18 Ways to Recognize When Your Generosity is Being Exploited

No one wants to be exploited, but it’s not always obvious when someone’s taken advantage of you, especially if they’re excessively smart or charming! Fear not—this article will help you identify those exploitative no-gooders before they get away with too much. So take note as we discuss the 18 behaviors that indicate you’re probably being manipulated or used.

No Reciprocation

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Indeed states that a clear sign of someone taking advantage is them asking for favors and requesting help without ever paying it back. This imbalance can set a precedent for your relationship dynamic, wherein you offer your time and energy unquestioningly, so you might not even notice that you never receive any of theirs in return.

Ignoring Your Needs

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If someone consistently negates your feelings, ignores your boundaries, or downplays your needs, they don’t respect or care for you. Youth.gov says healthy relationships involve mutual respect, which “means that each person values who the other is and understands the other person’s boundaries.” Otherwise, they’re prioritizing themselves and exploiting you.

Guilt-Tripping

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People who take advantage often use guilt to manipulate others into accepting an unequal relationship dynamic. According to LinkedIn, exploitative individuals use your natural empathy and compassion to make you feel responsible for negative aspects of their own lives—making you feel obligated to ‘fix’ or ‘make up’ for them.

Excessive Flattery

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Beware if excessive charm or compliments come directly before requests for favors, especially if the amount of flattery is directly proportional to the amount of assistance they need! A report on ResearchGate associated insincere flattery with manipulative behavior, as it’s often used to lower a victim’s defenses.

Never Taking Responsibility

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If you find that you’re always taking the blame no matter what, you may be dealing with someone who is naturally manipulative. Individuals who take advantage of others often refuse to take responsibility for their actions because they expect others to do all the ‘hard work’ both physically and emotionally.

Financial Exploitation

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MoneyHelper advises caution if another person continually borrows money without repayment or tells ‘sob stories’ to get you to pay for their essentials like rent, bills, and food. If someone is constantly making their apparent lack of finances your problem, they may be exploiting your kindness for personal gain.

Unreciprocated Sacrifices

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Always being the one to make sacrifices is a relationship red flag. BetterUp warns, “You should never have to sacrifice your own needs for someone else’s. Yes, compromise is healthy. But it isn’t worth it if it comes at the cost of your happiness and subjective well-being.” If a friend or partner expects you to compromise every time, they’re ‘using’ you for their own selfish means.

Pressure to Comply

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Manipulative people often pile on the pressure if you hesitate or refuse to comply with their demands and frequently fail to respect your decisions. Such pressure makes you more likely to give in or change your mind and more susceptible to being taken advantage of the next time they ask for something.

Vagueness

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According to WebMD, manipulators often use a lack of transparency to hide their true intentions or persuade you to do something. They’re often suspiciously vague about why they need help and use unspecific accusations and statements to ‘throw you off’ and confuse you should you ever see holes in their reasoning.

Dismissing Your Opinions

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Taking advantage of someone requires control and power, so ‘users’ will often belittle your opinions, beliefs, or feelings if they don’t match their own or work contrary to what they want from you. This tactic helps them get what they want while undermining your confidence, and it’s a form of emotional manipulation.

Overstepping Boundaries

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Without healthy boundaries, relationships can quickly become one-sided and toxic, says HelpGuide. Whether they cross an emotional, physical, or digital line, boundary over-stepping shows someone doesn’t care about your needs or comfort and will always prioritize their own needs regardless.

Unreliability

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Do you have someone in your life who consistently fails to keep promises or meet commitments? This strategy can keep you off balance and maintain a relationship power dynamic where you’re never in control. It also indicates a lack of respect and integrity and a selfish disregard for your feelings.

Gaslighting

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This psychological tactic involves making you doubt your own perceptions or memories. It’s frequently used by abusive individuals to gain power over others and stop them from questioning the ‘user’s’ abusive behavior. Gaslighting is emotional abuse and a strong indicator that someone is taking advantage of you.

Using Personal Information Against You

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Having private information about yourself shared or used against your will is a serious breach of trust, and StudySmarter lists it as a serious red flag in any relationship. It proves that the other person doesn’t care about your privacy or comfort and is willing to expose secrets or threaten to divulge details for their benefit. It’s so underhand and manipulative!

Dominating Conversations

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If an individual regularly stops you from expressing your opinion or speaking your mind, they may be using conversation dominance to suppress your individuality and keep themselves ‘in power.’ Communication is key to any healthy relationship, so beware if you can never get your voice heard.

Constant Criticism

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Manipulators benefit by maintaining a position of power, so it makes sense that they frequently criticize those they’re exploiting. Receiving constant criticism erodes self-esteem, promotes self-doubt, and stops you from feeling empowered enough to question the relationship dynamic and assert yourself.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior

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Passive-aggressive behavior inconveniences or upsets you without the other person being outwardly nasty or difficult, e.g., deliberately taking a long time to get ready when you’re stressed about being late. It’s manipulative and can really affect your mental health, yet due to its passive nature, it’s difficult to deal with head-on.

Impatience

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Demanding immediate attention and responses, especially for non-urgent matters, is a control tactic. Psychology Today says narcissists “become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment.” Such a lack of patience promotes stress and makes you more likely to do what you want as quickly as you can! It’s exploitation 101.

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