Dealing With People Who Drain You

They’re all around us: People who suck all the positive energy out of us to fuel their relentless hunger for negativity, leaving us feeling drained, exhausted, and unhappy. And whatever you call them—energy vampires, energy suckers, or just unhappy, negative people—they can wreak havoc on our lives if we dont have effective strategies to deal with them.

“Energy vampires” are often personality disordered people who tend to be:

  • intrusive, showing poor boundaries
  • overly dramatic, making mountains out of mole hills
  • overly critical, finding fault with just about everyone and everything in their lives
  • chronic complainers, rarely finding anything to their liking or meeting their satisfaction
  • argumentative, having trouble agreeing with others, even on things that seem insignificant or inconsequential
  • relentlessly demanding and persistent, being unable to take no for an answer
  • constantly negative, always seeing the glass half empty
  • unable to accept responsibility, blaming everyone but themselves for their actions and problems

There is no reason for you to allow their problems to become yours. Here are three simple steps to help you deal with people who drain you.

  1. Know one when you see one. The negative nature of energy vampires is not always readily apparent when you first meet them. At first, their quirkiness may intrigue you, their gossip and stories may leave you wanting to hear more, their dramatic flair may entertain you, or their hard luck stories may suck you in. Soon, however, you begin to realize something is wrong. Dont ignore those feelings. Tune in to them. Pay close attention to your instincts and your physical reactions after your encounters.
  2. Limit your contact. Once you’ve identified them, limit the amount of time you spend with them. If you cant avoid them completely, such as in the case of family members or coworkers, set firm limits. For example, for those who are intrusive or overly dramatic and end up consuming a lot of your time with their tales of woe or displays of theatrics, you should start off conversations with something like, “I only have a few minutes before I have to [fill in the blank].” Once the time is up, politely disengage.
  3. Don’t get pulled in. No matter how much you might like to think or hope you will be able to fix their problems, you won’t. Chronically negative people will either resist your interventions or create new crises in their lives for you to “fix.”  Your best strategy is to protect yourself by setting clear and firm limits. For example, for those who are very needy or insecure and constantly want your guidance, resist offering solutions, Instead, say something like, “Im confident that youll be able to find the right solution on your own,” and excuse yourself. You dont have to be rude. You can be firm in a kind and empathic way.

In the times we live in today, energy, especially the positive kind, is a precious commodity. It’s not something you should willingly give up to the negative power of those who want to steal your energy. Instead, keep a positive attitude and surround yourself with positive people who leave you feeling upbeat and energized.


From Dealing With People Who Drain You, Psychology Today.