It happens at work, in business, and in our personal lives. There is a person who seems nice, always ready to help you out -- HOWEVER, you have a nagging feeling of insecurity. Are you being used? Or is it something else?
This is how to tell if you are being used:
1) FEAR -- If you ever denied one of their requests, you FEAR a negative reaction, perhaps they would even fire you, de-friend you, or terminate whatever relationship you currently have.
This is the number one SIGN that you are being used! ding, ding, ding!
Users send messages that denying their request would spell doom for you -- and this is how they manipulate you.
If you are worried that saying any of the following "No, sorry, I can't finish that extra report tonight; I can't help you move; I won't do your homework for you this time; I can't make it tonight; or I don't have time to help you buy a new TV," then you are probably dealing with a people-user.
Whether you CHOOSE to ALLOW them to manipulate you, is up to you.
2) FAVORS -- Users try their best to appear helpful at all times. They'll do a (very small) favor for you and then use that create a sense of guilt and obligation in you. They'll remind you frequently of "all they did for you" to make you see how they are entitled to whatever they are asking for (or likely, demanding). Beware of the person who constantly offers small things. "Hey, I can put you in touch with this person!" or "I have a book to give to you" or "I got you this amazing gift!" The user magnifies the importance of these small favors as VERY IMPORTANT. It's not a side note, it's a BIG deal. They WILL expect you to repay these HUGE favors of course!
Sometimes they will do a larger favor for you also (something very important to you), but keep in mind -- they will expect 5x the value of whatever favor they do for you. They'll lend you $100 and expect you to lend them $1000. And they'll expect you'll be forever indebted to them.
3) NO ROOM FOR YOUR NEEDS -- a user could care less about YOUR needs. They only care about their OWN NEEDS. This is why they are a user. So if you mention your needs, they will IGNORE them, or even ARGUE with you. They'll try to convince you why their way makes the most sense.
"Why do you need to work Sat? You need to help me move. It's very important. I helped you with that BIG favor when I put you in touch with so-and-so."
"I know you're tired, but it's really important that you give me a ride home. You don't want me stranded here do you?"
Um, hello! EVERYONE has needs. So why are you sacrificing your own in favor of the users? Playing a martyr will NEVER be rewarded by a user. It's a green light encouraging the user to USE YOU even more often.
4) THEY PLAY ON YOUR INSECURITIES -- What are your insecurities? Discover what your insecurities are, because users will play on them. If you feel a little bit not as pretty or handsome as you should be, the user will be quick with a compliment. This is a girl who says "Wow, great shirt" while squeezing your (possibly imaginary) biceps, or the guy who says "Amazing dress" when you kinda know it's kinda not that stunning. Then they'll be quick to ask for a favor, "Hey would you mind doing_____." You are of course still starry-eyed from that compliment, and quickly agree to do inconvenient things. Wash, rinse and repeat.
Are you insecure about your: looks, education, smarts, job, fitness level, background? Notice people who seem eager with compliments in the areas you feel most insecure about. You BROADCAST to others your insecurities, even if you don't realize it. This gives users the ability to use you.
5) TRY DENYING A REQUEST -- To test if this person is a user, try denying a request. Are they able to handle it? Can they understand you have your own life, needs and things you need to do? Sure, a non-user might be upset for a minute, but will ultimately understand. A user will NOT understand. They'll NEVER get your perspective. They will not forgive you for denying a request, and they might even threaten you with harmful things -- "I'll fire you, defriend you, etc." This a clear sign to GET THE HECK OUT of this situation.
A good non-user person may get upset, but they will ultimately understand, and they won't de-friend you or fire you. They'll be reasonable. Maybe you can't work 17 hours today, they get it. Maybe you can't help them move into a 5-flight walk-up apartment when your knee is busted. They understand. THE USER WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND.
So look at your own list of business associates, friends, acquaintances, even family members. Who are the users on your list?
HOW TO DEAL WITH THE USER
1. When asked for a request, ask for time to think it over. Say "Let me check my calendar, check with my spouse, ask my boss if I have to work, etc."
2. Think to yourself "Do I really want to do this?" If the feeling of obligation weren't there, would I do it?
3. If you don't want to do it, politely decline. If you GENUINELY are thrilled to do it, then do. Give a reasonable reason why you're choosing not to.
4. Accept that the user may get extremely upset -- it's what they do. Remember that a good person will want you in their life (FOR YOU -- you are enough, and they'll want to spend time with you), regardless of whether you help pick up their laundry on Tuesday or not. If you want to, tell the user "I know you want this, but I hope you understand that I have my own life and things that are important to me too. I know it's difficult to not get what you want sometimes, but that's how relationships are. I need you to realize that we both have things we want, and while I wish I could give you all you ask for, there will be times I can't."
5. Be courageous and know that a good relationship will endure. And a bad one will break. Either way, it's ultimately for the best!! Negative people are toxic and can prevent you from being happy.
6. Seek out non-users. The more people you have who support and sincerely care for you, the less need you will have to have users in your life.
WHY USER'S USE
Unfortunately, users have learned that the ONLY way they can get what they want is through manipulation, guilt, or forcing others. This is unhealthy. It's a lack-mentality. It's a similar feeling a robber has "I have to steal this, because otherwise I'll never get it! (through legal means)"
Simiarly, the user fears that having a sincere relationship of give-and-take (the equivalent of a "legal" purchase) would mean their needs would go unmet. So they steal (from you, via a user-relationship). Sadly, they've had pasts that created this untrue belief, but now it's their responsibility to improve. Therapy is a great way for them to do that, but most will never admit they have a problem.
If you're in a user-relationship, I can help you to deal with it in life coaching sessions. If you yourself are a user, I strongly suggest getting into therapy to improve your untrue beliefs. It's no fun to be a user, since your relationships aren't built on sincerity.