Encountering The Unscrupulous
No matter the path we take, we cannot help but run in to people without strong character; people who take advantage of us; people who are more focused on what they can get from us than our mutual well-being. These interactions slowly drain our resources like the wax that bleeds off the side of a burning candle. We become a little less hopeful about the human condition and the good intentions of others. I call this the prison conundrum. Everywhere, you look there are either bars or concrete walls that keep you from soaking up the light and the opportunities that come with a welcoming, supportive relationship.
It is accurate to say that there are unscrupulous people out there, and it is a given that we will have to deal with them. However, this does not change our mission to pursue well-being and meaning. Trying to avoid these meetings is the only thing worse than the meetings themselves because it evokes paranoia. Paranoia brings the kind of suffering that promises to not hurt as much as direct harm, but the compilation of its indirect threats causes much more damage over time.
Dealing With The Unscrupulous
The harm that comes with paranoia is clear, so it makes the most sense to not try to avoid these occasions. Simply notice them, when they arrive. Acknowledge the suffering that manifests in your thoughts, feelings, or body. Then deal with it in a way that prioritizes your well-being.
If it is a business relationship you can get out of, get out of it. If it is a work relationship that you have to maintain, see where you might be able to create some distance, and limit how much of yourself you share with this person. It will not be withholding, but rather securing, loving, and protecting. If this person is involved in a short-term business transaction with you, see how you can take care of yourself in the short term, and if you need to involve an expert other, like a lawyer, do so.
When I run across these folks in my own business, I have friends and colleagues that remind me that it is a part of business: trying to get as much as you can while giving up as little as you can. Financially, I understand how this makes sense in the short run. In the long run, it is clear that you will probably be leery of hooking your wagon to someone you do not trust. In this case, if you become really successful, the short term predatory experience you have had with this other person will be their loss. Like most complex fields, you want to take responsibility for that which you can control to feel empowered and able, and you want to let go of that which you do not control, so that you do not suffer needlessly.
Self-Compassion For Yourself and The Unscrupulous
I urge you to avoid unscrupulous people in your interpersonal relationships because their behavior will slowly grey the boundaries of your own until you become unrecognizable to yourself. This new self will eventually disappoint you once you see how others respond to you.
In your business/work/school dealings, I would urge you to limit the depth of these relationships, and to manage these people the way you would a very hard to soothe child. You are patient, and pay attention to what they need to be soothed, but you do not encourage greater expectations because you realize their needs are already great enough. Then, when you can transition to more affirming, supportive relationships, do so out of kindness to yourself and them. That is true compassion for yourself and others.
Stay in an unhealthy relationship long enough, and you will begin to resent the other party. If they were able to work out their challenges with you, this progress would have been clear rather early on. Instead, give them an opportunity to grow with someone else, who is a better match for them interpersonally. People, who struggle with character challenges have a long road ahead of them to develop a sense of the world and behaviors that befit healthy relationships, so they need many opportunities to make mistakes from which they can learn.
Many people stay in relationship with unscrupulous people because these people have access to resources, and people fear poverty. They fear poverty in its literal sense (e.g, not having enough money), but also poverty of opportunities (e.g., vacations, gifts), and poverty of attention (e.g., notoriety or friendships with other powerful people). This fear blinds them from effective planning for long-term happiness: a life of meaningfulness, and values that bring them closer to people and opportunities that set them at ease, and fill them with love. Notice your fears, when they manifest. Name them. Make room for them. Watch them pass, and bring kindness to your experience. Then, ask yourself what you need to truly be happy.
If you leave it up to others to determine what you need, they will almost always point you in the direction of something that brings them well-being, which means that it will likely never completely fulfill you. It is a burden too heavy for others to carry to expect them to plan your path to happiness, so it is best to avoid this predicament. Instead, acknowledge the temptation of others to guide you in a way that helps them, and dedicate your focus and intention to discovering what you truly need without judgment of yourself or of others. Only then, will you truly be free of the unscrupulous, and of your own fears.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 115. In The Books.