The question comes up when talking about leading in a human way — how do I avoid being used?
Define “Being Used”
Being used means being “played” as a fool. You’ve been manipulated. You’ve been told one thing, which you believed, only to find something else to be true. You’ve been generous and someone is taking for the sake of taking, not receiving.
Wouldn’t you know?
Being used insinuates that you have no control, no say in what’s happening. You’re stuck and have no choice. You’re oblivious.
It Could Be True
Yes, you could be oblivious to the way others take advantage of you and that’s called denial, avoidance or getting hooked. When we get hooked, we allow ourselves to get manipulated. BUT, you can only deny, avoid or get hooked if you ignore your emotions. Otherwise, your emotions will dutifully surface to inform you that something’s not right — maybe with stomach tightness or neck pain or resistance to doing what’s being asked of you.
Trust your emotions as you would a strategic informant. Someone who will let you know when things are out of balance according to your values and thoughts. The more you listen to your emotions, the more you’ll be able to identify your hooks.
For example: at work, your boss or colleague can (try to) take advantage of you by asking you to stay overtime, night after night after night. Because you’re nice, generous, helpful, a people pleaser and maybe fearful of getting fired — you agree. That happens all the time. The entire economy is based on that — that’s how work contracts have been shifted to include “professional” levels that don’t pay people by the hour. A brilliant idea — one that could only be sold in the LIM. Here person — I’ll pay you less per hour, you’ll be on call day and night for a salary, I’ll keep piling on work to increase your “responsibility” which you take with open arms because it fills your needs for significance and perceived certainty (and growth, variety, contribution) and if you complain, I might just get rid of you!
Choose What to Do
If you listen to your emotions, they’ll lead you to realizing that one of your values has been betrayed or you haven’t been representing your interests. Hmmm… that’s your doing, isn’t it? If that’s your doing, that’s your undoing as well. You can always make a new choice in the moment.
The more you build your inner power through HCL — self-trust, self-respect, self-appreciation, self-empathy, self-responsiblitiy, the more you can exercise your rights and choices without fearing the consequences. In today’s world, being honest, fair, creative, smart and politically savvy are excellent reasons to get fired at work by bosses who can’t handle any of that. Know your context and be at your highest potential in that context, identifying alternatives for Plan B, C or D as needed.
Always trust yourself and notice your emotions. They will tell you when or if you’re being manipulated. If you fall for it, get up again with a wiser sense of clarity about what you think, feel and do across contexts. In knowing that, you are fully capable of using the next experience to give/be generous only when you want to give/be generous. When you feel someone’s crossed the line or the situation demands more than you want to give, change your strategy.
Whatever you do, don’t shrink inwards and avoid interactions with others! Always let yourself blossom and find the people with whom you’d like to befriend and work. If you work with people you don’t trust or have mistreated you, you can teach them new ways to treat you or make other choices that best suit you. Only you know what to do in your life’s and leadership’s journey.
[Image from Freepik]