In the piece discussing Top Reasons Why We Fail one of the first listed reasons was Following the wrong people: listening to what you want to hear, frauds, cheaters, liars, people pleasers. The argument was that there is a reason why pyramid schemes work. People want to believe what sounds good even if deep inside they know it isn’t true. The most charismatic people get very good at beating at tagline that others want to hear. Yet people who are always tell others what they want to hear only really help one person – themselves.
Claire Nana discusses this concept more in detail in her piece 3 Ways To Spot A “Taker” and suggests that paying close attention to a person’s behavior in person and on line would help distinguishing between friends and takers. More than that some people will take advantage of you when you are down, they might even “kick you” while others will just not be there for you.
The book Leverage: The Science of Turing Setbacks into Springboards offers even more direct approaches such as using a Relationship Litmus Test. Here is an excerpt from the book:
“Adversity will test everything about connection: whether or not we feel heard, accepted, and understood, and certainly how much we can trust. As we know, some relationships will not weather the storm. Yet adapting is about finding out just who will stand by us and letting go of those who won’t. In order to find out, we are going to do what I call a relationship litmus test.
To do this, you are going to list all of the people you know on one list, and on a second list, write down every person that you would feel comfortable disclosing about your setbacks to. You may find that while your first list is quite long, the second one is pretty short. Not surprisingly, most people have a large valance of relationships with only a few people they feel very connected to.
Once you have your two lists written, you are going to select the person from your second list that you feel most comfortable with and ask that person to meet with you. Do not explain why you are asking to meet, and make sure you schedule at least one hour of time. In the meeting, disclose as much as you are comfortable with about the details of what you are going through, how you feel, and what it is like for you to talk about it. Pay careful attention to how you feel as well as your friend’s reaction. After you finish, ask yourself a few questions: Did you feel heard? Did you feel accepted? Did you feel as if your friend made an attempt to understand you? Did you feel judged in any way? Did you feel that you could ask for help if you needed to? Keep in mind that what is most important is how you felt in the interaction—that is, your perception. Also remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel. You are going to work your way down your second list, repeating the steps above with each person until you have identified the people you feel most connected to and most safe with.
As you go through this exercise, it’s helpful to keep a few things in mind:
- Disclosing emotionally charged information is an exercise in trust, vulnerability, and connection.
- Not all relationships will survive adversity, and that is OK. Some people are more able to sit with difficult circumstances, charged emotions, and vulnerability than others.
- Not all people will be able to understand your reality. You will find some people can relate to how you feel better than others.
- You only need a few. The benefits that come from feeling heard, understood, and connected don’t come from disclosing to everyone. It only takes a select few who can truly be there to help you through.
While setbacks may test our relationships, they also make us poignantly aware of just what connection offers: the ability to trust when trust seems impossible, to expose ourselves in ways that terrify us, and to reach out and ask for help when others turn away. Yet the risks we have to take, the uncertainty we have to tolerate, and the willingness to continue despite failure are not just the skills of connecting; they are indelible skills of adapting.”
We see the phenomenon everywhere — there are always people who’d rather take than give, and rather use than help.
For me, (an ultrarunner) it is best seen in the sport of ultrarunning where a lack of authority combined with a very fast growth of the sport in the last few years has lead to a “Wild West” of products and services being offered by opportunists. Companies capitalized on the limited knowledge of the beginners and were able to find charismatic individuals willing to push their products for the chance of being “facebook famous.” At the same time, a new group of “coaches” offer advice to beginners without themselves being capable of doing what they promise to their students. Both the corporations and the coaches learned very fast how to be friendly, how to project a “successful” image, how to use peer pressure, and promise to the potential buyers exactly what they want to hear.
The message is always the same – we can get you where you want to be faster than you can get yourself there. The truth is it takes work. Hard work. Every day. What it doesn’t take is people who promise what they can’t deliver, or who are only aiming at one thing: what’s in it for them.
The sooner you find out who is really supporting you, and who is simply selling you a line, or even worse, selling you, the quicker you can focus on what will help you reach your goals. And that is you.
Dorotik-Nana, C., (2015), 3 Ways To Sport A “Taker.” Psych Central
Dorotik-Nana, C., (2015), Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards. Create Space.