April 14, 2014

7 Ways To Spot a User and 3 Tips to Break Free

Anyone who would take advantage of my weakness doesn't deserve my strengths

I read a great article today written by Marc Chernoff.  In his article he gave a list of 20 things we need to stop letting people do to us. I liked the emphasis on "we" because it really is our responsibility to determine how we will or won't be treated. (Wish I'd known that in my 20's and 30's!)

Marc's article made me remember a time in my life when I was a consummate people pleaser. It wasn't a happy time. It was frustrating on good days and demoralizing on bad ones.  At that time I didn't realize there was any danger in wearing my bleeding heart on my sleeve (past it being messy,) so I found myself being taken advantage of from time to time. I was an obvious target so today I want to offer you ways to spot and get free from "users."

Before I start, there are a few disclaimers that I need to put out. To begin with, I'm a true believer in helping people (even strangers) where ever and whenever I can. I love helping! I've also been the recipient of the kindness of friends, family and strangers many times myself for which I am deeply grateful.

I believe that the bad experiences I've had came from not understanding the difference between "helping" (which is a great blessing to both the giver and the receiver) and "enabling" (which is the opposite of helping.) It also came from wanting to believe that everyone had pure intentions.

If you're still at the stage of life where that's your belief, I hate to be a spoiler since the last thing I want to do is sour anyone toward true service. My intention is quite the opposite. My hope in sharing is that people with caring hearts will be able to give genuine help and have good outcomes.

When I became entangled by a "user" it drained my energy and caused me, for a time, to harden toward any who needed help. Being someone who loves to help, that took pleasure from my life. I wish that was the worst of it. The harder part by far was how it caused me to doubt myself and my own judgement. It took time to again trust in my ability to make good observations and wise choices. (Yes, I was that big of a sucker.) If I can save just one person that experience, I'll be thrilled.

If we can start by agreeing that "helping" is doing something for another that they can't do for themselves, its a pretty safe bet that you won't fall into the enabling spiral that was my fate. Enabling doesn't feel good and doesn't do any good. There is a vast difference in attitude between a person who is in genuine need and a person who would prefer that someone else take responsibility for things that clearly belong to them.

People who survive by draining the resources and energy from others are emotional and financial vampires and will indeed suck the life out of you if you allow them to.

SO, here are some RED FLAGS to help you spot a USER

1. Users say things like "you're my only hope."  There's a reason for that. Usually it's because they've already laid waste to their friends and family and no one else is falling for their stories.

2. Users can't hold a job and it's never their fault.  Someone always victimizes them. The boss was a jerk. Other employees were out to get them etc.

3. Users immediately play on your sympathy. They want to tell you their sad tale so you'll want to defend them and take their side. They're experts in manipulation, guilt, and victimism. Everything happens TO them. The world is out to get them. They're great at crafting their stories and appearing incredibly sincere and put upon.

4.  Users immediately protest any offer for help. This initially is to make you see them as victims who'd never take advantage of you. Also they can later say, "I never asked you to do anything for me" or "I told you I didn't want help," leaving you to feel like it's all your fault when things go south. People who genuinely need help, are almost always grateful to receive it even when they may be a bit uncomfortable that they need it.

5. Users are huge yeah-buts. If you offer a solution to their problem, they will always have an answer -"Yeah, but..." - (fill in the blank) for why that won't work for them.

6.  Users never see that they have any part in their situations. They're always just hanging out with their halo's on high beam, when some horrible person comes along and does X horrible thing to them unjustly and undeservedly.

7.  Users use guilt and sympathy to manipulate you if they feel you pulling away. When you start to feel guilty for trying to help someone it's a good bet you're dealing with a user.

If you spot any of these warning signs, proceed with extreme caution. It's better by far to offer solutions than to do anything for them yourself. Users tire quickly of people who won't play their game and move on to their next victim.

If you're now being taken advantage of by a user, here are a few tips I hope will help you break free:

1. Immediately stop doing things FOR them. Only offer suggestions.

2.  Cut the tie.  This was extremely hard for me. I try desperately to do the right thing by people, and the right thing to do for a user is send them packing. 

3. Don't wait until there can be a happy ending.  There is no way there can be a happy ending. (although any ending will eventually be a happy one for you.) There can't be a happy ending because YOU are the story they'll use to hook their next mark.  They will stay with you until you finally have to be abrupt and cut them loose making them the victim again and giving them another sad story to take with them.

I've been taken in more than once by users. It was heartbreaking and unnerving.  Looking back (and only looking back) I can say while I regret being taken in, being naive also allowed for many wonderful experiences that came from helping others.  Besides, if I hadn't gone through those difficult times, I wouldn't be able to share what I've learned as a result - like the best ways to get REVENGE.  That's a whole different post you can read here ==>   3 Best Ways To Exact Revenge

I've come to realize that there are worse things than being used.  One of them is being a user.

Please share this with anyone you feel might now be in the clutches of a user. They might resent it at first but eventually they'll be glad you did.

You can also read Marc's  article here 

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