Saying no to a request can be hard, especially if you’re being asked a favor by a friend or somebody close to you.
But over the years I’ve come to face an ugly truth:
Even the people you least expect will sometimes take advantage of you.
The way to discern if you’re being manipulated by somebody is to look at the nature of what they’re asking for.
If it’s one of these things in this list, it’s too much…
1) Asking for you to fix their life
When we’re young our parents or guardians provide for our basic needs.
As we grow, we gain ability and self-responsibility for our basic survival needs and eventually our emotional well-being and choices.
Other people can help us and give advice, but once we become an adult it no longer works to cry and shout when we don’t get what we want or feel bad, and it’s up to us to seek routes to improve ourselves or our situation.
The reality is that many people don’t get their basic physical or emotional needs met in childhood and carry over cravings for attention and being “saved” into adulthood.
This manifests in relationships, friendships and jobs as somebody who may ask you to fix their problems or assume responsibility for their wellbeing.
They may genuinely believe you can do this, but while you can assist them in practical ways, you can never take on the burden of being responsible for somebody else’s wellbeing, nor should you.
2) Asking you to end friendships because they don’t like your friends
If you’re with a partner who’s asking you to end friendships and trying to control your social life, they’re asking too much of you.
They may have genuine disagreements or problems which have occurred with your friends, but demanding or pressuring you to end those friendships as a result is manipulative.
Put the shoe on the other foot and think about it:
How would your friend or partner react if you demanded they end friendships you find annoying or a friend who you found offensive?
It’s asking too much because it’s stepping over a personal boundary and demanding that you cut off those close to you at somebody else’s request.
3) Asking you to become a prop in a social media or publicity campaign
Far too many friends of mine have gotten into a new relationship only to find out it’s not a relationship:
It’s a god*amn photoshoot.
At every spare second they and their girlfriend or boyfriend are smiling for a selfie and being posted on viral stories, or publicity campaigns for some new vodka or a sky lounge restaurant.
Here’s a guy who thought he just met someone special, but she thought she met a nice face for her next influencer campaign (or at least bragging material for her friends).
It’s sad to see, but if somebody’s asking you to pose and smile more than they actually talk to you and do things with you then they’re taking advantage of you and using you.
4) Asking you to change your religious or spiritual views to fit theirs or the expectations of their family
I have friends who have changed their religion, done religious weddings that aren’t in their faith and even joined into new spiritual paths and traditions as a result of being with somebody new.
That is their choice, and I respect it.
What I don’t respect, and what you shouldn’t either, is when somebody is forced and pressured to officially convert or change their beliefs as a result of marriage or a relationship.
Not only is this disrespectful to the religious faith or spiritual tradition (which faith wants members who are only in it out of necessity or marriage?)…
It’s also taking advantage of your love for somebody by getting you to fold into the beliefs and culture of their family instead of respecting your own.
This ties into the next point…
5) Asking you to go along with something that’s against your values
When somebody asks you to do something that’s against your values there are two basic methods:
- Peer pressure, mockery and trying to talk you into it
- Charm, flattery and flirting to make you think that if you do what they want you’ll be “cooler” or more desired and respected by them.
Both of these forms of manipulation are highly toxic, but the second is actually more insidious and also more effective.
When somebody is overly flattering to you and playing up to your ego in order to get you to do something you disagree with (whether it’s take drugs, commit a crime, be dishonest with somebody or any other misdemeanor) you can be sure they’re taking advantage of you.
As author Diane Dreher, Ph. D. explains, this is when somebody is “manipulating you with charm and flattery, and playing on your need for approval.”
6) Asking you to bail them out financially
There are times when a short-term loan or help with money is necessary to help somebody you care about and can get them out of a tight spot.
But when you have been put in a position where you’re being told that you’re somebody’s last hope or that they have no chance if you don’t give them money, you’re essentially being blackmailed.
This brings up all sorts of difficult emotions and even if the money is paid back you can’t be blamed for being left with a bitter taste in your mouth.
The alternative, that you loan money and it’s not returned and the borrower continually asks for an extension on giving back the funds is another step too far:
It’s just too much for somebody to expect you to tolerate.
7) Asking you to be a shoulder to cry on but they don’t do the same
There’s really a place for those you can lean on when times get tough.
I’m not talking about codependency, but just about basic companionship and somebody to be around and talk to when you’re down or stressed.
You may go hit the driving range together, go for a walk or watch a dumb action movie and make fun of it, but whatever the way you like to vent, it’s good to know somebody’s got your back.
The problem is when you’re always there for a friend, partner or family member, but they’re never there for you.
This is sadly so common and it’s often not even due to bad intentions: many people get into a narcissistic and self-pitying frame of mind where they want to vent and focus on their issues but hearing those of others just have no interest for them.
It happens! But it’s not something you have to go along with!
8) Asking you and others you know to bow to their demands
In many cases, folks will take advantage of you by teaming up with others.
They not only ask you to go past your boundaries but also find those in your extended network and apply pressure from all directions.
“You don’t want…? But …. said she agrees too, and so does …”
Now you seem like you’re the odd one out who doesn’t want whatever this manipulative person wants.
Sneaky trick, but it works, which is why manipulative individuals do it so often.
“If someone is forever expecting you to do their bidding, then it’s likely they are behaving this way to others you know, maybe family, friends, or co-workers,” notes Laura Tong.
Communicating needs honestly or asking too much?
When somebody’s trying to manipulate you they will ask too much of you.
This can be disguised in requests and entreaties that seem reasonable at first, but it’s important to consider whether they’re truly reasonable or not.
The best way to do this is using the example of putting the shoe on the other foot that I mentioned earlier.
If you were asking a partner, friend or family member to do what they’re asking of you, how would they react? If you were asking it of a casual friend how would they react?
Is it the type of request that crosses a line or is exploitative?
Being as honest as possible, you can now have a clear idea of whether somebody’s trying to take advantage of you.
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