Narcissists and Takers

A friend I’ll call “Ed” kept pushing me to contribute to my school’s alumni fund. The more he called me, the more stubborn I felt that my answer was, “No.”

I felt that not only did I lack the money necessary to contribute in order to make a true difference, but I also knew whatever I could give would be paltry in relation to what the fund had already accumulated.

Finally, Ed said, “You’re the only person who hasn’t said yes.”
Maybe that was the truth. Maybe not. Knowing Ed — and his narcissistic ego — I sensed his motivation behind so actively pursuing my contribution had more to do with his desire to be able to say he got 100% of our class to contribute.

So I said, “I guess that’s the way we’ll have to leave it.”

We all receive unwanted requests from time to time. Some deal with money. Some deal with our precious time. Maybe you’re more generous than I was, or maybe you’re less stubborn. Your response may vary according to the situation, and whether or not you currently possess the resources, abilities, or time needed to oblige.

Learning to say no when requests are unreasonable, impossible, or simply unwanted frees your energy, time, and financial resources so you can say yes to those things you find truly important.

Here is a simple two-step process to identify how and when to confidently say, “NO.”

1. Identify the driving motivational tendencies beneath your difficulty saying no.

In general, women (particularly heterosexual women) find it more difficult to say no than do most men. Women are more concerned about hurting others’ feelings, and are generally more anxious about incurring hostility or resentment from the person asking.

You’ll know immediately that opportunities and issues lie within you as specific concerns and motivations are identified.

One of my closest friends has collected several people she calls her friends. I call them takers, and sometimes narcissists. The relationships she has with these people are one-way streets with aspects of co-dependency — a form of relationship dysfunction in which “one person’s help supports (enables) the other’s under-achievement, irresponsibility, immaturity, addiction, procrastination, or poor mental or physical health.” This dynamic often breeds greater dependency and postpones the other person’s progress, ultimately wearying if not draining the giver.

Too many of my own friendships have been based on such “helping” relationships. Over time, I began to realize how tired I felt being the useful one (if not used), in spite of satisfying my need to be needed, as well as to be seen as a good person. I had to be honest with myself and accept how lopsided these relationships were in order to then wean myself of the habit of forming relationships with needy people.