Three clues to spot free riders

Free rider in simple terms is someone who benefits (takes) all the time without ever thinking of paying for what he or she is getting. In other words, free rider is someone who takes the giver for granted.

Free riders are part of your life. You can’t avoid them but if you don’t spot them early, some of them can turn you into a doormat and walk all over you. If you get taken advantage of once, you may be unlucky but you should not forgive yourself if the same person tries to take advantage of you multiple times.

How do you spot free riders in your life?

There are a number of ways – some are more subtle than the others. Here are three clues to start with:

1. Listening for Intent:


Listening has many benefits in general. You won’t have a hard time spotting a potential freerider because their conversations will usually be skewed. Unless you interrupt them and insert a different topic, their topic and focus of interest will be “them” as compared to the “rest of the world.” They might not even ask or care about your interests. It is not that they are not interested, it is that they are indifferent to them.

In their mind, the time they talk about you and your interests is time lost for talking about them and their interests.

2. Make a tiny request and watch for their willingness to help:

Every now and then reach out and make a super tiny request that should take minimum effort on their part to fulfill that request. If it is potential free rider, the response will be very easy to identify. Why? Because at best you will get back a brilliant excuse and at worst, you will get no response.

3. Their story so far

A major clue is their story so far. Whether they are telling you in-person or they have written it somewhere, these stories will have one or more of the characteristics:
* they got to where they are MAINLY with their own effort
* they got little help from others
* luck played no part in their success
and so on.

Wait… Look in the mirror first!

Wait, before you go off and start labeling people in your network with all sorts of things, look in the mirror. Test yourself on the above and make sure that you are not in the same club that you are trying to avoid.