No More Mr. Nice Guy: 5 Practical Tips To Stop Being Treated Like A Doormat

Do people treat you like a doormat?

Let’s put a stop to that.

And we’re going to start with the threads of niceness and kindness because they are such a common component of the discussion.

There are nearly constant calls for people to be nicer and kinder with virtually no mention of how to actually do these things without being taken advantage of.

And if you’re a decent person or you’re trying to be a better person, you may not have even considered that these things can be a massive liability in the wrong circles.

Some people only see kindness and niceness as weakness, which is an invitation to take everything they can from you.

Plenty of nice and kind people are pushovers and get treated like doormats because of it.

Now, before we dive into how not to be a doormat, we want to give you a clear warning:

The moment you start standing up for yourself, there will be conflict, and you will likely lose some people you considered friends and loved ones.

Why? Because some people that claim to care about you really only care about what you can do for them. When you start standing up for yourself and enforcing your boundaries, they will drift off and look for softer targets.

Sometimes this isn’t always a thing borne out of maliciousness either. Some people get trapped in their problems and regularly use everyone else for “emotional support.” And that’s okay in limited doses.

It becomes a much bigger problem when the person is constantly taking and never contributing. They’re all about their problems, complaining about their lives, and most notably – rarely ever doing anything to change their situation.

Don’t be surprised if certain people stop calling or reaching out. It’ll hurt at first, but it is ultimately for the best. You can’t make the time and space for quality friends when emotional vampires drain all your time and energy.

That being said, let’s get into it.

1. Learn to say, “No.”

“No.” is a complete sentence.

It is one of the most powerful boundaries you can set and will keep people from walking all over you.

It’s not always beneficial to explain yourself past that. People who are manipulators will often take that reasoning and look for a way to break through your no. They will re-approach the situation from different angles to try to find a yes.

If you spot this type of behavior, understand that it may not be the actions of someone who cares about you.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can always avoid or stonewall the discussion. Sometimes it’s helpful to explain more to someone that you know isn’t taking advantage of you.

The people who genuinely care about you will be alright with your ‘no’ and your explanation for it. They won’t try to cross the boundary that you set. You may even find that honest communication such as this strengthens your relationship.

2. Learn to set boundaries.

Saying no is the establishment of a boundary. But there are other boundaries that you will need to set.

For example, let’s say that you work in a demanding job. They may imply that you need to catch up on emails after work or call you while you’re off the clock.

In some professions, there are expectations that the participants are always on or regularly participating in business-oriented activities. “We always get together to drink after work on Friday!”

You will need to find a way to say no and set those boundaries if you don’t want to do those things.

The boundary doesn’t always need to be stated either. It may be a matter of not picking up your phone on off-hours or just going home instead of to the bar with your coworkers.

Boundaries are exceptionally important in your personal life too. Without them, you can very easily turn into an emotional dumping ground for everyone’s problems.

It’s good to be compassionate and supportive, but it’s also good to understand your limits and know when to tell the person you aren’t a therapist.

If it’s becoming too taxing for you to deal with, then it’s time to suggest that the other person looks for another avenue of support; that you’re too overwhelmed to be supportive.

Again, this is something that a person who cares about you will generally respect and honor.

3. Never do anything for anyone else because you feel bad for them.

Anything you do for anyone else should be done because it is something you want to do for them, not because you feel bad for them.

The easiest way for someone to convince you to comply is to play on your emotions. You will see this type of persuasion everywhere once you understand what to look for. The appeal is typically to a sense of duty, guilt, or compassion.

That may be anything from, “I have no one left. Everyone abandoned me. My friends, my family… no one will give me a chance.”

That’s usually code for, “I’m the problem, but I either can’t see that I’m the problem, know I’m the problem and refuse to accept it, or I know I’m the problem and still do whatever I want anyway because I can sucker people into feeling bad for me.”

And then there is this workplace gem you may get from management: “Well, we’re understaffed right now, but I need you to be a rockstar and pick up the extra workload. It would really help out the company. You want to be a team player, don’t you?”

In both scenarios, the person is using your guilt as leverage against you. And in both scenarios, they are easily defeated by not basing your decisions on the emotions they are trying to evoke.

When someone is talking to you and trying to get you to do something, consider what emotions you’re feeling and what emotions they are trying to get you to feel. Then disregard those feelings and make your decision based on what you want to do, not what they want you to do for them.

4. Never do anything for anyone with an expectation attached.

“Maybe if I’m kind or nice to this person, they will do that for me too.”

No. This is manipulation, not kindness or niceness.

“Maybe if I do what this person asks of me, they will like me more.”

No. They will not respect you and will see you as a doormat to be taken advantage of.

“Maybe if I do the right thing, it’ll come back around to me later. Y’know, karma!”

No. Plenty of good and nice people get taken advantage of by being too good and too nice when they shouldn’t be.

Anything that you choose to do in this life should be done because you feel it is the right thing to do with no expectations of what you can get out of it.

Otherwise, you will doom yourself to a cycle of being taken advantage of and mismatched relationships, and not just from people who are malicious. There are plenty of people who aren’t able or equipped to provide what you might need.

Let’s say you’re a person who lives with a mental illness. You try to be there for other people who are struggling because you understand the struggle.

But it’s so hard. Every day can be a struggle when your mental illness is trying to drag you into whatever hole it wants to get you in. And sometimes, you need support from friends and family to get through it.

But what if your family has the emotional intelligence of baboons? What if your friends are in equally dark holes and don’t have the emotional bandwidth to be a supportive presence?

You’re supportive to them in the hopes that they will be supportive to you – but what if they won’t or can’t? Some people won’t because they don’t want that responsibility. Some people can’t because they have too much of their load to carry.

So whatever it is, do the thing because you want to do the thing, not because of what you can get out of it. That makes it much easier to say no, enforce your boundaries, and not be taken advantage of.

5. Embrace and love your social discomfort.

Conflict is uncomfortable for a lot of people. But what happens when you say no to someone that really wants their way? You get conflict.

Some people bend or break under the pressure of conflict. Or worse, they avoid it completely because they don’t want to experience discomfort. Some people will agree to the demands of the other person so that they can avoid being uncomfortable.

You simply can’t do that and expect other people to have your best interests in mind. That’s not how those kinds of people work. If you are known to buckle under pressure, then they will exert pressure until you cave in. They know it’s just a matter of time.

In a perfect world, you’d be able to pick the right jobs and people to be around. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where sometimes we have to deal with jerks or end up in a job that isn’t the best for us. Sometimes you have to be discreet about standing up for yourself or exit a situation that doesn’t work for you.

But when you do stand up for yourself and experience that conflict, you have to hold firm through it. Running away from it cements the discomfort and encourages avoidance, which will create a whole different problem that you’ll need to deal with eventually. Confront it and go through it.

All of that being said, always consider your safety. Sometimes a “doormat” is actually someone who is just trying to do what they need to do to survive a negative situation they are in.

Always err on the side of your safety. If a person is forcing you to be compliant through threats or implications of harm, your best option is to stop reading stuff on the internet and talk to the police, a support worker, or a relevant charitable organization about the situation.

If you have to be compliant while looking for another job or place to live, then do so and bide your time.

Every situation has exceptions. Sometimes it’s good to stand up for yourself; other times, it’s better to do what you need to do until you can move on to a better situation.

But whatever the situation, if you feel in danger or afraid of the person demanding compliance of you (like a spouse), you should consult with the police, a support worker, or a relevant charitable organization before you do anything.

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