Ever have one of those relationships where unless you make the call, offer to get together or inquire about someone else’s well-being, you might not ever hear from them? Or the friend who calls only when they need something from you? Or what about the relationship where you feel drained every time you leave a communication or interaction? It’s like someone is just picking at you relentlessly until you simply can’t take any more.
Just because you can learn to understand others doesn’t mean that everyone you know should be in your life and you should make room for them. Your time is precious, and spending it with people who lift you up, are positive in nature and give you something in return can be very important. Everyone has some person, or group of people, in their lives whom they can’t separate from easily – it could be a difficult boss or set of co-workers; it could be a mother-in-law or a friend from high school. There are people who will require your attention to learn to manage them, and because you don’t have enough hours in the day for everyone, this means you have to make choices about those who do drain you and steal from you.
It’s hard to know which is which, and sometimes you could be the problem – examining one’s own actions and reactions is critically important, too. If you examine your relationships and find you mostly have “Takers” while you are the Giver, you want to reconsider how you are choosing people to associate with and what your role might be. If you have largely good relationships but just that one friend or close relation who always leaves you feeling as if you ended up with the short end of the stick, it may be time to make a different choice.
How do you know when it’s time to separate, and how you can separate in a manner that won’t create more problems for you in the short or long run?
- Consider impact. Some people are just annoying, and some are toxic. It’s important to separate the two. The annoying person who isn’t really a Taker, but rather someone who just makes you irritated, could be managed. The toxic person who leaves you feeling distressed and depressed is the one you need to focus on. Before you decide someone is a problem, consider how bad they really are. It takes work to get the toxic people out of your life, so focus your energies in the right places.
- Review the role you play in giving of yourself to the Taker. You already know this person isn’t a great friend and doesn’t care a bunch about you – so why do you keep giving to them? You can say “that’s just what I do”, but remember you are ultimately making that choice. Just like anything else in life, you can always choose a different path. Practice saying “no”. Practice saying “I’m so busy and just don’t have time right now”. Practice saying “If I recall, you brought this up last time and I’d prefer not to rehash it”. Practice whatever language is comfortable for you, and lets the person know you have had enough. You can do this politely and calmly and without the need for conflict or drama. The other person will be so surprised that they may just take the “no” and move on to the next person they can find to give them what they need.
- Examine your own motives. While oftentimes people complain about what others expect from them, and what they do, there is a satisfaction that comes from being the martyr, the Giver, the person who can always be counted upon. Yes, it is exhausting and may become overwhelming, but the “feel good” is there. Some people run themselves into the ground being the caretakers of others. “If I don’t do it, who will?” they ask themselves. This approach doesn’t actually help anyone – including you and your Taker. It leads to resentment and frustration and an insatiable need to be the person everyone counts on. If you give this way, and can do it joyfully and with love, that’s a wonderful thing. If you give this way while silently cursing and complaining, it might be time to look at what drives you and how you need to shift where you get your personal satisfaction.
- Know that Takers will always find someone else to take from. That’s right; if you stop giving, they won’t see the error of their ways, they will simply move on to the next person who will freely give of their time, attention, money and gifts. Make sure you aren’t making a different choice in your effort to change that person. It’s not that they can’t change; they might be able to do so, but they would need to own their actions and make different choices too. If you take steps to move the other person to a different place, instead of yourself, you will feel cheated and frustrated. Remember, the only person anyone can ever “control” is themselves.