Are you being taken advantage of? Is someone manipulating you? Someone could be exploiting you for many different reasons. They may be envious of you or want to use you to further their own gains. It may be entirely unintentional. But regardless of the motivating factor, exploitation is wrong.
When you realize that someone is doing these things, it can be complicated to know what to do next. How do you respond to exploitation in a balanced but stable way?
Here Are 15 Ways To Respond To Someone Who Is Exploiting You
1. Reference The Time
Using the passage of time – or your schedule – as an “excuse” to respond to exploiters can get old quickly, but no one can deny that it’s useful. When you do this, you are telling the person in question that your schedule is not up for compromise.
Here are some examples of things that you can say to reference the time when someone is exploiting you:
- “I don’t have the time to spare right now.”
- “I’m actually going to have to run a few errands while that’s happening.”
- “I need to finish this right now.”
- “I’m a little busy.”
2. Set Boundaries
Setting limits and boundaries is extremely important when it comes to exploitation. The main reason you are being taken advantage of is that the other person can push further and further past certain lines. Boundaries can help prevent that from happening.
Setting boundaries and limits, in general, is a positive habit, and you should have them in place for all your relationships. But for manipulative exploiters, it’s even more critical. Draw a clear line and tell them where they stand, then enforce those boundaries. If they cross the borderline, communicate that to them and ask them to step back.
3. Stay Calm
It’s effortless to lose your temper on someone who is exploiting you. After all, they are hurting you by doing these things, and your anger is 100% warranted.
However, in this situation, losing your temper will only worsen your condition. The exploiter can make you look like the unreasonable one, and you can’t get your point across clearly when you’re angry.
As such, you must stay calm when responding to someone who is trying to take advantage of you. Here are some tips to keep your cool:
- Breathe deeply before speaking
- If you must, count to ten in your head before continuing
- Control your voice
- Think of something funny or positive
- Maintain neutral body posture
4. Learn When To Say Yes Or No
Saying “yes” is very easy if you’ve gotten used to being taken advantage of. If you’re usually a compassionate person, someone may have learned to exploit that positive part of you, and it can be complicated to say no to favors.
Practicing saying “no” is very important, and it’s something that will take time. To begin with, you can start small by doing the following things:
- Say you’ll think about it before making a decision
- If you feel evident discomfort with something, say “no.”
- Determine whether any desire to say “yes” is genuine or due to pressure
- Understand that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you have to
5. Deflect Flattery
Someone who is exploiting you may turn to flattery to try and get the reaction they want out of you. After all, sweet words tend to soften people up and make them more susceptible to exploitation. After someone’s been so kind to you, it’s hard not to want to agree to help them.
But once you know that someone only flatters you to get something out of you, you need to learn to deflect their flattery. You can do this by waving away those insincere words and asking them to cut to the chase, or you can ignore this flattery altogether and not use it in your considerations of the decision you have to make.
6. Directly Ask Them If This Is What They Want
Sometimes, being direct and concise is the best way to respond to an exploiter. When they start talking about how tired they are and performing their “woe is me” routine, ask them directly: “Are you trying to ask me to do your portion of the work for you?”
Often, framing an exploiter’s statements transparently and revealing them for what they are puts the whole situation into perspective. The person may feel too embarrassed to further their attempts at convincing you. And if they do still try, it’s going to be much easier to say “no” because you’ve made the unfairness of the situation more transparent.
7. Let Them Be Angry
Sometimes, you may feel pressured into saying “yes” to someone because you’re worried about the anger that is sure to erupt from them when you deny them. But this means that they’re not just trying to win you over anymore subtly – they’re outwardly showing you their true, harmful intentions.
But their anger is not your fault, and when they get angry, you can take a step back and walk away. Let them get mad. It’s not your responsibility to cater to their every need, and they have no right to expect that of you. Keep your positive thinking!
8. Use An Excuse
Excuses are an easy way to respond to someone who is exploiting you. Here are some simple examples of ones you can use:
- I have to get home for something
- I’m a little too tired to do that now
- I have an errand to run
- I have to finish this bit of work first
- I have another appointment
9. Advocate For Yourself
If you don’t stand up for yourself, who will? Someone who is exploiting you may try to twist situations to make you look bad, or they may try to gaslight you into thinking the situation isn’t real. It’s difficult to maintain positive thinking through gaslighting, but you need to do it if you want to make the person stop.
In these situations, you have to advocate for yourself. Signs of weakness will be quickly pounced on by a malicious exploiter. Some phrases you can use are:
- That’s not my reality, and you can’t change it
- I understand where you’re coming from, but that’s not what I’m experiencing
- From my perspective, this was a completely different issue
When you state your case to the person who is exploiting you, make it short and sweet. The longer you drag on, the more likely they are to try to poke holes in what you say. A concise response is easy to understand and process, and it’s unlikely to be misunderstood.
11. Stand Your Ground
It’s easy to want to beat around the bush when working around an exploiter. But instead of doing that, let yourself be as direct and curt as needed. Yes, you may not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but the person taking advantage of you has never cared much about how you feel.
So stand your ground. Don’t tiptoe around the problem. Talk about exactly why this isn’t acceptable treatment, and don’t let your “no” waver into a “yes.”
12. Excuse Yourself
Yet another natural response to someone who is exploiting you is to excuse yourself and leave. To avoid nearing a topic that will lead to further exploitation, excusing yourself allows you to leave the conversation politely. You can use phrases such as:
- Sorry, I have something to get to now.
- Excuse me. I have to leave.
- I need to get back to work.
- I’ll talk to you later.
13. Validate Their Request
Validation can completely change the tune of a person. Many manipulators and exploiters perform their negative behavior because of low self-esteem, meaning that a subconscious part of them craves validation. Give it to them, and they may suddenly be less interested in exploiting you.
Acknowledge what the person is saying without compromising on your stance. You can do this with phrases like:
- That must be very difficult for you.
- I’m impressed that you did that.
- You must have felt very alone in that situation.
- Tell me more about (insert situation)!
14. Offer To Help Find A Solution
If you want to, you can offer a little bit of help to this person. Don’t go too far out of your way to be of assistance – do something simple that you are capable of performing without inconveniencing yourself. Some examples are:
- Finding someone else who can help
- Suggesting other ways around a problem
- Giving them advice on how they can improve
- Sending them helpful or informational links regarding their problem
15. Just Walk Away
Sometimes all you can do is walk away. If someone is exploiting you, you are not obligated to convince them. If things aren’t looking too good, you can turn tail and leave the situation.
Removing yourself from the situation can feel bad or as though you’re rude. But it’s a responsible decision to take yourself out of circumstances where someone is manipulating you. If the conversation is going nowhere, find the courage and positive thinking needed to stand up and leave. Your time is better spent on other things, and with other people.
Not everyone who exploits you is doing so on purpose, but it doesn’t matter whether it is intentional or not – it’s still manipulation. Understand that this is not your fault, and you are not to blame for your exploitation.