People who lack appreciation for others' kindness -- or worse, purposefully take advantage of it -- can give even the kindest among us reason to pause. If someone is continually taking and never giving, at some point you have to turn off the faucet of generosity and ask yourself whether your boundaries have been violated. Be kind, but also be assertive regarding your own rights, and most people will show you the respect you deserve.
Selfish and Ungrateful
Most people who take advantage of other people's kindness are simply selfish and ungrateful. These people think little about the effort expended by kind people toward them, and will exhaust the limits of your generosity without much of a thank you. Think of that friend who constantly borrows money and doesn't pay you back, the relative who has been sleeping on your couch for a month while he is "between jobs," or the co-worker who keeps asking you to cover his shifts. Continuing to offer kindness to ungrateful people only makes them appreciate what you are offering less. Eventually, you will find that your ability to give is completely tapped out.
Once in a while, you might find yourself in the company of someone who is not taking advantage of your kindness because he is lazy or selfish, but rather because it is a strategic plan to undermine you. Sociopaths have the long-term objectives of exploiting, manipulating and abusing others to serve their own needs. Often those who are high in empathy, kindness and generosity become the targets of sociopaths, say Professor Jane McGregor, Ph.D., and mental health practitioner Tim McGregor, in the Addiction Recovery Foundation article "Empathic People Are Natural Targets for Sociopaths -- Protect Yourself." These individuals are good at putting on a show of superficial charm that can hide their true nature, and will go to great lengths (including telling fantastic lies) to disguise their true intentions. If someone seems to be testing your willingness to go the extra mile with your kindness, or if your gut just tells you that something is wrong, you may be dealing with a sociopath.
Assertiveness and Self-Respect
While those who offer kindness have the potential to be unappreciated or manipulated, being a kind person does not mean that you have to be weak or a target. It is possible to offer kindness, while at the same time having respect for yourself and your personal boundaries. Communications Professor Preston Ni refers to this concept as being "soft on the person, but firm on the issue," in the Psychology Today article "Are You Too Nice? 7 Ways to Gain Appreciation & Respect." It is possible to be friendly and courteous toward others, while asking them to respect your boundaries. The next time that co-worker asks you to take his shift, say, "I understand that you are in a tight spot, but I've got my own needs to attend to as well. I'm sorry but I can't help you out this time." In addition, if you suspect you are dealing with a sociopath, your best option will be to keep your distance.
The Value of Kindness
At times it may seem that offering kindness comes with more pitfalls than pluses. However, it is always better to operate from a standpoint of being kind and compassionate toward others (while maintaining your boundaries and taking your time getting to know strangers). Those who are kind value themselves and others. They are less likely to be judgmental of others and also of themselves, says relationship expert Margaret Paul, Ph.D., in the Huffpost Healthy Living article "6 Reasons to Make Kindness Your Highest Priority." Be kind, but not weak. Offer kindness, but ask for respect. Over time, others will value your generosity more. As for those who never show any appreciation, it might be time to sever ties.
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Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.
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