Successfull agreement. Young african american businessman in black suit is indoors.

Dr. Robert Glover, a renowned psychotherapist and author of “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” once said, “Covert contracts lead to a cycle of giving to get, which ultimately leads to resentment when the expected return is not met.” This highlights the pitfalls of covert contracts, unspoken agreements that we often make with others, expecting something in return without expressing our expectations clearly.

When I was younger, I often found myself helping others without asking for anything in return. I thought it was the right thing to do. However, I was unknowingly creating covert contracts, keeping a mental score and expecting others to reciprocate my actions. When they didn’t, I felt resentment. This was not only unfair to those people, but it was also unfair to myself as I was not addressing my own needs.

To avoid falling into the trap of covert contracts, here are some actionable items:

  • Self-Awareness: Understand your own needs and expectations first. Spend time reflecting on what you truly want and need.
  • Honest and Upfront: If something is a problem or requires a lot of your effort, express it. Don’t say “don’t worry about it” or “it’s no problem.”
  • Be Specific: Clearly define what you need or expect. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for others to understand.
  • Practice Assertiveness: Stand up for your rights and express your needs assertively, not aggressively.
  • Ensure Compensation: If you’re putting a lot of time, effort, or even money into what you’re doing, let them know that what you’re doing needs to be compensated for.

Agreement, partnership or deal concept. Human and handshake Icons on cube blocks on gray background. Copy space

As Dr. Robert Glover wisely put it, “Breaking free from covert contracts involves expressing your needs directly and not expecting others to meet your needs without clear communication.” In essence, avoiding covert contracts involves self-awareness, honesty, specificity, assertiveness, and ensuring compensation.

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