves as less worthy than they had prior to the relationship.” Feeling good about yourself is imperative for any healthy relationship, so if yours is making you feel less than, it’s time to head for the hills. You deserve much, much more.

How to Be a Good Friend Without Others Taking Advantage of You

(Image: Chinh Le Duc)

“I want to be a good friend and a good person to people. How can I do that without them taking advantage of me?” – Victoria

Hey Victoria, thanks for your question. 😀

Well, the short answer is that you can’t.


Let me rephrase. I don’t mean that you can’t have people not take advantage of you. What I mean is that if you want to be a good friend and a good person to people, the first thought on your mind shouldn’t be, “How can I prevent them from taking advantage of me?“

See, because when you connect with people with that mentality, the only thing you are going to attract will exactly be that—situations where you get taken advantage of. You will be sending out such fear-based vibes that people who genuinely don’t have a desire to take advantage of you will be repelled by that (consciously or subconsciously), whereas people who do want to take advantage of you will see you as a ready target for them to do so. As I often say on the site, people of the same consciousness tend to flock together.

The thought then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Also, your thoughts form the basis for your reality. By thinking “I don’t want to see a pink elephant”, the only thing that will appear in your mind will be a pink elephant. Even if the people who connect with you have no intention to take advantage of you whatsoever, you will interpret their actions as such, and either cut them off in your life or keep them at a distance because you are afraid they would hurt you. Nobody can get through to you this way, and you continue to be barricaded in your own world.

As a very wise friend of mine told me before, you can’t make a (real, meaningful) connection without first being vulnerable. I have learned this in the area of love. My heart has been sliced and diced before (a few times in fact), but still I do not hold myself back in pursuit of making real connections. In Are You Treating Dating as a “Game”?, I mentioned that “I rather put myself out there, let my heart get sliced, diced and handed to me on a platter, than to be evasive (with others), out of fear of getting hurt”. I hold the same stance today.

The prize (having a real connection with someone, connecting with people I love, etc.) is just too important for me to approach relationships with such fear, because that fear will only prevent me from realizing my intention. That will be the same for you too.

That said, it doesn’t mean you should let yourself get hurt without reservation or self-regard. Some things you can do:


  1. Be people-discerning. Shady people tend to be evasive, not upfront about their intentions, and inconsistent in their actions and words (i.e. what they do and say are completely different). You get better at sizing people up the more you socialize. Read: How to Be More Street Smart
  2. Do give people the benefit of the doubt though. Always assume the best of others until proven otherwise.
  3. Remove people who have abused your kindness before. Once bitten, twice shy, third time… well, you don’t want there to be a third time. If someone has taken advantage of your goodwill before, 86 them.
  4. Give what you are ready to give. Be there for others and give them what you can, as your natural self. This way, it doesn’t matter if they supposedly “take advantage of you” — whatever you have given would be something you were ready and okay to give, and hence not incurred as “loss”, so to speak. Simply take it as a gift of kindness to someone who needed it more than you. (People who take advantage of others do so because they are in a place of lack and neediness.)
  5. Surround yourself with good people. As you uncover gems (good friends) in your life’s journey, keep them close to you. Treasure them and love them as you would yourself. Even if you do get hurt by others along the way, your good friends will be there to catch you when you fall. You’ll never be alone in your problems.
  6. Forgive, don’t forget. This may sound vengeful but it really isn’t. By “don’t forget”, I’m simply asking you to be mindful of the past and make conscious choices on relationships and people based on past and present experiences. If someone has hurt you before and wants to be let back in your life, make sure the original problem areas were worked on or are being worked on before reconnecting; otherwise the problem will simply repeat itself.

    There’s no need to bear grudges (and you shouldn’t); just don’t blindly disregard your past.

    On forgiveness, read: Kindness Challenge Day 12: Forgive Someone

Last words… to wonder if people will take advantage of you or not is a highly fear-based thought—one that is rooted in the separation mindset. (I’ve covered separation and oneness mindsets in my social anxiety article, so do check that out.)

You don’t want to start connections by seeing people as separate, foreign, and antagonistic towards you. That is never a good basis to form connections. You want to start connections by assuming the best of others, having a trusting view, and believing they have your best interests at heart. Because most people do indeed have positive intentions, just that often times people (read: we) get misunderstood and our actions become linked with ulterior motives.

If you do get hurt, then big fat hairy deal. Cut your losses and move on. Learn from the experience and apply the lessons, while giving people (who have hurt you before) the benefit of the doubt. Life is too short to live in fear or to bear grudges. The sooner you let go, the faster you can meet awesome people who will thrive in your goodness just as you will in theirs.

