Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s NY Times bestseller “Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life” and "Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear into Vibrance, Strength, and Love”
It may sometimes be awkward to set healthy boundaries with negative or draining people, but it is an important skill to learn. If someone has unrealistic expectations of you or unable to respect your feelings remember “No” is a complete sentence. A key to setting boundaries is to come from a centered, unemotional, place—not to be reactive. For example if someone has been saying disparaging comments about you, from a heartfelt center say, “Please don’t talk about me to others. It’s inappropriate and disrespectful.” Then refuse to argue about it, even if your buttons are pushed.
Dealing with an Emotional Drainer
If you meet someone and your energy starts bottoming out, don’t think twice about politely removing yourself from this killing interchange. One of my favorite foolproof lines is, “Excuse me; I really have to go to the bathroom.” Even the most intrepid vampire doesn’t have a counter-argument for that. It’s important that you move at least twenty feet from beyond the person’s energy field. Whenever your well-being feels at risk around certain people, make a tactful and swift exit. In a spot, physically extruding yourself is a sure, quick solution.
Dealing with a Constant Talker
The secret to dealing with a constant talker is knowing they don’t respond to nonverbal cues. You have no choice but to make your needs audible. Tone is especially critical with these vampires. They’re hypersensitive to rejection, which provokes them to ramp up their verbiage. So, with a constant talker try to be caring--these are wounded people!--but stay definite and neutral. Then, from a heart-center, set the parameters of your dialogue. Then you won’t be left limp, resentful, or forced into rudeness. You can politely say, “I’m a very quiet person, so excuse me for not talking a long time,” or “I feel left out when you dominate the conversation. I’d really appreciate a few minutes to talk too.”
Dealing with a Criticizer
If an intimate or co-worker keeps telling you how to deal with something, politely say, “I value your advice, but I really want to work through this myself.” You may need to remind the controller of your position several times, always in a kind, neutral tone. Repetition is key. Respectfully reiterating your stance over days or weeks will slowly recondition negative communication patterns and redefine the terms of the relationship. If you reach an impasse, agree to disagree. Then make the subject off limits.
Dealing with a Complainer
The moment you sense a complainer revving up, take a slow, deep breath to center yourself. Breathing is a wonderful way to quickly reconnect with your life force so their in-your-face intensity won’t sear into your energy field and cause burn-out. Keep concentrating on your breath. Tell yourself you know what’s happening, and you can handle it. As I remind my patients: you have power here. I know how easily we can lose it. But, when beset by this overheated drainer, you need to own that moment. Do so by letting your breath release tension and ground you. This will keep you from getting caught up in their story. Then lovingly tell them, “Our relationship is important to me, but it’s not helpful to keep feeling sorry for yourself. I can only listen for five minutes unless you’re ready to discuss solutions,” or “I’m really sorry that’s happening to you.” Then, after listening briefly, smile and say, “I’ll keep good thoughts for things to work out. I hope you understand, I’m on deadline and I must return to work.”
If you feel like you are being overwhelmed by a difficult person here are some strategies to help you gain control and become centered again.