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11 Signs Someone Is Using You and What to Do About It

Jorge's relationship advice is based on experience and observation. Let his trial and error be your success (hopefully).

Can you tell when a friend is using you? Sometimes it can be difficult to tell. This article walks you through the 11 signs your friend is a user.

Can you tell when a friend is using you? Sometimes it can be difficult to tell. This article walks you through the 11 signs your friend is a user.

Is My Friend Using Me?

It hurts to realize that someone you considered close is using you and that they don't actually want to be a real friend. In situations like these, it's easy to shy away from the truth at first, ignoring the signs and living in a state of denial. The fact of the matter is that until you face the situation and truly take a deep look at your friend's behavior, nothing can improve.

Do you get a sinking feeling that your friend doesn't even really like you that much? Don't feel too bad about it. Some people are actually quite incapable of a real friendship, and they don't know how to do anything else besides use people.

If you suspect that one of your friends fits this description, take a look at the signs and strategies for confronting the wrong-doer. This article covers the following 11 key signs that your friend is a user:

  1. Your friend doesn't call you unless they need something
  2. They do everything they can to do as little as possible
  3. They never seem to think of you
  4. Your friend knows surprisingly little about you
  5. They speak poorly of you to others
  6. When you have a crisis, they disappear
  7. You only hang out with them under specific circumstances
  8. They get pushy or manipulative if you don't give them what they want
  9. They've told you that they're using you
  10. They always need to be in charge
  11. They know all of your buttons and push them accordingly

1. Your Friend Doesn't Call You Unless They Need Something

If your friend is using you, the most glaring sign is that they don't contact you unless they specifically need something. It may not be obvious at first what they need, since they may be self-aware enough to obscure their intentions.

For example, maybe your friend calls to hang out with you. They spend a few hours with you, and sometime during the encounter, they mention a problem that they have. Maybe their car broke down, maybe they need to cut down an overgrown tree in their front yard, or maybe they are short on laundry money.

An expert user won't ask you for anything up front. They will build some rapport, then mention the problem. Before you know it, you might be offering to give them a ride to work, to fell their tree with your chainsaw, or to let them use your washer and dryer.

Obviously, there's nothing wrong with doing favors for your friends—that's part of friendship! The problem begins when your friend wants something from you almost every time they see you.

"Happy Holidays. It's a box of mini-candles because I just realized that I don't actually know you or what you like."

"Happy Holidays. It's a box of mini-candles because I just realized that I don't actually know you or what you like."

2. They Do Everything They Can to Give You as Little as Possible

When someone is using you, the whole point of the "friendship" is that they get more out of it than you do. If they're reciprocating too much, or worse, if they're giving more than you are then they are going against their agenda. You definitely have to give more over the long-term for them to "profit" from your relationship.

First, notice whether they're willing to offer the same kinds of favors that they demand from you. Most solid friendships involve people helping each other, even if it's inconvenient at times. Are you the only one who is going out of your way, though?

Don't ask for anything outrageous; just test to see if they'll agree to something on the same level as what they tend to ask you for. If they consistently deny helping you, or they even seem bothered that you asked, this is a bad sign.

Worse still, sometimes they may grudgingly comply with your requests, but they won't be interested in actually solving your problem because they're just trying to appease you for reasons of appearance.

For example, maybe your bicycle snapped in half and now you need a way to ride to work. Instead of actually trying to solve the problem by giving you a ride or a bus ticket, your friend offers you a rusty old bike with flat tires that has been sitting in their garage for half a century.

This way, they can say "I helped you," but not actually have to invest any time or resources into actually caring about your life and your problems. This actually brings us to the next sign . . .

3. They Never Seem to Think of You

Unless they need something from you, they never seem to think about you. They don't tend to say, "Oh, I heard this one song that I think you'll like!"; they don't tend to call you during the holidays; they don't tend to bring back gifts for you when they go on a trip.

You're low on their priority list, and they hardly ever think about you...unless they're thinking about how to get something out of you. Friends who are using you are almost always inconsiderate.

4. Your Friend Knows Surprisingly Little About You

Another sign that someone is using you is simply that they don't really care to get to know you. After all, it's not you they care about in the first place.

If your "friend" doesn't seem to pay much attention to what you have to say, forgets important things about you, and overall just seems uninterested, then obviously they must be hanging out with you for another reason.

This goes beyond being simply forgetful.

