Whether it’s a friend who’s jealous of your achievements, or a relative who makes you feel guilty for not visiting, we all have people in our lives who put a dampener on our mood.
These types of people who thrive on negativity and seem unable or unwilling to see life in positive terms are known as ‘energy vampires’. People’s energy and moods are infectious. Associating yourself with upbeat, positive people can’t help but lift your spirits. And if you are surrounded by negative, downbeat people, this will inevitably have a knock-on effect on your own mood.
The trouble is that if these types of people are friends, work colleagues or relatives, it’s not always easy to avoid them. So what can you do?
“With these types of people it can be helpful to try to put yourself in their shoes,” says Angelica Horvatic, a Dubai-based wellness coach (www.angelicahorvatic.com). “There is a reason why they are behaving in this way. Perhaps they are having relationship problems or they’re not happy in their job and this is fuelling their negative behaviour. Try not to allow yourself to be affected or upset by their behaviour as they may be suffering and actually need help.”
She adds, “It’s also important to bear in mind that you can’t change their behaviour. Unless they are willing to change, and perhaps see a therapist or coach to address their problems, they will carry on in the same way. Certain strategies will help you to cope with them though.”
Here are five types of energy vampires and how to deal with them. See if there are any you recognise!
The jealous friend
How she behaves: This type of energy vampire loves to be around you when things aren’t going well, but as soon as something good happens in your life, she’s consumed with jealousy. She just can’t feel happy for you or your achievements.
How to deal with her: “This type of person might be very unhappy in their own life and this could be why they cannot feel happy for you,” says Angelica. “They may be dealing with a difficult situation or struggling to cope with problems of their own.
“Try to understand where they are coming from rather than being upset or angry and turn your hurt into compassion for their situation.”
UK-based life coach Eve Menezes Cunningham, (www.feelbetter everyday.co.uk) recommends trying to recall the reasons why you are friends with this person. “They must have some redeeming features or you wouldn’t put up with them,” she says.
“If you can’t even remember the part of her who wants what’s best for you, you may be best putting a bit of distance between you for a while.”
Eve suggests talking to your friend, focusing on what you are experiencing and being specific about how you feel. “Even if you can’t imagine being so direct in person – or by letter, email or phone – you might want to write a letter you’ll never send, just to release some of that anger and energy,” she adds.
The drama queen
How she behaves: With this person, everything in her life is a disaster or a major drama. She may be a friend or relative, but she is a constant drain on your positivity as she flits from one disaster to the next.
How to deal with her: “With this type of person, I’d suggest not giving them the attention they crave,” says Angelica. “If they tend to steer the conversation towards themselves all the time, make a point of changing the topic or distracting them. It’s a little like how you might deal with a child who is having a tantrum. You would distract them with noise or colour, so try the same tactic with this person.
“Also, ask yourself why they are so desperate for attention. Is it because they’re not getting the love they need from their partner or their family?”
Eve suggests pulling back before jumping into your friend’s latest drama. “This may mean pausing before answering anything, and considering whether whatever she wants is something you want, too. You might also consider why someone else has a starring role in your life and how might you make more time for more equal friendships?”
The eternal pessimist
How she behaves: A true pessimist, this type of person always looks on the bad side of life and sees the glass as being half empty rather than half full. Even if things are going well for her, she still fears the worst.
How to deal with her: “If you acknowledge her negativity you begin to be drawn in to her pessimism,” says Angelica. “Use positive words and phrases when talking to her. Also, be sure to set boundaries. If you find it draining to be around this person, then limit the time you have with them. Take back control of the situation. Remember that you always have a choice.”
Eve agrees. “Ask yourself about the positives in the relationship,” she says. “Why is she still in your life? Focusing on those elements and her strengths will subtly influence the relationship without your having to say anything. And you might choose to be on high alert for a while as you gently and compassionately ‘retrain’ her.
“For example, gently point out she’s moaning again and, much as you love her, you find it tiring to be around. You might want to offer encouragement to see a counsellor if it’s more than mere moaning and she may be depressed.”
The needy one
How she behaves: She’s always looking to you for reassurance, always anxious and constantly needing to have her ego stroked. Her neediness is a drain on your energy.
How to deal with her: Eve suggests asking yourself what you’re getting out of the relationship. “If it’s not enough, cut your losses and pull back,” she suggests. “But if it’s worth saving – and many relationships are – be prepared to put in the effort. You may have known each other for decades and fallen into these ways of, ‘Oh, I’ll just give her reassurance’ until it becomes second nature. Over time, resentment builds.
“Imagine your default reaction – to cave in and give her that reassurance – as a well-worn path in a jungle. You can create a new path but the first few times you tread it (not leaping in to reassure immediately but experimenting with other responses), you may barely be able to see any way through. But the more you do it, the easier it will become to do things the new way. Essentially, you’re creating new neural pathways in your brain every time you learn to do anything new. And it can feel exhausting. But your current dynamic is also exhausting. We can do things differently. It gets easier.”
The guilt tripper
How she behaves: This could be a relative or friend who always makes you feel guilty for not seeing them often enough, which makes you less likely to want to see them.
How to deal with her: Sometimes energy vampires like these don’t realise what they are doing, so it can help to speak to them and explain how their behaviour makes you feel.
Try to approach the subject sensitively without accusing them, and you might find that they had no idea of the effect they were having on you. If this feels too much like confrontation, why not send them an email or letter? It’s often easier to get our point across in writing rather than face-to-face, when we can take time to think about what we want to say. In fact, just by writing down how you feel you might gain inspiration on how to deal with the energy vampire in question – and you might not even feel the need to press ‘send’.
“The more people attempt to manipulate us like this, the more we want to run in the opposite direction,” says Eve. “Consider their strengths and what you love about them. If there’s nothing, run! Learn to build in space to ensure you tune into your own needs and wants, rather than caving into theirs.
“Just checking in with yourself can help you identify times when you feel full-hearted and fine to spend time with them. It can also identify the times when it’s best for them, as well as you, that you stay far away and do something nurturing for yourself.”