How do you deal with takers? Takers are those who are always taking from you but rarely, if ever, giving to you. Here is some good advice Mark Goulston has for us:

TAKERS – You know these people. They’re the ones who hit you up every day for a favor (“ Could you cover the phones for me?” “Take my kids to soccer practice?” “Pick up the lunch tab?”). Strangely, however, they never seem to have time or energy to help you in return. These people usually won’t ruin your life, but they can ruin your day. They can make you look unproductive (because you’re doing their work instead of your own), cause you to feel resentful, and take time away from the things you want to be doing.

Avoid takers when you can, but if that’s not possible, neutralize them. How? It’s the easiest trick in the book. The next time a taker asks you for a favor, follow this scenario.

TAKER: Hey, could you do the graphs for my PowerPoint presentation? I know I should do them, but I’m swamped.

YOU: Sure. No problem! And you can help me out by taking over the intern orientation on Thursday.

TAKER: Uhhhh. . . .

YOU: I assume you don’t mind doing a favor for me in return, right?

TAKER: Uhhh. . . .

Do this once or twice— and do insist each time on a quid pro quo— and the taker will move on to an easier touch. Also, identify takers ahead of time and always have a request ready to ask of them. It’s a great approach because you don’t say “no” or get mad or give the person any reason to take offense. Thus, you don’t create an enemy; you simply send the person off in search of another patsy.


Read more in Mark Goulston’s  Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone. AMACOM (2009).