Three Ways to Stop Being a Doormat

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What do you call someone who keeps on giving but doesn’t receive? A doormat.

Lead with generosity but reject abuse.

One-way relationships indicate disrespect.

First-time managers, who are kind and sincere, are most susceptible to the doormat problem.


Giving to get is manipulation. But, constant giving with no return is abuse, assuming recipients are capable of return.

Give to those who respond in kind.

  1. Respect the value of your contribution.
  2. Clarify that you want a two-way – not a one-way – relationship. One way relationships are sick, when healthy people could respond in kind.
  3. Teach others to respect you. (Three strategies below)


Doormats keep saying yes. Earn respect by saying no to those who abuse generosity.

Create a strategic no and then say it. “I would love to help, but, I can’t, this time.”

New behaviors feel awkward and fake. Work through awkwardness or keep getting walked on.

Tip: nice people say no nicely.

Don’t use frustration as courage. You allowed things to get out of hand. It’s not their responsibility. It’s yours.


You’re a doormat if you adapt to others, but they never adapt to you.

Someone asked you to adapt your schedule and you did. But, when you needed them to adapt to you, they refused, even though they could. Don’t keep adapting. If you do, you’re a doormat.


Help isn’t helpful when it creates dependency. Encourage people to help. It’s as simple as, “Could you give me a hand?”

When people offer to help, let them! Healthy people help each others. Doormats don’t let others help.

Receive help gratefully, even if you could do it alone.

Capacity matters. Some are incapable of giving help in return. We don’t expect children to respond in kind, for example.

Added resource: 16 Ways to Help Less

Why do people become doormats?

How can leaders rise above the doormat problem?