The quality of our relationships affects 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 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 backward, 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.”