We all have a limited amount of energy and it is therefore vital that we manage it carefully. Today, I am therefore proposing that you should stop and think about who and what drains you of energy. These ‘energy thieves’ can take very different forms – from people who are always complaining to inefficient meetings or your own excessive aspirations.
You probably already know that some people you encounter in life always leave you feeling drained, exhausted or frustrated each time you meet. Judith Orloff, an American best-selling author and lecturer in Psychiatry, calls these people ‘energy vampires’. They can take on quite different forms. The most common types are:
- The complainers: They always find fault with something or someone. They never believe that they are even partly to blame and are always disparaging about others.
- The moaners: Their glass is always half empty and the world always looks grey to them. They like to offload their emotional baggage onto others.
- The know-it-alls: They believe they are the source of all knowledge and let the whole world know this.
- The control freaks: They can’t place their trust in others and believe they have to have everything under control at all times.
- The narcissists: They think the world revolves around them and need LOTS of attention and recognition – they only bestow it on others if this enables them to achieve their own goal.
- The manipulators: They play emotional games with you using language like “you never have time for me” and try to make you feel guilty.
- The passives: They refuse to engage in any dialogue and say things like: “That’s just how I am!” or “I can’t do anything about it”.
This list is not exhaustive. You will undoubtedly know other types of energy vampires from your own experience. They don’t just appear at work – your friends or even your own partner may also fit this description. Judith Orloff says that on average, every human being has between two and five toxic people like this around them in different forms.
One thing is clear: energy vampires are harmful for you; they suck all your energy out of you – so it is best to avoid them. However, this is not always possible. It is first and foremost a question of setting boundaries. If this is just a temporary problem (e.g. your best friend is experiencing a crisis and won’t stop complaining), then it is easier to deal with them. At some point, however, you also need to say ‘stop’ in such cases and show your friend that complaining doesn’t help – and that she needs to take action again.
If you are faced with permanent energy thieves, the best antidote to toxic attacks is to set clear boundaries – by telling the person directly in a polite but clear manner that their behavior is unacceptable. It is best to avoid a big emotional outburst. Ideally, you should first count silently to ten and breathe deeply. And then tell them that their words hurt you – or if they are aggressive, ask: “What do you mean by that?”
Many energy vampires deliberately try to provoke you. You can undermine them if you don’t let them provoke you at all. For example, you can use a range of non-aggressive behavior:
- Selective consent: “I agree with you in this area…”
- Leave it open: “I heard what you said…” or “So what?”
- Paraphrasing: “You said that…”
- Reinterpretation: “I understand your remark to mean that…”
- Surprise: “Keep talking like this. It will do you good!”
- Suggest a timeout
Remember: “It’s impossible to annoy people if they don’t let themselves become irritated.”
My own energy thieve
Traditional energy robbers in a business context are inefficient meetings of unlimited duration, unclear assignments or interpersonal conflicts. However, you can very often do something about them yourself: Propose a clear meeting structure, ask questions about vague points, put yourself in the position of others, give feedback instead of expressing criticism, and sometimes simply accept a situation for what it is – don’t get annoyed if you can’t change anything. As Reinhold Niebuhr’s quote on my homepage says: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I have to be aware that it is not only other people who can suck the energy out of me but also me myself – by, for example, having excessively high aspirations, a tendency to only consider the needs of others and to think too little about myself, to always be busy doing things instead of simply being, to push aside everything that is unpleasant, etc. Take the advice of Bruce Lee to heart: “The mind is a fertile garden – it will grow anything you wish to plant – beautiful flowers or weeds. … Do not allow negative thoughts to enter your mind, for they are the weeds that strangle confidence.” Let’s reduce the influence of our energy thieves and find our energy sources.
In the New Year (after repeating my most-read blog of 2017 before Christmas), I will therefore explore the topic ‘Energy sources’.
© Claudia Kraaz