One of my biggest faults, is that I take on too much because I want to be helpful. Though it may initially be a way for me to show I’m helpful, it can easily – and usually does – become a situation where people take advantage of me.
Some of my most fond memories (Sarcasm) are with people who think I’m a taxi or a free money bank. Taking someone to the gas station (originally being a taxi) so they can purchase their own item. They tell you to wait a moment for them, they grab a million things, then plop it all on the counter and say “Thanks for doing this” and you’re expected to pay. And because you’re so NICE you say “ok” and pay for it. Or the time you’re at the grocery store buying your own groceries with what little money you do have. Then your friend decides that they’re going to buy groceries while they’re there too. They get to the checkout lane with you and then start piling up their groceries behind you. After you’ve finished purchasing your items and are waiting for them to finish, they ring up well past what cash they have and so they pocket their cash and ask if you’ll help. They’ll always say “I’ll pay you back,” but never do.
There’s always the classic “Can you take me to [location], really quick? Please? I’ll pay for gas.” Which inevitably ends up being you driving them somewhere, then they want to go a million other places they only just remembered they needed to go, and for the big kicker, THEY NEVER PAY YOU BACK FOR GAS!
I had one neighbor hack into my internet, add 15 of their own devices to my account, shared the info to their friends/fellow neighbors, and I when I found out and shut it all down they were upset. The internet provider bumped my bill up from household internet to business internet, which with this provider cost me $175. I brought them the bill and they refused to pay it. They eventually only gave me $10 and said they’d give me $35, but never even gave me that. I waited and waited for the neighbors to pay their portion because I was broke. Eventually the internet account was shut down, so another $200 early termination fee and since there’s a monopoly of internet services here, I now have no other options for internet.
Now, mind you, it doesn’t just happen at home! There’s also the co-worker who is hired on and knows less about their job than you do. They are so completely narcissistic that they’re delegating their entire job to others, including yourself. You eventually find yourself doing everything for them and sometimes don’t realize this until you’re writing their huge report for the entire company. What’s even more frustrating is that they’re getting the recognition and heavy pay check. No one has a clue what’s going on because you’re not one to cause drama in the work place. So here this co-worker is shaking hands and receiving praise from the president of the company and you just sit there and take it all in because you wrote the entire report.
It’s frustrating, irritating, rude, and then when you say something they instantly feel wounded like if they’d known it was going to be an issue, they wouldn’t have asked.
Life is full of moments like this, especially for me. I’ve started making some well needed rules for myself to try and not end up in this situation ever again.
Prioritize Your Life
You come first! Stop putting yourself last on the totem pole of life! What’s important to you? Write out a list of the 10 long-term goals you most want to accomplish in your life. This makes it easier to make decisions, because you’re basing them on your priorities. When you’re focused on your priorities, you’ll be too busy not to turn down offers.
You intuitively know when you are being taken advantage of. You get that helplessly trapped feeling when all you were doing was trying to help someone else. When something bothers you like this it’s time to speak up right away! Now, this may take some practice, especially if you’re used to “keeping the peace” and staying away from confrontation. This isn’t just a problem women have, men quite often express that they don’t want to ruffle feathers. If you miss the opportunity to bring this up in the moment, plan to bring this issue up privately at a later time.
You need to speak up. Discuss these issues calmly, without accusations, and you will reduce your own tension and gradually change how others perceive and treat you.
Break Bad Habits
No matter how hard you try, you can’t please everyone all the time. When your thoughtfulness and reluctance to hurt other people’s feelings start to impact your own well-being, it’s time to start looking out for No. 1.
When people realize they can take advantage of you and you’ll always cave, that’s abuse. It’s mentally and psychologically disarming. Even if you’re trying to avoid confrontation by apologizing and being agreeable, you’re not doing anyone any favors. You’re enabling bad behavior.
Stand up for yourself, express your opinions and say “no” once in a while. Self confidence is much more alluring than someone who cowers away from their own rights.
Keep It Simple
When telling someone no, simply saying no is enough. You don’t need to go any further into reasons why. Simply tell them you’re not interested. High pressure salespeople will prod for more information to keep you talking so they can sway you, but there’s no need to waste any time when you know you’re going to turn them down anyway. Instead of arming your opponent with knowledge, just say no.
