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The quality of our relationships effect our health. Our relationships are governed by a give and take of energy. Some coworkers and colleagues make us more electric or at ease. Yet others suck the life right out of us. The super toxic ones can make you believe you’re flawed and unlovable. You may tiptoe around them for fear of an explosion. Some attack with put-downs, blame, or shame. They might say, “Dear, you’re looking really tired and old today,” or “You’re too sensitive.” Suddenly they make you feel as if something is wrong with you.
As a physician and energy specialist, I want to verify that energy vampires roam the world sapping our exuberance. With patients and in my workshops I’ve seen their fang marks and the carnage they’ve strewn. But most of us don’t know how to identify and cope with draining people, so we mope around as unwitting casualties, enduring a preventable fatigue.
Vampire #1: The Sob Sister
Every time you talk to her she’s whining. She adores a captive audience. She’s the coworker with the “poor me” attitude who’s more interested in complaining than solutions.
How to Protect Yourself: Set clear boundaries. Limit the time you spend talking about her complaints. Say “no” with a smile. For instance, with a co-worker, smile and say, “I’ll hold positive thoughts for the best possible outcome. Thank you for understanding that I’m on deadline and must get back to my project.” With friends and family, briefly empathize with their problem, and say “no” with a smile by changing the subject and not encouraging their complaints.” With a firm but kind attitude say, “I’m sorry I can only talk for a few minutes today.”
Vampire #2: The Drama Queen
This vampire has a flair for exaggerating small incidents into off-the-chart dramas. My patient Sarah was exhausted when she hired a new employee who was always late for work. One weeks he had the flu and “almost died.” Next, his car was towed, again!. After this employee left her office Sarah felt tired and used.
How to Protect Yourself: A drama queen doesn’t get mileage out of equanimity. Stay calm. Take a few deep breaths. This will help you not get caught up in the histrionics. At work, set kind but firm limits. Say, “You must be here on time to keep your job. I’m sorry for all your mishaps, but work comes first.”
Vampire #3:The Constant Talker or Joke Teller
He has no interest in your feelings; he’s only concerned with himself. Initially, he might seem entertaining, but when the talking doesn’t stop, you begin to get tired. You wait for an opening to get a word in edgewise but it never comes. Or he might physically move in so close he’s practically breathing on you. You edge backwards, but without missing a beat, he steps closer again. “One patient said about such a coworker, ‘Whenever I spot this man my colon goes into spasm.”
How to Protect Yourself: Know that these people don’t respond to nonverbal cues. You must speak up and interrupt. Listen for a few minutes- With a family member or coworker, express in a neutral, non-blaming tone, “I’d like to add to the discussion too. It would be great if you can allow me to contribute.” If you convey this without irritation, you can be better heard —a much more constructive tack than “Keep quiet, you’re driving me crazy!”
Vampire #4. The Fixer Upper
This vampire is desperate for you to fix her endless problems—at all hours. She turns you into her therapist. At lunch, she’ll make a b-line to your desk, monopolizing your free time. Her neediness lures you in.
How to Protect Your Energy: Do not become the “rescuer.” Show empathy but resist offering solutions. Be supportive but tell her, “I’m confident you’ll find the right solution” or sensitively suggest that she seek a qualified professional for help.
Vampire #4: The Blamer
This vampire has a sneaky way of making you feel guilty or lacking for not getting things just right. Whenever my patient Marie, a book editor, sees her boss she’s on guard; her boss had a way of cutting her down that saps her energy. She always has a negative comment to make.
How to Protect Yourself: Try this visualization. Around this person imagine yourself surrounded by a cocoon of white light. Think of it as a protective covering that keeps you from being harmed. Tell yourself that you are safe and secure here. The cocoon filters out the negativity so it can’t deplete you.
Vampire #5: Go For The Jugular Fiend
This type is vindictive and cuts you down with no consideration for your feelings. He says things like, “Forget that job. It’s out of your league.” These jabs can be so hurtful it’s hard to get them out of your head.
How To Protect Yourself: Eliminate them from your life whenever possible. For a boss who isn’t going anywhere try a visualization that put you at a distance from them, and refuse to ingest the poison. If you don’t want to switch jobs, realize he’s a wounded person; try not to take his meanness personally.
Use the above strategies to cope with these types of energy vampires in your life. Then, you’ll have the power—not them. Take an inventory of people who give you energy and who drain you. You can create separate lists for work, home and family, friends, and peripheral relationships. You might decide to completely stop having contact with some vampires. For those who must stay in your life, such as a boss, coworker, or certain family members, decide on what strategies to use and consistently implement them. Learning to set limits with drainers will protect your sensitivities and enhance your well-being.