We’re trained from a young age to think that the scary things in life go bump in the night. In reality, the spookier things come in many different forms. Sometimes it’s a nightmare-ish boss or an ex that lurks around every corner; sometimes, they’re hard to find, and sometimes they’re right under our noses. We just haven’t been trained to look for them.
“Energy vampires” are people who either intentionally or unintentionally suck the energy right out of you. Get it, vampires … suck … hah. These people use up all of your energy to feed their needs without giving anything or very little in return. They prey on your willingness to help them in that day’s catastrophic scenario. But once you’ve assisted them, they move on, and you are left feeling completely exhausted and used.
These kinds of people can be sneaky and negatively impact your life. Not only do they require a lot of attention to keep the boat from rocking, but you’re not receiving the fulfillment you need to create balance in the relationship. Of course, in typical human fashion, most of these situations are much more complicated than a head-on confrontation or cutting the person out of your life. So let’s walk through some possible scenarios of where you can encounter these energy-suckers and how to handle them.
Since you have to interact with your boss every day and they sign your paycheck, it leaves you at a huge disadvantage if they fit into the category of energy vampire. So how can you navigate a contentious and necessary relationship like this one?
This will likely be an unpopular opinion – treat your boss like a friend you want to be closer with. And I don’t mean in a way that’s so obvious it makes everyone around you internally gag. I’m talking about taking an interest in your boss’ chatter and actively participating in the conversation when they open up about their personal lives. For instance, I had a boss that strived to be the center of attention, loved to work out, was extremely health-conscious, and name dropping was second nature. In this case, I started asking her advice for workout classes to try and health remedies that she found to be successful. I’d also ask her to go on walks to break up the day and build a personal connection. Feeding her need to be the go-to gal on a personal level always ended up helping me on the professional side.
I have a particular former co-worker in mind when thinking of how to handle this scenario. This co-worker loved being the center of attention, aimed to be the funniest, the prettiest, the most sophisticated … and the list went on. And, as these stories go, she didn’t like me. She never said it, but I knew from the little signs and trusted my gut.
Do you know what I did? I would compliment her when I meant it and ignore her tendencies for the rest of the time. If I loved her outfit that day, I would go out of my way to say something about it and ask her where she got it. Sometimes, this would encourage her to be a little nice to me that day. If she were rude by putting me down or cutting me off, I’d disengage from the conversation and dive back into my work. It helped my productivity and made me look more focused. Win-win-win!
Friend groups can produce complicated dynamics, and, if you have an energy vampire among you, it can be even trickier. Friends are the family you choose, and while it may feel impossible, you do have a choice in the matter.
Say you have a friend that only wants to do what they’re interested in, doesn’t check in with you, and creates a web of drama. That can get old very quickly. But the good news is, you have a few options:
1) Spend less one-on-one time with them. Try hanging out with them in a group. Sometimes the addition of a few other personalities helps mitigate the situation.
2) Spend less time with them, period. You’re not required to spend time with any friend you don’t want to, so exercise your right! Start spending time on projects or with people that give you the fulfillment you need.
3) Cut them out. I’d highly recommend having a conversation before doing so since everyone deserves a chance to be heard. However, if they can’t compromise or even hear you out, you’ve said your piece and attempted to work it out. Now, it’s time to move on.
Energy vampires not only suck up your energy, but they suck up your time. And your time is precious. If they can’t appreciate what you bring to the relationship, then it’s time for a change, whether they’re on board with it or it’s time to leave them behind. Change can be difficult but think of this stage as pulling out the weeds. You’re prepping the soil, so the seeds you plant have a way better chance of thriving and succeeding!
Your thoughts matter. Your feelings matter. Your goals matter. Give this respect to others, and it’s more than okay to expect this in return.