There are all sorts of people out there.
Some of them want to use and abuse you, and some of them want to be abused by you.
The sad fact of it is that some people are just really kind-hearted, sweet, and trusting, and these are exactly the sort of people that manipulators target.
See, a user has to find someone who they can take advantage of.
It can’t be another user – that’ll never work.
It can’t be an assertive person with healthy, well-defended boundaries, either. Those people won’t let them get close enough to suck the life out of them.
So they’re left with only the easy targets – nice, trusting people.
Well, these are seven overly trusting behaviors that make you an easy target for a manipulator and though it’s against your good nature, you should try to change them to protect yourself from use and abuse.
1) Not setting boundaries
If you have to ask, you might not have any, or at least not strongly defined ones, and this can make you a prime target for a manipulator.
Think of yourself as a country with a border. Your boundaries are like the systems that let different people in and out, like border control agents, immigration laws, and import controls.
Except you’re a person, so what you’re letting in is things like obligation, tasks, actions, and feelings.
Someone who we might call a doormat will let anyone walk all over them whenever they want.
People like this don’t know how to say no.
So when someone asks them for a favor when they’re already super busy, they’ll agree to help. Or when someone says they need company, they’ll go along with it even if they don’t want to or even feel uncomfortable.
Not having boundaries might sound kind in the sense that you’d never refuse anyone anything. But what if you’re asked to do something illegal, immoral, or hurtful to another person?
I think you can see that we all need boundaries to protect our sovereignty and our choices to do only the things we’re comfortable doing.
If you don’t have boundaries, manipulators will quickly surround you and lay siege to your borders, taking absolutely everything from you.
2) Not defending your boundaries
You might also be the kind of person who has boundaries in theory, but in practice, you find them really hard to enforce.
Well, I’m sorry to say that this usually boils down to the same thing!
Think about it.
If you say to yourself, “I’m not comfortable with going out drinking. I won’t go,” and then the very next day, your friends have successfully dragged you out to the club, your defenses have been overpowered.
This might seem like a minor example, but if it’s indicative of how things work in your life, then this is a pattern that manipulators will continually exploit.
Imagine a workmate asks you to cover for them while they skip off work. At first, you protest, but again and again, they beg for your help and tell you they’ll owe you one. So you finally relent because you trust them.
But what happens the next week?
They owe you one, and now they’re back asking to owe you two. But you trust them, so again, you cover for them.
And next week?
Well, you get the idea.
Letting your boundaries be breached is an example of an overly trusting behavior that’s going to get you used and hurt over and over again.
3) Feeling sorry for people
My partner is a textbook case for someone who’s always feeling sorry for others.
She has such a big heart and is generous and trusting, and that’s one of the main things I love about her.
I just wish she wouldn’t leave herself open to manipulation all the time.
There are millions of people in the world whom we can rightfully feel sorry for. There are people who are sick, impoverished, or caught up in war, violence, and suffering.
Now, there are also people who will gladly manipulate your trusting nature by seeing that you’re naturally sympathetic and then making up a story that tugs at your heartstrings.
Take these examples from my partner’s life.
There was a friend who said she had lots of clients but had no way to expand her business so she could make lots more money. When my partner gave her a loan, she ran off with the money and apparently gambled it all away.
Then there was the old school friend whose dad was sick and needed help paying off hospital bills. We later found out his dad had died two years earlier!
There was also the young woman she met in the street in Istanbul who cried and said she’d lost her toddler. When my partner went off with her to help her look, it ended up being a set-up for a mugging.
Feeling sorry for people can demonstrate beautiful empathy, but it can also help you be an easy target for manipulators, as you can see.
4) Giving people the benefit of the doubt
One of the most trusting behaviors is giving others the benefit of the doubt.
What this means is that even though things don’t sound all that promising or realistic, you still cheer for the person and hope they can overcome their obstacles.
So if someone comes to you for some help that you happen to know a lot of other people have refused already, you might still be inclined to give it.
You feel like they need some support. They may have messed up or really made bad choices in the past, but you feel like they’re going to succeed this time.
Well, I have to tell you that if this is your normal pattern, you’re exactly the type of person the boy who cried wolf was pranking every time.
Despite seeing him play this trick before, you think, “Well, this time it’s probably real.”
With people like you around, that boy will never stop playing his prank and never learn his lesson, either.
5) Ignoring red flags
When we decide to trust someone, we normally look at a whole bunch of different factors.
How well do we know this person?
Have they been honest and reliable in the past?
Have they ever hurt or used anyone else?
Is what they’re telling us now realistic and trustworthy?
The issue is that if you’re an overly trusting person, you might ignore a lot of the negative answers to these questions or at least give them less weight.
What I mean is thinking something like, “Oh, she’s a convicted thief, but she’s probably not trying to steal anything this time.”
Or maybe, “He’s never returned any favors in the past, but this time he says he will, so I guess that’s OK.”
There’s a fine line between being trusting and being naïve, and if you consistently ignore red flags like these, you’re almost certainly crossing it.
This is making you easy pickings for a manipulator.
6) Not listening to your gut instinct
Your gut instinct. That little voice in your head. Intuition.
Call it what you will, but that instinct is crucially important.
It’s a way of taking advantage of clues and cues that your conscious mind might miss, but your subconscious picks up on.
When a manipulative person approaches you and tries to run a scam on you, this is the part of you that cries out, “Be careful!”
But for various reasons, some people like to ignore that voice. They hear it but try to muffle it and push it way down inside.
I think they’ve built their understanding of people and the world as fundamentally positive and good.
Despite plenty of personally collected evidence to the contrary, they simply don’t want to believe that people can be so bad and do things to harm each other intentionally.
So even when they know deep down that the situation feels wrong, they convince themselves that it’s right.
And then they get taken advantage of.
7) Being too open
If you wear your heart on your sleeve, you can expect certain people to try to unpin it and steal it away when you’re not looking.
The truth is, though, that there are people out there looking for someone exactly like you.
Do you meet strangers, and within five minutes, you find yourself telling them personal details about your life?
If you do, understand that you can also be handing a manipulator the precise tools they can use to exploit or hurt you.
Sometimes, you need to protect yourself by being a little more private with your personal life.
These seven overly trusting behaviors that make you an easy target for a manipulator can put you in danger.
Even though you’re a kind and trusting person, remember that not everyone in the world is and try to protect yourself from letting them hurt you.
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