Karen Darrin

Being around people who have a consistent negative disposition is a challenge. Some playfully call these individuals “Debbie Downers.” Others call these individuals “energy vampires” and for good reason. As you may have noticed, it’s really hard to be around negative people without it diminishing your own energy. Following are three ways you can work with these folks.

Give them your feedback

It’s a delicate conversation, but in certain situations, you can have a candid conversation about the energy they’re projecting. Looking honestly at ourselves can be a hard practice, and some individuals may not have any idea how they’re coming across and would appreciate knowing. If they don’t know this about themselves, they won’t have any motivation to change. It’s a delicate conversation, and not everyone takes constructive feedback well. Chose to do this only if you believe they are open to the feedback.

Accept them as they are

Sometimes, the best option is to accept them as they are and do what you need to do to protect your energy. We all have a biological predisposition to think this way, and some people are content with this default way of thinking. You can’t change them, so focus on changing how you respond to them instead. A mental shift in your perspective can be a realistic place to start.

My personal strategy is to get to know the person. If I learn about their lives, I quickly discover how there is nothing positive they can say about their work or personal lives. It is not about me. I can then accept them more easily and walk away later thinking, “Thank God, I am not married to that person!” That makes me feel 100 times better!

Create boundaries

This can be managing the amount of time you spend with this person and/or steering the conversation away from topics you know are extra challenging.  If you know you’re going to be spending time with him/her, can you plan to counteract that energy drain with something restorative afterward?  Mindful decisions such as avoiding overscheduling yourself or activities that require a lot of energy can be helpful. Take control of your energy level by managing your calendar.

You may have less control over creating boundaries at work, particularly if it’s your boss, or even worse, if it’s the culture of the organization. If this is the scenario you’re in, the same stress management tips above apply. Furthermore, you’ll want to assess whether or not that environment is really right for you and what toll it’s taking on both your personal and professional development.


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