Being kind, compassionate, and empathetic is crucial to the well-being of you and of those around you. But, do you ever start to suspect that someone may be taking advantage of these positive traits you have? If this thought hasn’t crossed your mind, it’s still better to stay informed and secure with yourself, rather than feeling doubtful of a questionable or unsafe relationship with someone. Here are some ways that someone may be using your good will against you.
Before we get started, keep in mind that please keep in mind that this article serves as general guidance purely for educational purposes, and is not to be taken as a substitute for professional advice or assistance.
1. Emotional Abuse
Although a surprising amount of people still struggle with this idea, emotional abuse is valid and real. A telling sign of someone being manipulative and taking advantage of you would be if they display emotionally abusive and targeting traits towards you. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, signs of emotional abuse include acting possessive or jealous, refusing to trust you, constantly insulting or being criticizing, trivializing your feelings and needs, gas lighting you, and last but not least, blaming you for their actions and abusive behavior. Unfortunately, the list goes on, and such emotional abuse and manipulation can also be hard to detect. Emotionally abusive people feed off of power, and use their controlling behavior and tactics to make you feel invalid and insecure.
2. Ignoring Your Boundaries
Someone who is trying to take advantage of you will most likely ignore your boundaries and values. They refuse to accept any limits you may have set between the two of you, and continue to push your generosity for their personal gain or benefit. They relentlessly reach out to you and won’t give up on their intention in getting their specific needs met. Being in a situation where your personal boundaries are not respected can be tricky, so it is essential to be able to recognize this sign so that you can take the right action in getting away from this person/situation. Remember to stay true to your boundaries, as they are the walls that provide you a great deal of protection from the world.
3. Selective Attention
Selective attention is one of the most notorious traits of a person trying to use your good will against you. This person will ignore you when they don’t need anything from you, but will be sure to reappear (often at the most unexpected times) when they find that they need your help. This kind of behavior defines what is known as a “yo-yo relationship”. A yo-yo person will come and go when most suitable to their needs, and only stick around for selfish reasons.They only have their best interests in mind, and couldn’t care less about yours. Beware of selective attention. If you notice this sign in someone in your life, make sure to remind them of your boundaries, and distance yourself from them. No matter how tempting it may be to go back to them or trust them, nothing is worth more than your precious time and well-being.
4. Constant Judgement/Criticism
Another sign of your kindness being used against you would be if you’re dealing with someone who is constantly judgemental or critical. Someone who’s trying to take advantage of you will have selfish traits and a self-centered, narrow-minded view of the world. After all, they are exploiting you for their own personal gain. Professor of philosophy and author, Caroline J. Simon Ph.D, explains that judgemental behavior can include “having a moral rating system that is skewed in your own favor” and “making a lot of negative moral evaluations of others”, as well as “jumping to negative moral conclusions about others”. People like this are often threatened by your admirable traits and qualities, and consistently try to put you down in order to make you doubt yourself. They deliberately force the impression that you are inadequate, incapable, or insufficient. When you have your guard down worrying about such untrue things, you make the perfect bait to chase after in the eyes of the one who is using you.
This is a classic move that is often used to exploit someone’s generosity. Guilt baiting is frequently used when someone is trying to convince you to eliminate your boundaries, push your limits, and ignore your core values. According to professor and author of How to Successfully Handle Manipulative People and How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People, Preston Ni. guilt baiting can look like unreasonable blaming and targeting the recipient’s soft spot. Their goal is to hold you responsible for their happiness and unhappiness, or successes and failures. This gives them the ability to target your vulnerabilities and weaknesses, giving them more power to pressure and persuade you into agreeing to their demands and requests- despite how unreasonable they may seem.
Similar to guilt-baiting, victimhood also gives a manipulator the opportunity to, as Ni includes, “exploit the recipient’s good will, guilty conscience, sense of duty and obligation, or protective and nurturing instincts”. In order to be effective with this move, this person will deliberately put on an innocent, helpless, or weak facade to truly make you believe that they need you for something that seems “important”. This sign can be very hard to detect at first, but can be a huge giveaway of someone’s ill intentions once you recognize it in them.
If you ever find yourself in a serious situation where your safety is at risk, or you are being threatened or harassed, please reach out for help. Below are verified links to some useful and reliable resources and contact information of easily accessible places you can reach out to:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
- Crisis Text Line (for Emotional Abuse):
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- National Safe Space
As much as you should watch out for being taken advantage of for your compassion, empathy, and caring personality traits, never stop believing in the goodness that positivity can bring to the world. There may be moments where you are made to question the purpose of kindness, or pushed to extremes where you seem to only be faced with the ill-mannered or indifferent people of the world, but your continued sincerity can still make all the difference to yourself or anyone else who is wishing to feel seen and valued. As always, good luck with your journey!
- Lee, K. (n.d.). Be Aware of These 8 Signs Of A Manipulator. Lifehack. Retrieved May 20, 2021, from https://www.lifehack.org/347040/aware-these-8-signs-manipulator
- Ni, P., M.S.B.A. (2015, October 11). 14 Signs of Psychological and Emotional Manipulation. Psychology Today. Retrieved May 20, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201510/14-signs-psychological-and-emotional-manipulation
- Shortsleeve, C. (2018, October 16). How to Tell If Someone Is Manipulating You—And What to Do About It. Time. Retrieved May 20, 2021, from https://time.com/5411624/how-to-tell-if-being-manipulated/
- Simon, C. J., Ph.D. (2012, April 10). Who’s Judmental? Five Key Symptoms. Psychology Today. Retrieved May 20, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/bringing-sex-focus/201204/whos-judmental-five-key-symptoms
- Types of Abuse. (n.d.). National Domestic Abuse Hotline. Retrieved May 20, 2021, from https://www.thehotline.org/resources/types-of-abuse/
- Villines, Z. (2019, September 17). Red Flags: Are You Being Emotionally Manipulated? Good Therapy. Retrieved May 20, 2021, from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/red-flags-are-you-being-emotionally-manipulated-0917197