Listen up nice folks: Nothing will get your ass caught up in a sling faster than a single act of kindness.
Yes, your kindness has been mistaken for weakness and/or stupidity.
Yes, your bright smile has made you a mark for users and takers.
Yes, your precious time and what you must do in the course of the day means absolutely nothing to the people who want something from you.
And yes, if you don’t check yourself and sharpen those elbows you will be left worse for the wear.
Here, then, are the three kinds of ruthless people, and how you can get rid of them.
1. The Rat. Give a rat a cookie, and he’ll ask for a glass of milk.
A college acquaintance accepted a Facebook invitation to my company’s event and showed up without a ride home. In his mind, I was his ride home since I invited him, and that my ride home included a dinner date (on my dime) as well. After the event, he affixed himself to my hip and casually mentioned that his roommate dropped him off, so it was my responsibility to take him home.
Before I could consider, he made the deal even more preposterous by mentioning that he lived an hour in the opposite direction of where I lived, and that he was hungry and would like to stop somewhere for a bite to eat.
This particular rat is a handsome rat, and he has demanded things from females for much of his life.
“I would give you a ride but I have a medical condition,” I told him. “I’m allergic to needy men. See ya.”
How to defeat the rat: Give him nothing. Ever.
2. The Sponge. Like a sponge, these ruthless people are thirsty for your secrets, your connections, your whereabouts, and all the accoutrements of your life. They don’t want to work for what they have; they prefer to take what they need from you.
There once was a sponge in my world, a self-employed publicist who wanted to write professionally.
The sponge picked up the phone and asked me, point blank, how much money I earned from writing a particular book, and for me to fork over my publisher’s cell phone number, since she wasn’t able to contact the person via e-mail. “I’ve e-mailed her a couple of times and told her we were friends,” the sponge said, “and that we write in similar voices.”
I gave the sponge my publisher’s answering service, only to have her e-mail me a few days later. “Thanks for the lead, I did get in contact with her, but she isn’t expanding her author’s pool right now,” the sponge wrote. “So, will you proofread my cover letter? And can you pass along your boss’ number?”
I was confused at first, was this person an aggressive networker, or just a user? I edited her cover letter and sent it back.
Then I gave her a test.
I asked the sponge for a discount on her press release service, because I was looking to re-brand an old book project.
The sponge replied, “sorry, I don’t feel comfortable doing that. Press releases are how I eat.” Then she added, "Thanks for the editing. Don't forget to pass along your boss' number."
"I don't feel comfortable doing that," I replied. "Are you sure you can't offer a discount on your press release service?"
That was the last time I heard from the thirsty sponge.
How to defeat the sponge: Ask them for something equally intrusive, non-stop; the more outrageous your demands are, the better.
3. The damsel in distress.
This person relies on you to drop everything you're doing and come to their rescue.
A friend of fifteen years called me on the 5th of October, because her September car note had not been paid. Her live-in boyfriend emptied her checking account and moved in with someone else. Now the repo man was coming.
A few days later, I hand-delivered the check, only to encounter the live-in boyfriend sitting in my friend’s front room watching football, while she was in the kitchen making nachos. Shock: The couple has since reunited. Double-shock: She still wanted my money for her car note.
I did an about-face, walked to my car, firmly planted my ass in my seat, and drove off with my hard earned money.
The damsel was furious. She told our mutual friends that I reneged on the loan and that’s why her car was repossessed; she never placed blame on the boyfriend who stole her money in the first place.
How to defeat the damsel in distress: Don’t be a superhero.
You are not responsible for the messes that adults get themselves into, so don’t get involved in their clean-up. I’m not suggesting that you go through life never helping anyone; I am suggesting that you donate your time and resources wisely.
Say ‘no’ when it's warranted, and have no regrets.
Another lesson from the Urban Flirt!
About Zondra Hughes