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On favour-sharking (emotional loan-sharking)

McKinley Valentine — 1 min read
On favour-sharking (emotional loan-sharking)
Photo by Gerald Schömbs / Unsplash

Favour-sharking is when someone does a favour for you totally unasked for and possibly unwanted, in order to make you feel obligated to them. It's a method of manipulation. This is a classic of both sleazy dudes and overbearing relatives.

The two main ways of combating it are:

  1. Cheerfully accepting the favour while discarding the weight of obligation - i.e. treat it like a regular, no-strings favour and enjoy your free meal / clean dishes / whatever. Only works if you can actually avoid feeling burdened.
  2. Cause a scene by enforcing the boundary (ie literally physically preventing the favour from being transferred)

Obviously this is after having a reasonable conversation where you just say you don't want the thing. If you're used to favours coming with strings, it's really easy to project strings onto perfectly decent favour-offering people. Most of the time people are being sweet because they are sweet-natured people who want to be sweet to you.

It's pretty easy to accidentally favour-shark someone if you're not paying attention - thinking your favour was stringless but finding yourself resentful of the recipient afterwards. You can sort this out with some standard self-awareness and processing, it's not terminal.

A thing you will also see is people favour-sharking the universe - going through some unnecessary self-sacrifice or hardship and getting bitter when their life doesn't go well in accordance with how much they sacrificed. I suppose it's the same as believing in the myth of meritocracy, but with a bit more martyrdom thrown in. Like equating suffering to doing good, just because doing good sometimes does require suffering, or at least work.

This piece was originally published in The Whippet #45 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!

Unsolicited AdviceEQ & Interpersonal


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