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Mark Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A.
Mark Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A.

Just Say "No" to Takers

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of heartache.

I received many grateful emails regarding my usable insight, "The Learned Person." Several people said what got to them the most was not just the seven specific qualities they could aspire to, but also the realization of how the opposite of these qualities could cause you to be a “golem.”

One person told me that perhaps a simpler word for having those negative qualities was being a “taker.” That response, as well as rereading the chapter, “Steer Clear of Toxic People” in my new book, “Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (AMACOM, $24.95) caused me to realize that before you can “steer clear of toxic people” or “just say no to takers,” it would be helpful to recognize them before they take from you. (Are you listening, Erin Woods and Elizabeth Edwards?)

How do you recognize takers? The best way to recognize a taker is to make the most of the hindsight you will beat yourself up with the next time you’re taken from by one of them.

Think of the last time this happened to you. Was it when you paid money to someone for something you never received? Was it when you gave someone (who hurt you for the tenth time) an eleventh chance to do it again — and then they did? Was it when you gave your employee a second chance to get their work in on time, and they again failed to do so? Was it when you gave your boyfriend or girlfriend another chance to meet you on time, and again, they were 30 minutes late? Or was it when you truly believed that “sure-fire” guaranteed offer that sounded too-good-to-be-true that turned out too good to be true?

Where do you find takers? Takers cross all socioeconomic, age, gender, ethnic, personal, occupational, and familial boundaries. There are taker husbands and taker wives; taker parents and taker children; taker brothers and taker sisters; taker friends and taker foes; taker neighbors and taker strangers; taker bosses and taker employees; taker young and taker old; taker Caucasians and taker African Americans; taker Asians and taker Europeans; taker New Yorkers and taker Californians; taker intellectuals and taker anti-intellectuals and taker writers and taker readers. (Fortunately, givers also cross all these boundaries, but more about that later).

What are some of the qualities present in most takers?

25 Warning Signals That You’re Dealing With a Taker

  1. They act entitled to whatever they’re taking from you.
  2. They treat you as an extension of themselves.
  3. When they hurt or disappoint you, they don’t experience guilt, shame, or remorse.
  4. They won’t apologize to you but will expect you to apologize to them.
  5. Their wish is your command, and if you don’t comply, you don’t love them.
  6. They believe their problems are someone else’s fault.
  7. They believe that you and everyone else are in this world to make them happy.
  8. When you give to them, they don’t feel compelled to say thank you or be grateful.
  9. If they feel taken from by you, they become outraged and entitled to become enraged.
  10. They don’t regret taking from you, but they regret not taking even more from you.
  11. They need to have the last word in conversations.
  12. They don’t take turns well.
  13. They are impatient and hate to wait.
  14. They interrupt or butt into conversations.
  15. They act as if they are always right.
  16. They act as if they are never wrong.
  17. When they’re frustrated, they feel justified in doing anything to make themselves feel better.
  18. They won’t tell you specifically what you are doing wrong or ask you directly for what they need— they expect you to read their minds.
  19. They are stubborn and you may confuse their stubbornness for strength and be attracted to them because of it.
  20. They aren’t motivated to know, care, or do anything unless it gets them something.
  21. They are quick to ridicule or laugh at others but have little ability to laugh at themselves or tolerate being laughed at.
  22. They either cannot or will not put themselves in another person’s shoes.
  23. They hold everyone else accountable but evade being held accountable.
  24. They talk much more than they listen.
  25. They’ll expect a second, third, and fourth chance from you when they hurt you; but they won’t give you a second chance when you hurt them.

This list can be discouraging. You may be hard-pressed to think of many people who don’t show at least some of these characteristics. More upsetting is that you will probably find yourself owning up to at least a few of these qualities.

Take a breather now if this list is too upsetting, but come back later if in your heart, you know it’s true. Don’t become paranoid, but do become mindful of people with these qualities and just say “no” before you become involved with them.

About the Author
Mark Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A.

Mark Goulston, M.D., the author of the book Just Listen, is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute.