Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why People Take Advantage of Me

I've been doing a series called "You Think You're So Perfect" this month. One thing I talked about was the fact that:

By always having a story to match what they are talking about, I appear to be bragging. This is not my intent. But it doesn't matter. They don't hear, "Wow, I'm so excited to meet you- we have SO much in common!" What they "hear" is that Paris thinks she is better than me. Sometimes they "hear" Paris is so rude that she has no respect for me and my accomplishments!

Now, sometimes when we talk a lot about ourselves, or try to connect with people who have similar experiences by telling our stories, they interpret that as bragging or trying to put them down.

That’s bad, because we can lose friends this way and not even know why.

But there’s something else I want to warn my fellow Aspies about: Sometimes when we do this, people interpret our storytelling as a sign that we must really feel bad about ourselves. They think we are trying too hard for their approval and that means they can take advantage of us. Or, if we are prone to a little exaggeration in our storytelling, they think maybe we’re not “all there in the head” and figure they can get away with doing us wrong.

Then they add us to the list of people they can take advantage of, and they start asking us to do stuff for them that they could do themselves. Or, even worse, we start getting friendly invitations that are really veiled request for us to do something for them.

For example, they ask if we want to go to the mall and hang out. But, we always have to drive.

Or they invite us out to dinner, but forget their wallet so we have to pay. We actually DON’T have to pay! But we think that’s what friends do. And this person seems to be a friend, and we don’t want to jeopardize our new, budding, friendship.

If you get caught in that situation, I’d like to share with you what I do even though I try not to get in these situations anymore by not being very giving. By that I mean, I don’t give cash anymore. I don’t buy things for people unless I really know them and like them. I don’t let people borrow my stuff unless they are really good friends I’ve known a long time, and even then I don’t let them borrow stuff I really want back (because I know I might not ever get it back).

But if I find that a new friendship is more like a “usership” then I stop it by being unavailable.

For example, they ask if we want to go to the mall but I always have to drive, then when they call I might say, “Sure, I’d like to hang out but I’ll have to meet you there. Sorry, I can’t come get you.” It’s even better if I’m already out and about and can use that as an excuse.

Or, if someone invites me to dinner but doesn’t have money to pay, I might cover it if I have room in the budget. If I don’t, I politely say, “I’m sorry, but I only have enough to cover mine, but I’ll help you wash dishes or whatever the staff wants us to do.” Usually they “discover” another card or “find” some money in their pocket. I’ve never had to wash dishes. They really had the money, but were really taking advantage of me.

A friend did this to me one time, but I liked her, so I paid and said it was no big deal. I didn’t stop taking her phone calls, or get mad and say I was going to stop being her friend. But, the next time she wanted to go out, told her when we made plans over the phone that I only had enough funds to cover my portion of the meal. She canceled and we haven’t been out since.

Sometimes we don’t want to do this, because we feel like it makes us look less in their eyes. If you’re out with your coworkers, maybe it’s worth it to let them “take advantage” of you a little bit so you can be “part of the team.” If you’re too independent at work, they won’t like you and it will be hard to get promoted or get along with the team. But even then, coworkers often gang up to take advantage of people (like most of my readers) who aren’t good at social cues. And I've fallen into that trap more times than I wish to count! It's hard not to, because we don't want to appear disagreeable.

So please be careful of the impression you give off. And if you feel like someone is taking advantage of you, stop them. Don’t make excuses for not giving them what they want. Most of the time, they KNOW they are being unreasonable and while they SAY something mean to you so they can save face, deep inside they know you're right.

It’s more important to your well being, your self esteem, and your financial bottom line to spend your time, energy, and money doing what YOU want, not wasting it on what others want. And, BELIEVE IT OR NOT their respect for you goes UP when you put a stop to it.

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