Energy vampires can do more than suck your enthusiasm out of you. Repeated exposure to them can leave you feeling like a shell of your former self. But knowing how to prevent energy vampires from sabotaging your mental well-being is not always easy. And it can be especially intimidating if you’re not accustomed to their negative tactics. Below are five steps to help you deal with energy vampires.
1) Learn how to spot them
“Energy vampires can be anywhere and anyone. They can be your spouse or your best friend. They can be your cubicle mate or your neighbor… Learning how to identify and respond to this toxic behavior can help you preserve your energy and protect yourself from a great deal of emotional — and physical — distress.” – Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP
For some people, this first step can be tricky because energy vampires often come out during the daytime. This allows them to easily blend in with pedestrians on the street, colleagues at work, or at an extended family brunch. They permeate all age groups, both genders, and every race. So, if you find yourself scratching your head wondering how to spot an energy vampire, you’re not alone.
The key to spotting an energy vampire is to know the key types and how they operate. Judith Orloff, M.D., identifies five main types of energy vampires who can bring you down. They are as follows:
- The Narcissist: This type of energy sucker is uninterested in others and devoid of empathy because they are so self-absorbed.
- The Victim: These energy vampires continually whine and complain, yet seem unwilling to look for solutions to their issues.
- The Passive Aggressive: This type may present with a smile and then suddenly bring you down when you least expect it.
- The Rageaholic: The hallmark of a Rageaholic is the habit of spewing anger, replacing positive energy with toxic energy in the process.
- The Drama Queen or King: This type of energy vampire will wear you out with long, exhausting stories about their life.
2) Anticipate their tactics and overcome them
Once you know how to spot the energy vampires around you, it’s time to map out your plan to shut them down. In order to do this, you need to be able to anticipate the tactics they employ and when they tend to strike.
The best way to complete this step is to look for patterns in their behavior. You can use a who-what-when-where-why approach to identify the situations and places where they tend to strike. Here are some points to consider:
- Who: Choose a seat in the conference room that is far away from the energy vampire’s favorite place to sit.
- What: Avoid asking open-ended questions about subjects the vampire tends to dwell on. Change the subject if one arises.
- When: Sometimes timing can set people off. For example, narcissists often act out during meetings or social gatherings.
- Where: Locations can trigger behavior. For instance, you may notice that Rageaholics tend to strike in your conference room.
- Why: Events, such as a breakup, traffic jam, or even bad weather can cause a drama queen to go into energy sucking overdrive.
3) Establish boundaries
Because many energy vampires are so self-absorbed, they are often poor at reading social cues. Or, they may simply choose to ignore them. So it’s up to you to establish clear and firm boundaries as soon as you notice an energy vampire negatively impacting your productivity. Here are some tips to help you:
- Be direct: Tell the energy vampire you need to stay on task and tell them you’re unable to do that
- Learn to say “No”: Declining invitations to socialize, eat lunch, or go shopping should ultimately convey a clear message.
- Be brief: Limit your conversations with energy vampires to make sure you don’t go down an unproductive path.
- Seek support: If the behavior continues at work, schedule a confidential manager with your HR Manager and ask for their help.
4) Surround yourself with positive forces
One of the single best ways to stop energy vampires in their tracks is to build a positive wall around you to shield yourself from their attacks. When building your strategy, remember that most energy suckers prefer to target people who are able to devote their undivided attention to their depressing stories or counterproductive behavior.
To build a positive force field, you can either surround yourself with upbeat people or immerse yourself in productive tasks. The strategy you choose will hinge on the circumstances. For instance, if you’re at a dinner party and see a Drama Queen headed moving your direction, you can migrate over to your favorite couple or group of people and start up a conversation. If you’re at your desk at work and see the office narcissist coming your way, you can quickly pick up the phone as if you’re taking a call. Or, you can simply tell your colleague that you are swamped with a big project.
5) Take extra precautions when you’re vulnerable
“If you are currently struggling with a disruption in your life, or if you have a particularly harsh inner critic that never stops nagging you and continuously puts you down, you will be more vulnerable to a vampire attack.” – Sophie Henshaw, DPsych, Clinical Psychologist
If you are going through a crisis or are facing higher levels of stress than usual in your life, you are more likely to be targeted by energy vampires. Remember they often like to strike when people least expect it. If you are already dealing with multiple stressors in your life, you are more likely to let down your guard and leave yourself open to an attack.
The key to preventing this from happening is to take a few special precautions to protect yourself. At work, you can shut your door if you have an individual office. Or, if you work in a more open environment, talk to your boss about the possibility of temporarily working remotely or in a different location so you can stay focused. If the vampire threat is extra-curricular, take a temporary break from the activity that leaves you exposed to their tactics.
The Bottom Line
Knowing how to deal with energy vampires doesn’t come naturally for most people. But by following the five steps above, you can master the art of sniffing them out and counteracting their behavior. Most important, you’ll keep your positive energy high and your mental health in good order.