5. They Speak Poorly of You to Others

It's true that some people just can't stop themselves from gossiping. It's like an addiction.

One of the hallmarks of a user, though, is that they won't think twice about throwing you under the bus. They'll speak poorly of you when you're not around because they don't actually care about your reputation.

Anyway, if they have tons of complaints about you, and yet still hang around, then clearly they're not friends with you for your beautiful personality.

6. When You Have a Crisis, They Disappear

Did something suddenly derail your life and you need some support? Sometimes it's not even about money or resources—on occasion, we may just need someone to talk to when our world is crashing down.

When something tragic happens, does your friend show up for you? Or do you hear nothing but crickets chirping?

It's one thing if you're a Negative Ned and are always complaining about every little thing in your life—that would drive anyone away. But if you're a reasonably positive person who is having an emergency, you should be able to expect a real friend to sympathize.

7. You Only Hang Out With Them Under Specific Circumstances

Sometimes the fact that your friend is using you can be obscured by circumstances. For example, maybe you only ever meet each other when you're going out to your favorite nightclub. In this situation, if they were using you for your social status because you are popular and it makes them look good to be seen with you, it may be hard to tell.

Switch things up a bit. See if your buddy is willing to hang alone or do something that's totally different from what you usually do. Unless it's an activity that your friend hates, they should be happy to spend time with you—if they actually like you.

"Oh good! He didn't see me."

"Oh good! He didn't see me."

8. They Get Pushy or Manipulative If You Don't Give Them What They Want

Good friends understand boundaries. Crappy friends who only want to use you for resources might get angry if you don't give in to their requests. Often, they may even try to manipulate you by guilt-tripping, or saying things like, "I thought you were my friend!" when you tell them no.

Watch out for this controlling behavior. Real friends respect your free will and they'll like you even if you have nothing besides your friendship to give.

9. They've Told You That They're Using You

This may seem way too obvious, but sometimes it's not. Many times a friend who is using you will disguise their own confession as an apology.

They'll say something like, "I know I keep asking for stuff. It seems like I only ever call you when I need something, I know. I'm sorry." If someone tells you this, but doesn't make any effort to change the way that they approach your friendship, then they've basically told you themselves that they're using you. Listen to them!

10. They Always Need to Be in Charge

Your friend's unwillingness to set aside their own your point-of-view for a moment to see yours is a common pattern of behavior in someone who is looking to double-cross you. These people usually have a compulsive need to remain in their ways even if a logical way in why things should be done differently is presented. Often times you will be punished for not complying with your friend's wishes.

11. They Know All of Your Buttons and Push Them Accordingly

Deceitful friends start out as someone who was interested in getting to know you and will present themselves as being concerned with your overall well-being. That is until the opportunity to get over on you appears. When this happens, don't be surprised when they use your insecurities or other sensitive information against you. Emotional manipulators have a good awareness of your emotions and will quickly use them against you.

Characterize people by their actions and you will never be fooled by their words.

— Anonymous

How to Confront Your Manipulative Friend

There are productive ways to confront someone who has been using you over the course of your friendship. Below are some helpful tips to help end the cycle of exploitation.

  1. Stay Calm: Be on guard without being defensive. Anger keeps you from being levelheaded, and that might be a part of your friend's plan. Try not to call your friend's character into attention. For example, instead of calling them a "liar," say that you "disagree with their position." Adopt a global perspective, and examine the situation from all angles.
  2. Resist/Be Direct: Stop being baited any further. Inform your friend that you have noticed an ongoing pattern in the way they treat you. Allow them a chance to clearly articulate their thoughts and intentions on the matter.
  3. Stick Up for Yourself: Be firm, trust your gut, and don't lend excuses or justify your reasoning behind declining to help with any more favors.
  4. Deploy Consequences: It may become necessary to determine and assert certain consequences if the perpetrator refuses to accept "no" for an answer and/or insists on continuing to violate your boundaries. Effectively communicating consequences for violations can help disarm the manipulator and lead them towards positive behavioral changes.

Sometimes You Just Have to Say "No"

There are scenarios where the problem between you and your friend is simply a matter of miscommunication. Sometimes friends don't intentionally use you; they just get used to hearing you say yes all the time, so they ask for things and might not be mindful about it.

