Oh, the amount of "What the heck was that?!" I could've been spared if I had read an article like this, oh, I'd say about 15 years ago. I'm telling you, the older I get, the more cautious I am about using the word "friend", no matter how popular social media has made it. It can't be said enough that just because you and someone may vibe or have certain things in common, that doesn't automatically make them your friend.
Acquaintance? Sure. Cool associate? Possibly. But the amount of effort, commitment and consistency that goes into cultivating a friendship? It's kind of like the difference between a great first date and your husband—there's a lot of work that's required to get from one point to another.
An opportunist? They are banking that you don't have enough insight or boundaries (more on that in a bit) to know what true friendship looks like and/or requires. They think that so long as they turn on the charm and compliments, you'll let down your guard and welcome them into all areas of your life—resources and connections included. If they have to act like your new BFF in order to make it happen, so be it. So long as they get what they need from you, that's all that really matters.
Scary, huh? And just how can you know if someone who has recently come into your world is an opportunist (wolf) in friend's (sheep's) clothing?
How To Spot An Opportunist
From Day One, They Are Oozing with FlatteryGiphy
There's a Scripture in the Bible that says, "He who speaks flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children will fail." (Job 17:5—NKJV) That's how little even the Word thinks of flattery—and flatterers. I get why too because while on the surface, a flatterer's compliments may sound good, they usually come with an ulterior motive intact. People who flatter others are not doing it purely for affirmation's sake. Matter of fact, many times, they don't even really believe that they're saying. They're just telling you that you're attractive, brilliant or impressive so that they can fuel your ego, disarm your discernment and ultimately take advantage of you.
An example of flattery that comes to mind is a man you just meet who is dripping with comments about how good you look. Then when you don't return his advances, he says something insulting. Flatterers of all forms are a lot like this. If they can manipulate you into getting whatever it is that they want, there are plenty of affirmations coming your way. If you're not goin' for it, the same mouth they used to "praise" you will be the same one they use to tear you down and gossip about you with.
They Wouldn’t Know a Boundary If It Hit Them in the FaceGiphy
Something that gets on my nerves about opportunists is they are pushy as all get out. They'll find out you know someone they would be interested in meeting or that you've got access to an opportunity that they want to be a part of and either they keep dropping hints about it or they won't let up on asking you if you can "hook them up", almost as if, just because you are cool with them, they are entitled and you automatically should.
Pushy people like this are not go-getters; they are aggressive and disrespectful of your boundaries. Hmph. Come to think of it, one way to really tell the difference between a friend and an opportunist is a friend is all about honoring your boundaries while an opportunist barely even acknowledges that you have any. I'll take it up a notch—opportunists so don't care about your limits that when you express them, on any level, they try and make you feel guilty or like you're the bad guy for doing so.
They’re Constantly Asking for Things While Offering Nothing
On the heels of the point I just made, while we shouldn't keep tabs on what people do for us, when it comes to our real friends, we don't have to. That's because the give-and-take cycle is so consistent that it's hard to even keep up. But an opportunist? If you feel like a person in your life is draining you and is always on the receiving end, that's because that's probably exactly what is going on.
There is someone who used to be in my life who, when I sat and thought about how much money I had spent on them over the course of knowing them, it was well into the thousands. Over that same period of time, I got a box of lip gloss that they lost and a ring that cost five dollars. Hey, I was codependent back then, so I'll own some of that. But I also have to admit that while we had some good times, when I think of all of the ways they benefitted from my resources—both personally as well as professionally—I also know, for a fact, that they were a total opportunist.
Both Online and Off, They Are Trying to Infiltrate Your Circle
Back to the flattery thing, I know they (whoever "they" are) say that imitation is the highest form of flattery but all it does is irritate me. I want you to do you while I stand over here and do me. That's why I don't find it complementary that when someone gets in good with me, they suddenly feel like they should buddy up with the people in my life.
There's one chick I know that I had to release for this very reason. The moment she found out I was friends or even close acquaintances with someone that she thought could benefit her, she would try and befriend them, send them DM's with questions (including questions about me) or, if we happened to be out together and we saw someone that I knew, she would try and find a way to get their contact info. It got to the point where some people were even asking me, "Yo, what's up with your girl?"
That's the thing about opportunists. It's not good enough that they drain your resources; they want to tap out all of the ones attached to the people you know as well.
You Feel Like They Are “Forcing” the Friendship
You don't have to take my advice, but don't say I didn't warn you. Watch out for the person who declares after one conversation that the two of you are going to be really good friends. While the initial sentiment might sound sweet 'n all, my best friendships happened organically and definitely without any kind of agenda—spoken or unspoken.
Agenda. That's a great word to describe what an opportunist is typically up to. The fact that getting close to you is a mission rather than something that naturally happens is another sign that you should probably keep your guard up, if not totally keep your distance.
Something Feels “Off” About It All
If there's a silver lining about an opportunist, it's that they are definitely ambitious. But when you're trying to cultivate a true, meaningful and lasting friendship with someone, you don't always want to be around that kind of energy. You don't always want to talk about networking, resources you have available or what you can do to get someone to the next level. An opportunist is just the opposite when it comes to this way of thinking because, chances are, the main reason why they want to get close to you at all is because of what they think you can do for them. Take it a step further, the main reason why they think you should be in their life is to help get them to where they want to go.
Most of my friends, they are highly accomplished in their own right; they really are. But whenever we get together, most of what we talk about has absolutely nothing to do with work. Matter of fact, it's like watching a rerun of Seinfeld or The Office because although we're entertaining to one another, we're not really discussing much of anything consequential. We're just loving being in each other's space.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Keeping what I just said in mind, if a new person in your life seems OK, but you always feel like you are "on the clock" with them or "peace" and "chill" are not two words that you are ever able to associate with them and, if the more you read this article, something definitely feels a little off, don't doubt your spidey sense. It doesn't feel right because it probably isn't right.
Not to say that an opportunist has to be totally kicked to the curb. All I'm saying is 1) do some serious pondering and evaluating before classifying them as a "friend" and 2) be alright with possibly placing them into the "work associate" or "acquaintance" category only. Either way, create some boundaries so that they are not the only ones getting something out of the relationship.
What this all boils down to is I'm not saying that opportunists are the devil; with the right approach and clarity, they can be beneficial at times. I'm just saying that when it comes to your friendships, if there's a word that should never been synonymous with that kind of situation, it's "opportunist".
Please don't learn this the hard way.
Featured image by Getty Images.