13 ways selfish people exploit your kindness for their gain

Disclosure: this page may contain affiliate links to select partners. We receive a commission should you choose to make a purchase after clicking on them. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Kindness is a wonderful trait, one that is often seen as a hallmark of a compassionate person.

However, some individuals see this kindness not as a gift, but as an opportunity for exploitation.

The fine line between being generously benevolent and being taken advantage of is often blurred, leaving kind-hearted people vulnerable to those with selfish motives.

Recognizing the signs of such exploitation is vital in protecting yourself while still preserving your warmth and generosity.

1. They guilt trip you into helping them.

When interacting with a selfish person, you may notice they often use guilt to leverage your kindness.

They know just the right strings to pull to make you feel obligated to help them.

Here are some common guilt-tripping tactics:

Emotional Debt: They remind you of past favors (even if they are small and happened years ago), implying you owe them.

Exaggerated Desperation: They amplify their needs to trigger your sympathy.

Comparison: They compare your efforts for others, suggesting you care less about them.

These behaviors can make you feel uncomfortable, as if denying help would make you a bad friend.

Extra reading: What guilt tripping looks like in the real world (+ how to respond to it)

2. They expect you to listen as they dump their problems onto you.

A selfish person may exploit you by expecting you to be their personal sounding board.

Selfish people often see others as a platform to air their grievances, regardless of the mental toll it may take.

They’re likely to initiate conversations that are one-sided, where they talk at length about their own issues.

Conversations lack reciprocity—the selfish person disregards your time and emotional state, and they show little interest in your opinions or problems.

They just want to vent to make themselves feel better, no matter the impact on you.

3. They act like the victim to elicit sympathy from you.

Selfish individuals are known to manipulate situations by portraying themselves as the victim.

They often spin stories to make it seem like they’re facing adversity, compelling you to offer them your support and assistance.

They may appeal to your emotions by sharing heart-wrenching tales that may not always be factual, stirring up feelings of compassion.

They omit certain facts that might otherwise put them in a less sympathetic light.

And they may imply that not helping would make you a bad friend, playing on your sense of guilt.

You know the ones—their issues are always major, and they always seem to be in the middle of a crisis.

Extra reading: 9 Ways People Play The Victim (+ How To Deal With Them)

4. They make empty promises which they never follow through on.

Selfish individuals often use grandiose promises to take advantage of your goodwill.

They may assure you with statements like, “Don’t worry, I’ll definitely pay you back next week,” or “I’ll handle the project report,” without any intention of fulfilling these commitments.

This pattern of behavior allows them to reap immediate benefits like borrowed money or shared credit for work, leaving you disappointed and sometimes in a bind.

These empty promises create a false sense of security. When the time comes to deliver, excuses appear, which can take various forms.

Unforeseen circumstances: “Something urgent came up!”

Misplaced blame: “You never reminded me!”

Minimization: “Was it really that important?”

Selfish people skilfully manipulate the situation, diverting attention away from their failure to keep their word.

You, the victim of these broken promises, are often left questioning your own judgment, wondering why you didn’t see the warning signs sooner.

5. They use flattery and praise to get what they want from you, but it’s all fake.

Selfish individuals have a knack for offering insincere compliments to manipulate others.

They often recognize the power of a well-placed compliment and will not hesitate to use praise as a tool for personal gain.

It goes a little something like this:

They pay attention to what you like to hear and mirror your own words back to you. You’ll hear how incredible you are whenever they need a favor. But the compliments cease and they disappear once their objectives are met.

Beware of people who always have something nice to say before making a request, rarely pay compliments unless they want something, and swiftly shift from praise to asking for a favor.

6. They expect you to drop everything for them.

Selfish individuals often operate under the belief that their needs are of paramount importance.

They not only hope but assume that you will prioritize their demands over your own plans or responsibilities.

They believe their requests deserve immediate attention, disregarding any prior commitments you might have.

They apply subtle pressure, making you feel guilty for not being readily available.

And if their expectations of instant assistance are not met, they may become upset or give you the silent treatment.

You’ll notice that they tend to downplay your needs in favor of their own, and they might use phrases such as, “If you really cared, you’d…” to get you to act.

It’s common for them to make you feel like you’re the only one who can help. This tactic is cleverly engineered to take advantage of your nurturing instincts.

7. They never express gratitude of any kind.

Selfish individuals often take advantage of others’ generosity without showing one iota of appreciation.

They might accept favors, help, and gifts as if they are entitled to them, and not offer a simple “thank you” in return.

Their lack of gratitude can become an energy drain for, you, the giver. You’re left feeling unvalued and used.

You see, the selfish person believes the help they receive is a given, not an act of kindness to be grateful for.

