You know when you’re hanging out with someone, and when the interaction finally comes to an end, you let out a sigh of relief and feel completely, utterly drained?
Most in-person interactions are energy-boosting. But I’m sure you’ve experienced a few occasions where it’s the opposite.
This person could be a friend, a colleague, or even a family member.
We call these people energy vampires. They are the kind of person who demands more from the listener than they give back in return. It’s an unbalanced situation.
Now, we’re not saying that energy vampires are bad people who should be avoided. But there are some measures you can take to protect yourself from being excessively drained by them.
The strategies I’m going to share with you today will help you engage with energy vampires in a thoughtful and sustainable way.
A beautiful aspect of social interaction is that it actively recharges and rejuvenates our brains. Research shows that its salubrious properties cause us to live longer and happier lives.
But… not all social interaction is made equal! Not all in-person meetups are going to revitalize us. In fact, some might just drain the life from us. And that, dear Explearner, is because of energy vampires!
We can all probably think of an energy vampire in our lives. They may not have always been that way, and they may not remain that way in the future. But the fact is, during our most recent interactions with them, we emerged totally depleted like we’ve just fallen out of a tumble dryer.
Nonetheless, these are often people that we can’t avoid, and in many cases, we love many other aspects about them.
So what to do?
The following are a few helpful strategies you can employ to mitigate the deleterious effects of energy vampires so that you can save your precious energy for more pressing matters.
Set Time Boundaries
You need to set boundaries to protect yourself…and that means protecting your time. In small doses energy vampires are manageable. It’s like going for a brisk jog. You can quickly recover.
But in large doses, they can put a serious dent in your day. That’s when you need to whip out the garlic…vampires are presumably afraid of garlic…I dunno, old wives tale.
But in all seriousness, you dictate how much time you can spend with them. You know your limits. Maybe an hour is your limit. Maybe you can only spend 20 minutes with them before you feel drained and exhausted.
Figure out your threshold and know it before you meet them. When you greet them, let them know off the bat that you only have a certain amount of time to chat. Make it clear you have an upcoming time sensitive obligation. You don’t have to make something up here. It can be as simple as time you’ve explicitly blocked off to do something else. Remember, your time is just as important as anyone else’s!
Know When (and How) to Say No
When it comes to setting healthy boundaries, that can also mean knowing when, and how, to say no. Energy vampires have an uncanny way of pressuring you into listening attentively, even when you need to be somewhere else.
Maybe you have a big exam you need to study for, and your energy vampire friend swung by your library desk to tell you all about how awful their most recent romantic breakup was, and they’re just not going away. Don’t be afraid to say, “Sorry to cut you off, and I really appreciate that you came over here to tell me about this, but I’m actually in the middle of studying for a huge exam and need to get back to that. I’d love to hear more about it when I have more time.”
This is where knowing how to politely interrupt can really come in handy [LINK TO VIDEO]. And we have a video all about that which you can check out.The goal is to be considerate of the other person’s feelings but firm in communicating that you need to get back to whatever it is you were doing.
Anyone who cares about you will accept and respect that, even if they put up a bit of a fight in the process.
Choose Your Ground
You might not realize it, but your location can have a significant impact on your ability to extricate yourself from a conversation.
Think about it, if your energy vampire comes over to your house, it’s no easy task to politely kick them out of your house when you’ve reached your limit. Compare that to meeting at a coffee shop, where it’s just a matter of you standing up to leave, or at a restaurant, where paying the bill is a natural signal that the engagement has come to an end.
The trick here is to meet in neutral spaces with obvious exit strategies. Contexts with explicit ends, like meals or going to a movie, can be very effective because you have a rough sense of how long the engagement will be and an easy way to transition out of the context.
Make It Less About Them
Now, this is a complete 180 turn from what we usually say, which is to focus the conversation on the listener. That approach works really well in most contexts. But with an energy vampire, chances are the only thing they are focused on is themselves, so they don’t need your help with that.
Energy vampires love to talk about themselves, to make it all about them, and to shine the spotlight on their life – celebrating, complaining, and everything in between.
So for your own sanity, each time they dive into a topic about themselves, make it a game of finding ways to tie what they are saying to something bigger than themselves. It could be society, art, politics, science, or just a recent book or article you’ve read.
If you’re lucky, you’ll land on a topic they are passionate about, and the conversation goes from a one-sided soliloquy to a pleasurable and engaging discussion of worldly matters!
Plan Your Topic Ahead of Time
Related to the point above, sometimes the best way to combat an energy vampire is to make sure you control the reigns of the conversation. A good way to do this is to prepare what you plan to talk about ahead of time.
If nothing comes to mind, turn to the resources around you for inspiration. Watch an educational YouTube video (we have loads to choose from on our channel, wink wink!), listen to a podcast, a TED talk, or an audiobook. Make some mental notes or even jot them down.
It might sound weird to have an agenda if this is a close acquaintance of yours, but the point here is to have some brain fodder. Have a list of meaningful things to discuss so that the conversation doesn’t devolve into an hour-long deep dive into their aches and pains – literally and figuratively.
This tactic works best when your engagement is pre-planned. But you can also prepare yourself for unexpected encounters by having a more generic set of talking points that you are ready to whip out on the spot.
Alrighty, there we have it, five powerful ways to fend off an energy vampire.
Let’s quickly recap:
- Set a time limit on your interactions so that you don’t get drained past the point of recovery
- Learn how, and when, to cut the conversation off when that time limit is reached
- Choose a neutral space with a clear exit strategy
- Make the conversation about more than just them
- And plan ahead so that you can steer the conversation toward topics of substance
At the end of the day, an energy vampire can only drain as much energy as you allow them to. You are your own boss. So if a conversation ever reaches a point that you aren’t comfortable with, don’t hesitate to take control and put an end to it.
Be polite, thoughtful, and respectful, but most importantly, be firm. The more prepared you are, the tighter grip you’ll have on the reigns of the situation.
So now that I've shared our thoughts, I would love to hear about your experiences with energy vampires. What warning signs do you look for? What defensive strategies have worked for you? Share that with me and the Explearning community in the comments below.
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With that, have an awesome week, Explearners.
Thank you so much for joining me and I’ll see you next time for your next Explearning lesson.
Happy Explearning ⚡