Pick Your Battles Wisely
As your newly discovered assertiveness is giving you all the confidence you could have ever needed, be careful where you express this attribute. Don’t practice this assertiveness in situations like road rage situations. Use extreme caution around people who are mentally unstable. Don’t be the person to stand up to an armed robber at the bank. Think before saying “no” to your boss, as this could possibly get yourself fired. There is a difference between being insubordinate and stopping bad work practices.
In routine matters, though, stop avoiding confrontations just because you’re afraid of others’ reactions. If your friends keep taking advantage of your kindness, speak up and work our a compromise. Keep small irritants from needlessly escalating into explosive arguments.
It might be easier to practice your assertiveness with a stranger, as friends and family have come to expect a certain non-confrontational, meek, wishy- washy brand of behavior from you. Overcome your reluctance to put your needs first in less familiar situations. If your doctor prescribes a suspiciously large myriad of medical tests, ask if they are really necessary. Don’t placidly accept a diagnosis without fully understanding it, or you’ll find yourself getting stressed about the worst-case scenario. Stop avoiding that panhandler near your building because you resent all the money you’ve given him. Just look him in the eye, wish him a nice day and don’t feel guilty about your decision to stop supporting him.
Remember this: retain a balanced reaction of subdued yet steady. Be assertive when telling someone no. Clearly state what you want, need and expect. If they push, assert your position. You’re establishing a new behavior pattern here, so it might catch some people off guard. As a human being, you have the freedom of choice. Rather than relinquishing that power to someone else, exercise your right to choose your own adventure. Don’t be a victim of emotional black mail. If you don’t express yourself, you can’t expect others to change their behavior towards you.
Focus on the Positive
Just because you’re rejecting someone doesn’t mean you have to be rude or cruel about it. There’s no need to tell someone you’re not interested because it’s a terrible idea. If it is a terrible idea, that’s now a completely different story. Be professional, be kind, and let them know you simply do not have the time. And remember, this is completely accurate because you are now filling your time with your tasks. When you focus on the positive aspects, you’ll maintain the appearance of friendliness while still pursuing your own agenda.
Do Not Linger on Possible Outcomes
Remember, in addition to changing yourself, you’re retraining other people on how to relate to you. It won’t always be easy, but if you focus on the benefits to your emotional and physical health, you’ll see that it’s worth it. The world won’t end if you tell someone no. They may or may not be upset with you, but it’s not your problem to worry about. Has anyone ever told you no? Did they hold your hand through the entire thing? If it’s not happening to you, you don’t need to do it for anyone else. We’re all adults, and we can handle rejection.
Do Not Be Defensive
It can be easy to get on the defensive when rejecting someone. You may feel like you need to defend your stance, but you don’t. Once you’ve said no, it’s over; end of transaction. Don’t defend your choices to anyone. You don’t owe an explanation to anyone.
Once you’ve said no, stick to it. Don’t let yourself be persuaded. You don’t want people to think you’re a pushover; it’s viewed as a sign of weakness, and some unscrupulous person is bound to take advantage. Pick a lane and stick to it. You’ll be happier in the long run.
Like everything else in life, saying no requires practice. Start with little things, like the times you already say no. After you order at a restaurant, for example, they ask if there’s anything else you need. Your server will also come by the table a few times while you’re eating to ask if you need anything. You’re likely saying no to these people without even realizing it. Use that momentum to say no to others.
Change Your Surroundings
Like everything in life, sometimes when things wont change it’s time to just be done with it. If that means dropping friends, changing a job, or even breaking up a relationship, you need to focus on what’s truly best for you mentally, emotionally, and physically. If you can’t get the respect you deserve from someone because they persist in viewing you as a weakling, it’s a relationship not work pursuing. When you meet new people, set the precedent from the beginning. Now that you’re conscious of the difference between being easy going and being walked all over, you can easily establish a healthier interpersonal relationship. You deserve to feel appreciated, not used. With practice, you’ll find you’ve become less tense when expressing your feelings and more confident in your business and personal relationships.