You’re drained. It’s not even 10 a.m. and you feel like you’ve been at this all day. You should feel good. You are well rested, you ate breakfast and you’ve been exercising regularly, so what’s the problem? You may have had a close encounter with the office energy vampire.
This person likes to control the conversation and be the center of attention. A short chat with one can leave you feeling wiped out. As we talked about last week, energy vampires can manifest in different forms, such as Countess Drama Queen (if it’s happened, it’s happened to her and she’s going to hold you captive until you’ve heard every excruciating detail), Count Misery (hasn’t seen happiness since who knows when, is miserable and convinced that you are aching to be a part of his pity party), Count Spite (nasty, cruel, combative and competitive) and Countess Constant Chatter (who simply cannot shut up about anything). Each vampire has his or her own specific characteristics. Most of them tend to be very negative but one common thread is woven among all of them: They can drain the energy out of a room faster than one of California’s rolling blackouts.
We’ve all encountered negative people, but when they are members of your team or patients in your practice, you need more than a few cloves of garlic to keep them under control and your sanity intact.
First, if you can, limit the amount of time you spend with this person. If the misery man in your office is looking to corner you for the next 15 minutes with his latest tale of woe, politely redirect the conversation or simply end it. Of course you would love to hear the full story (not), but you have a “to do” list a mile long that you just have to get to. Or put a specific time limit on your exposure to the energy bleed. “I’m sorry Joe, but I only have 5 minutes to spare.”
Perhaps Countess Chatter is a patient who simply insists on telling you all about her recent gallbladder surgery, even though the phone is ringing and other patients are waiting. Again politely tell her that you’ll have to hear all about it another time as there are other patients that are waiting for you. In other cases, Tell-All Tammy, your gossiping teammate, may need to be told in no uncertain terms that you are simply not comfortable talking about certain people, situations or circumstances.
Do not allow yourself to become upset when the energy vampire is completely oblivious to the fact that the patients are lining up, the phone is ringing and she’s standing there consuming your time and your energy. She doesn’t get it. No, she cannot read your body language or see that frustrated and stressed look on your face. The only needs she knows are her own. The only stories worth listening to are her own. The only opinions that matter would be hers.
Try to avoid situations in which you are trapped by an energy vampire. If everyone’s going to lunch and you’re going to be stuck driving the drama queen, tell her you have errands to run before or after you grab a bite. It may simply be stopping for gas, but it’s an errand and you don’t want to be her captive audience if you can possibly avoid it.
Don’t try to solve the energy vampire’s problems; they feed on those problems. Don’t offer solutions, because doing so causes you to become emotionally invested in helping them. The reality is you cannot help them, and they don’t want you to. They get their energy from draining yours, from exhausting you emotionally. They get their “high” from the drama, the suffering, the misery, the non-stop noise that is their own voice. They don’t want you to advise them how to cope, change, improve or address their woes because this is the emotional sustenance that they’ve come to rely on.
Save yourself, and stay calm and detached. You need to separate from their compulsive need to spread negativity. Don’t be afraid to simply walk away. The more frequently you do, the easier it gets.
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