They expect their needs to be prioritized, they believe they are worthy of special treatment, and they don’t see why they should need to be thankful for the actions and service of others.

8. They never return the favor to help you in your time of need.

It’s a situation many have experienced: being there for someone time and time again, but when the roles are reversed, that help is nowhere to be found.

Selfish individuals are masters at exploiting the kindness of others, yet they seem to vanish when it’s their turn to lend a hand.

The relationship is entirely one-sided. You find yourself always offering support—be it emotional, financial, or practical—but your efforts aren’t reciprocated.

If you ever reach out during a personal crisis, you’re met with excuses. “I’m too busy,” or “I’m dealing with my own issues,” are common escape clauses for selfish friends who don’t intend to offer assistance.

Or, even worse, just when they’re needed the most, these self-centered folks are experts in disappearance. They’re there for the good times, but inconspicuously absent during the bad.

It’s not just a one-off incident; it’s a pattern of behavior. They repeatedly show an aversion to reciprocating help yet never hesitate to ask for it when they’re in need.

If they do appear to return a favor, it’s often conditional. Their help comes with strings attached or an expectation of getting something even more substantial in return.

9. They define the relationship based on what benefits they get from it.

Selfish people often view relationships as transactions rather than connections.

They meticulously calculate what they can gain from you, sometimes neglecting the emotional and social reciprocity that builds true rapport.

Here’s how they might operate:

Prioritizing Needs: Selfish people typically put their needs first. They will only engage in aspects of the relationship that serve their interests.

Opportunistic Approaches: Whether it’s a shoulder to cry on or a plus-one for social events, they’re only around when it benefits them the most.

Conditional Support: Their support often comes with strings attached, playing the give-and-take game to their advantage.

Emotional Withdrawal: If the relationship does not offer them the desired benefits, they may emotionally withdraw or become less available, maintaining a presence only when it’s beneficial.

10. They never consider your feelings, only what you can do for them.

Selfish individuals excel at treating others less like friends and more like tools in their personal toolbox.

They often reach out when they need assistance but are notably absent when the situation is reversed.

They either don’t notice or outright ignore emotional cues when you are discussing your feelings or hardships.

And they only communicate when they have something to gain, rather than to inquire about your wellbeing.

Their interactions are transactional; they might charm or flatter, but their endgame is gaining from your generosity.

They have no qualms about manipulating situations to align with their goals, while disregarding how it might affect you emotionally.

In essence, they view relationships through the lens of personal benefit, and your emotional state is not even an afterthought.

11. They make unreasonable demands on your time, money, and resources.

Selfish people often see your generosity as an opportunity for personal gain, leading them to ask for more than is appropriate.

They may expect you to drop everything for their last-minute requests, assuming that their time is more valuable than yours.

They might request loans with little intention of paying you back.

They might expect to use your belongings without asking or offering anything in return.

And they do all these things so often that you end up feeling like their servant rather than their friend, colleague, partner, or family member.

12. They frequently disrespect your personal boundaries.

Selfish individuals have a knack for overstepping personal boundaries—it’s almost like they have a sixth sense for knowing just how far they can push before encountering resistance.

They’ll often start with small invasions and, when not met with pushback, they progressively become more intrusive.

Here are a few common ways a selfish person may overstep your boundaries:

Invading your personal space: They may stand too close or pick up personal items without asking.

Overstaying their welcome: They don’t take hints about leaving and instead, remain in others’ spaces longer than desired.

Giving unsolicited advice: They often assume a position of unwarranted authority, giving advice on personal matters.

Some selfish friends or partners may not even recognize that they’re constantly encroaching on your personal terrain—others just don’t care.

Extra reading: How To Deal With Someone Who Repeatedly Disrespects Your Boundaries

13. They take all the credit for joint successes, but blame any failures on you.

Selfish individuals often look for ways to shine, even at the expense of those around them.

They have a knack for highlighting their own contributions when things go well.

Imagine a scenario where they and you work tirelessly on a project. Once it succeeds, they bask in the limelight, conveniently ignoring your effort.

Their name features in bold at the top of the project summary, while your contributions are barely a footnote.

BUT, when a project doesn’t go according to plan, these individuals display an uncanny ability to divert blame. They quickly dissociate from the failures.

The narrative swiftly changes as they weave stories that highlight your decisions as the reason for the setback.

Success? “I led us to victory!”

Failure? “It was out of my hands.”


If you notice the signs above, be especially vigilant for any potential manipulation by the other person.

As kind and as generous as you are, it’s important to not let others take advantage of you.

You may also like:

About The Author

Steve Phillips-Waller is the founder and editor of A Conscious Rethink. He has written extensively on the topics of life, relationships, and mental health for more than 8 years.