Energy vampire is a pop-psychology term for someone who can be emotionally exhausting to talk to. Someone who is persistently complaining about a problem without any plans to resolve it. The telltale signs of an energy vampire are the tendency to make the conversation all about them and the lack of ownership in any conflict.
Here’s how you can set boundaries with coworkers who fit the energy vampire description — so they don’t drain the life out of you:
- Striking a balance: Avoid shutting the person down right away — it makes them more desperate, and it often isn’t possible to do so. Allow them to vent for a few minutes, and then kindly tell them you’d love to talk more but you have a deadline, or offer them another time when you’re available to discuss their issue.
- Leading questions: After listening to their issue, remind them that they do have the option of taking action to change their situation by redirecting the conversation. Saying something like, “That sounds really difficult. Have you thought about what you’re going to do?” Or maybe, “Have you talked to your manager directly about it?” can really make a difference.
- Moderate reactions: Strong emotions like outrage or excitement can fuel energy vampires who are fuelled by external validation. Consciously choosing not to react, keeping your responses short, teaches them that you’re not a reliable source of energy.
- Be consistent: Never let it slide. You may be unintentionally signaling that their behavior is welcome, even if it happens once. Be consistent with setting boundaries.
- Self-awareness: Anyone can become an energy vampire. If you’re struggling at work, it can be tempting to constantly gripe to your coworkers, but that ultimately doesn’t help anyone, so you’re better off finding support outside of the workplace.
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