Updated: Apr 27, 2022
Have you ever felt like you’ve been had by someone claiming to be your friend? I’m talking about the ones that manipulate you into giving them what they want without reciprocating in any way. These people are identified as Takers. Unlike Givers, who set out to make the world a better place, offering advice and help to others, the Takers are the ones that make you feel guilty and ruin your mood when they don't get what they want. If you find yourself wondering why you are irritated, undervalued, or used, then chances are you have a Taker taking advantage of you. There are three types I’ve come across in my career and you should be aware of, so you do not end up with the short end of the stick.
1. The Want-to-be-Giver: another name for them would-be “freeloaders”. You know you’ve encountered a “Want-to-be-Giver” when they say they want to help but then disappear when you need them. A notable example is when someone invites you out for dinner. They clearly tell you they will be paying, but when the bill comes, they shy away or go to the bathroom.
If you’re a Giver, you will end up just paying, then feeling like you’ve been had, and it nags you for the coming days. This is just one example, another can be when they want to help you with something, saying they’ll be there, and then not showing up. These types of Takers always put themselves out there but never intend to follow through. I get it, I’ve been there, and it’s just so irritating.
Don’t give in, just be smart about it! When this happens to you, call them on it. Confrontation works the best in these situations. Keep in mind you do not need to be harsh about it. In the restaurant's example, don’t pay. Wait until they come back from the bathroom and say, “thanks so much for treating me, you’re the best!” You can use the same line if they are sitting there ignoring the bill on the table. There’s a 99% chance they will pay because they don’t want to be tagged as the bad guy. They also learn the lesson and hopefully rethink fooling you in the future with an empty promise.
2. The Charismatic Salesman: this person proclaims to be buddy-buddy with you to manipulate you into a situation. You get blab-blab coming out of their mouth and they repeat how wonderful they are all the time! They are the Takers that are disguised as bullies because if you do not end up doing what they say, terrible things can happen to your career or your life.
For example, I recently reached out to people in LinkedIn to better understand how their leadership styles affected their careers. I got one person who responded they were humble and helped teams perform. They continued by telling me how interested their background was and how they gave back developing deep connections. I thanked the person and was glad to have them in my network. A couple of days later they followed up with an email wanting to talk to me about their consulting proposition. I nicely explained I was not interested at the time. They responded with hate-mail stating they did not understand why I had reached out, bashed my background, and told me we should part ways. The email response looked more like a bully rather than a leader. My only reply back was “Thank you for showing me your true leadership style.”
Unfortunately, this person never did a survey they couldn’t control or get something out of! It showed me that you never know a person by just reading their profile. The way they promote themselves is just perception and only when you really get to know them do you see the true colors come out. Next time you encounter a “Charismatic Salesman,” I suggest you assess them to see if they really will walk the talk.
3. The Want-to-be-friend: when you collaborate with the same people day in and out, you establish a rapport. But are they your friends? You need to decipher who is and who is pretending to be so, to take advantage of you. If a person contacts you only when they need your help and disappears when they don’t, chances are they are a Taker masquerading as a friend. Sure, they start the conversation with, “how have you been” and spend the next five minutes listening to you before they plunge into the real reason for the call. After you helped them, they thank you, and close out the conversation with something like “we should get together soon!” Then weeks pass, and you hear nothing from them. When you reach out, they are too busy, or tell you they’ll get back to you. They are ghost you! Only once they need something else will they reach out again and give you the excuse “I’m just having a crazy last couple of months, sorry for being a bad friend, and how are you…” and the cycle starts again.
As a Giver, I get roped in to help these want-to-be-friends through their struggles. My broker tells me this is why people aren’t paying for my coaching and consulting services...they are getting the service for free. She’s right! The truth is, they believe I bring value as long as it’s free, which is insulting. I’ve come to realize they are using the friend card and so I’m stopping this type of fake friendship using a simple tactic.
For these want-to-be-friends, I start by answering their question with a question or asking them what they would do to solve their problem. When that doesn’t work and they tell me flatly they are calling me for my expertise, I inform them that I run a business helping people through these difficulties and would love to give them a plan along with the fees. If you don’t have a consulting business but have gotten these types of “want-to-be-friends,” then you can just tell them, you don’t know how to help but can give a referral and close out the conversation quickly with something they would say to you, like “things are so crazy, sorry but I got to go prepare for my next meeting…” This will make them understand they cannot continue this pattern of taking from you any longer.
Are you having struggles with someone at your workplace? To learn more about influencing strategies, go to our two-part series featuring Persuasion & Reciprocation and Negotiations. You can also find tips for passive aggressive people.
I’m sure there are other “Taker” examples out there. Don’t be shy! If you know of another type all of us should identify and deal with, please write it in the comment area. I believe that learning what to watch out for and how to deal with takers will lead to a better life!