How many times have you been in a conversation with someone, after which you feel completely exhausted? It’s as if every ounce of energy has been sucked out of you. You’re left wondering why that happens or you may blame yourself for feeling that way.
You know you’ve been in the company of an energy vampire when you feel irritated, frustrated, depressed, anxious or overwhelmed after a conversation with them. They’re emotionally insensitive, immature, self-centered, inconsiderate of others, and are incapable of seeing things from someone else’s perspective.
Energy vampires are everywhere – at work, among friends and relatives and in your community.
Whether it’s a coworker who stopped by and vented about everything that’s wrong with the office or that friend who spent an hour on the phone complaining about how miserable her life is, you’ll soon recognize a pattern – often, it’s the person sucking up your time when it’s inconvenient for you, or manipulating you to get something done for them.
The key is to set boundaries with these energy zappers at work and home to better manage your time and emotional state.
Here are five ways to cut out the toxicity from your life:
Set Clear Expectations
Clearly communicate about when you are and aren’t available and what you can and can’t do. For instance, if your co-worker stops by your desk to “have a chat,” let him or her know you’re in the middle of something or have a hard deadline and can’t chat now and that you’ll find them later to connect. Or your toxic friend may want you to do something for them in an unreasonable timeframe. You might tell them that you’re happy to help but given everything on your plate right now, timing is a problem. Provide them resources they can use themselves. This way, you’ve been helpful but haven’t taken on your toxic friend’s problems.
Focus On The Solution, Not The Problem
A great way to set limits is to ask “perennial complainers” how they intend to fix the problem. This will force them to stop and focus their attention on taking action or changing the topic. In the latter case, you can redirect the conversation in a productive or positive direction. What this also does is gives you the power to be more effective to help them and, in turn, reduces the stress associated with a toxic conversation.
Manage Your Emotions
When you feel trapped with Ms. or Mr. Toxic and find yourself getting agitated or upset, step away. It’s easy to get sucked into the emotional swirl but recognize when your emotions start to take over. Remember to focus on the facts. Learn simple ways to manage your emotions such as taking deep breaths or thinking about things that make you smile (kids, pets, a gif). Practice mental imagery – think about a relaxing place -- in the mountains, on the beach or in your backyard. This keeps you from becoming negative and stressed.
Limit Your Interactions
If it’s hard for you to emotionally disengage, distance yourself physically or limit the amount of time you spend with toxic people. Keep your interactions brief. If it’s a teammate with whom you work, then limit the communication to just work-related issues. If the energy vampire is a friend, then hang out less with them or hang out in groups of three or more.
Cut Off The Toxic Cord
If nothing else works, don’t hesitate to cut the toxic person out of your life. While cutting the cord may seem drastic, especially if it’s a friend, remember it’s up to you to decide how you want your life to be. Ask yourself, “Is this person adding any value to my life?” and “Do they have my best interest at heart?” If the answer to both isn’t a “hell yes,” then disconnect.
After all, you are the average of five people with whom you spend time. What kind of person do you want to be?
Remember, while it may seem impossible to avoid toxic people, as adults we have a choice to spend time with those we want and to avoid those who negatively impact our lives. Setting boundaries helps reduce stress, be more productive and spend time on what’s important to you.
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