Good luck Victoria. I can tell that you have a good heart with good intentions, and I’m sure you will touch many, many lives in your life’s journey. 😀

Related articles you should check out:

  • How to Have More Best Friends: My Heartfelt Guide
  • Are You Treating Dating as a “Game”?
  • The Secret To Meaningful Social Relationships (How to Remove Social Anxiety)
  • 14-Day Kindness Challenge


Being Taken Advantage of? Maybe It’s Because You’re Lonely

I was relieved to find an apartment that I could share with two other female students. One of them told me that her mother had signed the lease for all of us, and so there was no need for me to sign. I just had to pay my share of the rent.

But then, in December, that roommate told me that I had to pack my bags and leave. She gave a reason that made no sense, leaving me feeling shocked and rejected. Later, my other roommate confided that it was because the first roommate’s older sister was starting school in January. I had been deceived and used by the mother and daughter who knew all along that the sister would replace me.

All of that is not so surprising, right? It would have been very difficult for them to find someone who would have knowingly agreed to move in only for the first semester of a two-semester academic year. Thus, the mom and daughter had to deceive me, or they would have lost out on those months of rent. Most decent people wouldn’t have done that, but at least their behavior was understandable.

What was surprising was my reaction. I didn’t put up a fight or argue. I didn’t confront the roommate or her mother on the deception. I merely packed my bags and left. I even sent her a check for the portion of December’s utility bills I owed.

Lonely people (like I was as a graduate student) are easy targets for exploitation, as demonstrated by John Cacioppo and his colleagues in 2006 . These researchers recruited lonely and non-lonely people for a game of negotiation. They used a variant of the classic economics game in which one person is assigned to the role of “proposer” and the other to the role of “decider”. The proposer starts with a sum of money and is told that he or she can offer the decider any portion of that money. If the decider accepts the offer, both get to keep their respective portions. However, if the decider rejects the offer, neither gets to keep the money.

In Professor Cacioppo’s version of this game, the lonely and non-lonely participants were always in the decider role. Meanwhile, the proposer was actually a confederate who started with 10 dollars in each of 20 rounds. The rounds were rigged so that in 10 of the rounds, the offers were nearly 50-50 splits; and in the other 10 rounds, the offers were clearly unfair (3 dollars or less for the decider). Who do you think was willing to accept more of these unfair offers?

It turns out that the lonely players, as compared to the non-lonely ones, accepted significantly more unfair offers. Cacioppo argued that acceptance of such exploitation sets up the lonely person for even more exploitation.

What can we take from all this? Perhaps we all look back at times in our lives when we put up with abusive behaviors from family, friends, or lovers that we would never tolerate now. We scratch our heads and wonder why we did. Well, maybe it was because we were lonely. And maybe we can forgive ourselves now that we’re not.


1. See Chapter 11 of Cacioppo, J. T, & Patrick, W. (2008). Loneliness: Human nature and the need for social connection. New York: Norton.

2. Stop saying you’re sorry

If you have pushover tendencies, the words “no” and “I’m sorry” tend to go hand in hand. So eliminate the latter from your on-the-job vocabulary. The next time someone asks for something unreasonable, don’t apologize for not being able to accommodate. Rather, couple your no with a short but effective explanation, and leave it at that.

For example, if a colleague asks you to jump in on a project during a week when you’re utterly swamped, you may be inclined to say, “I’m sorry, but I’m really busy this week and don’t think I have the time.” But when you say it that way, the person asking might continue to push. On the other hand, if you eliminate the apology and firmly say, “I’m too busy this week and don’t have the time,” he or she is more likely to back off.

Related: This is my secret to giving empathetic criticism as a new manager

3. Offer alternatives before saying yes or no

The problem with saying no at work too often is that you could come off as uncooperative or inflexible, neither of which will work wonders for your career. Therefore, while you don’t want to be a pushover, you also don’t want to inadvertently go to the opposite extreme, either. A good compromise? Get creative and aim to come up with solutions that help solve company problems without you having to suffer.

For instance, say your boss asks you to work late one night on a last-minute presentation, and it’s not something you want to do (nor is it really your responsibility per se). Rather than say yes or no, try saying “I’d like to help but can’t stay past 6. I’ll drop what I’m doing now to compile some slides and will pick back up first thing in the morning.” This way, rather than saying yes and ruining your night, or saying no and angering your boss, you’re offering up an alternate solution that just might work. Even if it doesn’t, you’re still being respectful and helpful enough that your boss may not hold it against you.

Being known as a pushover at work could hurt your career in more ways than one, whether it’s getting stuck with the lousiest projects or losing out on a chance to get promoted. Therefore, if you’re starting to be known as the resident pushover, nip that sentiment in the bud before it really sets you back. It’s a far better bet than letting others walk all over you and making yourself miserable in the process.

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