It takes courage to say no and speak your truth, but you'll always feel at peace with yourself when you do. Being able to firmly say no and mean it will also build your confidence and will prevent you from being used in the future. This article gives advice on saying no without feeling guilty.

Letting Go of a Bad Friend

After you've confronted your exploitive friend and identified their behavior sometimes it is necessary to release yourself from the relationship completely.

  1. Realize That It Will Be a Process: The truth is breaking the mental, physical, or emotional hold that somebody has on you is not always easy. They didn't respect you in the past so why would they now? Prepare for some pushback as you distance yourself.
  2. End the Relationship Directly: If you can, avoid having your words misconstrued and used against you by having the conversation in person or over the phone. Ask your friend not to contact you in a serious, straightforward manner.
  3. Don't Argue / Avoid the Guilt Trips: A part of refusing to buy into the toxic dynamic is by not arguing or fighting with the manipulator. Avoid falling into a trap by restating your boundaries, and making it less attractive to continuously pursue you.
  4. Create Distance: Give yourself some space to get used to being away from the person. Wait a few days or weeks before responding to calls and texts, and disregard personal invitations. Get involved in activities that they are less likely to be involved in. If mutual friends inquire about your behavior, just say you have been busy. You don't have to cut the person off completely, and it is okay to be cordial and make small-talk if you happen to run into them.
Pro tip: A dog will always be your friend and will never use you—except for treats.

Pro tip: A dog will always be your friend and will never use you—except for treats.

Recognizing the Signs of a Bad Friend in the Future

Now that you have stated your demands and created distance between yourself and your friend, it is important to reflect on the lessons that the situation presented. One of the most important takeaways is to not repeat the mistake of being caught up in a toxic relationship in the first place. I

t can be hard to determine if someone intends on taking advantage of you upon first meeting them. Be on the lookout for these common traits of exploitive people:

  • They Bully or Insult Others
  • They Do Not Tell the Full Truth
  • They Play Innocent or Minimize their Behavior
  • They Blame Others
  • They Lack Boundaries and Crowd Your Space

A Friend That is Using You is No Friend At All

The basic principle to keep in mind is this: a fake friend who is looking to use you will be focused on all the wrong things. Everything in your friendship will be a means to an end, and you'll find that you have a hard time enjoying the moment with them.

A genuine friend, on the other hand, will never hold the friendship hostage to conditions. Since they like you for who you are, even if your external life circumstances change—like your social status, your income, or your youthful glow—they will still care about you nonetheless.

In that sense, you could say that a true friendship is unconditional, but a "friendship" with a user is highly conditional. After all, when a friend is using you, they just want to get something out of you. Anything else in the friendship is at best a distraction from the ultimate goal, and they may even be frustrated with your pleasantries.

So be picky with who you spend your time with. Don't waste your life entertaining people who only want to use you. That time is much better spent forging real bonds with people who love you for who you are.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How can I stop my friend from using me?

Answer: You can't make anyone do anything. As implied in the article, if someone is using you, that's just their pattern of behavior--they use other people, too, probably.

The best you can do is accept them for who they are, and then distance yourself from them. There are plenty of other people in the world to be friends with.

Question: How do I deal with someone who only wants to hang out when it's convenient?

Answer: If you like hanging out with them, then only hang out when it's convenient for both of you. There is nothing wrong with that. If it's never convenient, or you feel like you're the only one going out of your way, then stop if it bothers you.

Question: I'm not the one being used, but I think my best friend is being used by her other friends. I told this to someone else, but they just assumed I was jealous. How can I tell her without seeming jealous?

Answer: Well, when you talk to her about it, try to be as non-judgmental and objective as possible. For example, instead of saying, "Sally, I think George is using you," you might say, "I'm worried about you, Sally. It seems like George only calls you when he needs a ride to work or wants to borrow money. When was the last time you two just hung out?"

Just state the facts as you see them, and let the other person draw their conclusion. Don't force the conclusion "He's using you!" on her, and she'll be more likely to listen.

Question: How do I walk away from a person that only cares about what I can do for them?

Answer: No, but seriously, you might want to sit down somewhere quiet and think deeply about why you feel that you "need" them in your life. What is it that keeps drawing you back? Sometimes we develop weird patterns with people. For example, sometimes we might be co-dependent and not realize it, and a part of us enjoys being with a selfish person because we feel needed.

In your situation, I don't know, of course. There's not a whole not of context there for me to go off of.

© 2017 Jorge Vamos