BY JUGGUN KAZIM
There are times when just about anyone will drain your energy – a friend going through a divorce or a career crisis, or a close relative having marital problems. But then there are others who always leave you feeling low.
How do you gauge if someone is an energy drainer or just a good person having a bad day?
One way of figuring this out is to see how you feel even when the energy drainer isn’t crying on your shoulder. If he or she is ostensibly being supportive and you still end up feeling lousy, then that’s an energy drainer.
For example, at a party, everything is perfectly arranged and everyone seems to be having a great time. People compliment the arrangements and walk away, but then that one person walks up and comments on how great the food was and how lovely the house looks. You smile and think to yourself, “Wow… that went really well!” But then just as she is about to leave, she swings around and sniffs, “You know, there was a little too much salt in the rice.”
Energy drainers are never openly nasty or cruel. But their one parting shot is enough to ruin your day, if not the week.
Why do we allow such people in our lives? One theory, which I tend to agree with, is that we wallow in self-pity because we feel we don’t deserve to be happy. When everything seems to be going well in our lives, we introduce some energy draining, toxic person into the mix. It is our way of punishing ourselves for being happy.
What does one do if stuck with a toxic person? If you can’t avoid them because they are a close relative or an important work colleague, turn your ears into an underpass; listen from one and out the other. Be polite and dignified but do not react. Half the battle is won when you don’t respond. That way the energy drainer doesn’t have the opportunity to play the victim and further exhaust your energy.
Here’s a classic example. Your elder brother is never quite satisfied with anything or anyone. Every time you meet he makes a comment about how fat or pulled down you are looking. You have two choices. The first is to comment on his horrendous tie or shirt or worse yet, his personality flaws. In that case, you will walk away furious and feeling worse. The other option is to take the high road and smile; compliment him on his lovely tie and his new shirt. Then, you get to walk away with your head held high.
Letting go is extremely difficult but it is the best way to maintain your sanity and sustain the relationships that actually matter. Don’t make comments or pass judgments on others. Instead, stick to compliments and positive communication. Remember that some people we can walk away from, but others we are just stuck with.
Another characteristic of energy drainers is that they are critical of others. This is their way of making friends as well. The problem is that a person who criticises others behind their back will also be nasty behind your back. The standard form of this energy drainer is a gossipmonger.
Energy drainers are also good at defending themselves. If you ever confront them about their nastiness, they usually respond by saying that they’re only being honest.
So, learn to protect your happiness by keeping energy draining toxic people at an arm’s length. Learn to walk away and not look back. And where you can’t walk away, learn to smile and not let them get you down.
-the writer is an actor, an anchor and a model
-by arrangement with The Express Tribune