Thursday, September 8, 2011

Energy Vampires

Energy Vampires

We’ve all gone through this -- someone nearby sucks the life out of us. When it’s a family member, we have to draw strong boundaries. When it’s someone we work with or outside the immediate circle, it’s still sometimes difficult to disengage.

Here are some tips:

--Why is the person’s action affecting you so deeply that it’s sucking the life out of you? What is under the response that the actual person triggers? Does the person remind you of something negative? Does the action mirror something you thought you left behind and is now rearing its ugly head again?

--How did the person get past your defenses? In order to function, we layer on certain protections. If someone is an energy vampire, they’ve found a way through. Figure out what that is and plug it up.

--Is there any way you can change or lessen your response? If you’re forced to deal with the person regularly, you may need to figure that out. Just because someone throws an emotional cow pattie at you doesn’t mean you have to let it hit you. You can step back and let it fall on the ground instead. For instance, let’s you work with a “drama llama” (someone in one of my classes came up with that name) who finds you a sympathetic ear and regularly dumps on you. You’re sitting there, having a perfectly nice day, and Drama Llama whines at you, the moves on, feeling relieved, while your day is dragged down. We all need a sympathetic ear. We all need someone with whom to brainstorm. But the Drama Llama doesn’t want solutions and won’t do the same for you when you have a bad day. The Drama Llama wants to unload her bad stuff on you and take in your good energy. One thing I’ve learned to do is, after about the third sentence, visibly glaze over and interrupt in a very neutral tone, saying, “How sad for you. Coffee?” and change the subject. If it’s not a life-or-death situation, sometimes finding the humor in it also helps. That’s always delicate ground, because people’s senses of humor vary, and you don’t want to be cruel.

--Is this someone with whom you can be honest? Can you say, “Let’s only complain about work-related matters (or personal matters) during X time and talk about fun stuff at other times”? Can you say, “Since you don’t really want my advice, maybe you need to talk to someone else about this”? Can you say, “I”m sorry, I have to finish this for my boss. Can we talk later?”

--Does the person have power over you? Is there a way to lessen that power? I once had a publisher who would regularly call me (drunk) and expect me to spill my guts on personal things that were none of her business. I explained that I was rarely reachable by phone (true -- I hate the telephone and it’s off most of the time) and didn’t answer when her number appeared on Caller ID. If it was work-related, I responded to her message with an email. Telling her that I didn’t feel comfortable discussing certain topics with her only made it worse. Needless to say, the company went under. You can develop deep friendships with professional colleagues, but you can’t force intimacy.

The most important thing to do is find a way to compassionately disengage. You don’t want to be cruel, but you can’t let someone be an emotional parasite. You especially can’t allow it when you’re a writer, because you need your store of emotion to pour into your work. There are times when, in order to protect the work, you must be ruthless.

--Annabel Aidan is a full-time writer who publishes under half a dozen names in fiction and non-fiction. Her romantic suspense, ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT, is available in digital and print formats from Webpage:


Linda Kage said...

Sounds like good advice to me. I've been in one or two uncomfortable positions, but luckily I haven't met up with any big-time Energy Vampires.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Excellent and good professional advice. It's taken me a long time to get that figured out. You are wise.

Also, a good writer. I'm loving your book, Assumption of Right.

Anonymous said...

There's another strategy. Simply get cancer and all those energy suckers fall by the way side. That C word has a way of retuning your perspective on everything, even energy vampires.


Jude Johnson said...

And when confronted with a nest of Energy Vampires, sometimes it's best to cut all ties. Big Mike is right; when you get serious perspective on mortality it allows you to get rid of the irritating chaff.

Thanks for an interesting and thoughtful blog post, Annabel.