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What to Say When Someone Takes Advantage of You

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Suess

Situation:  Someone “borrows” things from you and doesn’t return them

Try this:  Explain the situation, “I’m out of cash and need the $5 you borrowed.” Express how you feel, “I keep worrying about it and I’d be relieved to have it back.” Ask (and possibly offer a solution), “can you have it for me this afternoon?  I’ll text you to remind you, before we meet.”

Situation:  You clean the house and a partner leaves clutter and dishes all over, expecting you to pick up.

Try this:  Start at a good time, “I want to talk about the house, is this a good time?” Give him or her reason to listen, “I know you care for me and feel it’s important not to let little things become big problems.” State the facts, “yesterday I spent a lot of time and energy picking up the house and once it was clean, I found myself picking up your dinner dishes and clothes.”

Say how you feel, “I love you and enjoy doing things for you, but I also feel resentful when I feel I’m the only one picking up.” Ask for what you want (you may need to be specific), “can you take on the dishes, after dinner for the week?” It never hurts to give another reason why this is good for both of you, “It’d take a lot of pressure off of me and would really help.” Be willing to listen to his or her point-of-view and negotiate to find a solution that works for both of you.

We can feel taken advantage of in both big and small situations.  Basic principles of standing up for ourselves include: Articulating the positive aspects of your request, describing (without judgment or all or nothing language) the situation, expressing your feelings, asking or saying no, and keeping it positive.

Some short hand ways to ask for what you want:

“Excuse me, can I have…”

“I’d like …. Please.”

“I was hoping I could ask you for …”

“What you’ve offered is great, but doesn’t work for me because… Can I have … instead? Thank you”

“I’m confused, can you explain it to me?”

“I’m sorry to bother you, but can you help me?”

Short Hand ways to say no:

“I care about you, but I’d appreciate it if you’d stop X (annoying or problematic behavior).”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t have money to lend.”

“Thanks for X (thinking of me, getting me something), but I really don’t need it.”

“I know you’re trying to help, but I can to do this on my own.”

“It’s not going to work out, sorry.”

“No, but thanks for thinking of me.”

“I’m not comfortable with that.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Your timing’s not good.  Maybe another time.”

“I’ll pass.”

“It won’t fit into my schedule.”

“I promised myself I would never do that.”

Sometimes it’s hard to stand up for yourself.  Often we don’t want to disappoint someone or make them angry.  It can be tempting to cut some corners to get out of difficult situations with lies or by acting helpless. In the short term it may be easier to lie, rather than explain a painful truth or to pretend you don’t know how to do an annoying chore.  But just as giving in erodes your self-esteem, a pattern of interacting with others with lies and helplessness can leave you without much sense of personal worth.

You can find more strategies to improve how you feel in my new book, The Stress Response and by clicking here to sign up for more of my tips and podcasts using DBT strategies to improve how you feel.

Money changing hands photo available from Shutterstock.

What to Say When Someone Takes Advantage of You

Christy Matta, MA

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APA Reference
Matta, C. (2012). What to Say When Someone Takes Advantage of You. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Apr 2012
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