How to Spot People That Use Others

Author Tracy Smith
February 12, 2023

Can you recall a time in your life when you were used by someone else? Unfortunately for most of us, this usually occurs sometime early in life. Some of us might have been used for our intelligence, some for our athleticism, and others for our popularity. Can you remember the moment when you realized that you were being used? The split second when it finally dawned on you that you were being manipulated and exploited? It’s an awful, confusing moment that is often characterized by swirling emotions. 

using other people

First, you experience disbelief and incredulity accompanied by a heavy wave of anguish and sadness. Shortly thereafter, anger and fury storm in until you finally settle on disgust and self-loathing. You wonder how you could have been so foolish and naïve to have fallen for this. Your self-esteem checks out and your confidence plummets into a cold, dark abyss.

Unfortunately, you are in good company, as it happens to the best of us. It tends to occur more to kind, unsuspecting, good-hearted people who choose to believe the best in everyone. At times it will happen to someone who deeply deserves it, perhaps somebody who has used others in the past. Nevertheless, being used is not healthy for the human psyche and does nothing for one’s confidence or self-esteem. Thus, it is important to be able to spot a user before you fall victim to their selfish ways.

Tips for Identifying Users

Thankfully, there are several ways to spot the user in your life that’s manipulating you. Consider if any of the below apply to this person.

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They Only Make Contact When They Need You

First, a user will only reach out to you when they are looking for something or when they need help. A user may be seeking financial help, emotional assistance, or for you to complete a task or errand for them. A user will never contact you to chat, socialize, or check in, as they are generally uninterested or concerned about you or your life. They may utilize flattery to get what they want and once they achieve it, the smooth-talking will end. If you happen to reach out to them for a favor or similar assistance, you will likely be ignored or quickly disregarded.

There Is Always Drama in Their Lives

A user can be identified by the level of theatrics and commotion occurring in their lives. The constant chaos and drama are a result of them using other people and then discarding them without cause, regret, or guilt. A user views others as disposable and abandons them on a whim (or when they happen to find something better).

They Don’t Follow Through on Promises

Users can be recognized by focusing on their actions rather than their words. A user is inconsistent, sends mixed messages, and will make promises that they do not keep. They are absent when they say they will be present, they fail to repay you when they say they will, and they say they value you only to scorn you shortly thereafter. They say they will be there to support you during the hard times, except when those hard times come, they are nowhere to be found.

Taking Action

It’s worth noting that a user can be a friend, family member, co-worker, boss, neighbor, or romantic partner. Despite their relation to you, it is important to identify them and immediately remove them from your life. If the user is someone that you are simply unable to distance yourself from, such as a co-worker or close family member, you may want to consult with a professional counselor or online therapy provider.

It is critical to surround yourself with compassionate and caring people who are going to be there in both good times and bad. The people you choose to include in your life should value you and treat you with the respect. Relationships should be honest, open, and equal in that they always go both ways.

So when you recall a time when you were used, don’t despair, the joke is actually on them. Paradoxically, it turns out that your user unknowingly gave you much more than they took; they allowed you to grow from a painful experience, in addition to providing you with the invaluable lesson of self-respect.

Author Tracy Smith

Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for a Community YMCA. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents.

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