We all know those people who, after an interaction – even a brief run in, leave us feeling as though we’ve run a marathon. Like the body snatchers, energy suckers take many forms: They’re the me/mine people; the complainers; the guilt trippers; the showoffs; the monologuers; the oversharers; the quiet talkers; the loud talkers; and so on. No matter their moniker, the result is the same for those on the receiving end: mental and sometimes physical fatigue.
I’m not the first person to make this observation. Many other people have written about energy suckers (or energy vampires), how to identify one, how to avoid them, how to extricate yourself from one, how to cope, etc. There is significantly less, however, on how to identify if YOU are one of these shape shifting energy suckers (although Erin Pavlina wrote eloquently on the topic).
And there’s the rub: With so many energy suckers out there, what are the odds that I (or you) might be one of them? Pretty high. The challenge with energy suckers is that they very rarely know they’re an energy sucker and are even less aware of the impact they have on communication. Namely, that they shut it down. Whether it’s eye contact, body language, or conversation, an energy sucker generally brings a halt to all of these.
Introverts (MBTI introverts that is) are particularly susceptible to energy suckers and may need considerable time alone to recharge. And guess what, our thinking preferences come in to play here as well.
A person who may do none of the typical energy sucker behaviors can still leave us feeling drained. This would be distinctly noticeable if that person was coming from your least preferred thinking style. For example, if you have a preference for big picture, future-oriented thinking, metaphors over details, and synthesizing information rather than documenting it, you would find an interaction with someone who has a high preference for detailed, how-it-has-always been done, orderly, and sequenced thinking very taxing. And vice versa. Any time we are forced to operate out of our preferred thinking style, we will feel exhausted.
Ok. So what? Why should I (or you) care about being an energy sucker? We should care because communication is the beating heart of relationships – be they professional, personal, or romantic. Often, energy suckers are doing energy sucker things because they want to be heard, understood, validated, and so on. Unfortunately, by speaking to be understood and listening with the intent to reply (rather than understand) they paradoxically achieve the exact opposite; they go unheard and un-validated because people have almost no choice but to tune them out for their own health and sanity. Worse, people begin to lose interest in what energy suckers have to say at all and in them as people. In other words, energy suckers are often avoided, ignored, and devalued. Who wants to be on the receiving end of that?
And so, in the spirit of continual personal awareness and growth for myself and others, it is in the arena of Energy Sucker Self-Identification (ESSI…I love acronyms) that I will try to contribute something new to this conversation by creating a quick, highly unscientific, and low-tech ESSI quiz. Although each of us will differ in the specific characteristics or behaviors of others that put a tap in our energy keg and drain us dry, certain components seem to reappear in descriptions people share with me. It is these commonalities that you’ll find below.
A gentle reminder: Assessments are only as accurate as you are honest. Don’t answer what you think you do or what you wish you’d do; think of actual situations and answer what you in fact do. Also remember that all of us do a few of these every now and then; this is natural given the ebb and flow of energy, good days and bad, etc. It doesn’t mean you’re an energy sucker.
With that said, give it a go. For each statement, make a check mark in only one column that corresponds to how often that statement applies to you.
If you checked “Always” or “Often” to five or more, you run a high probability of being an energy sucker. If you answered “Sometimes” to five or more, put yourself on alert: You’re a potential energy sucker. Take heart though: it’s a habit that you can change by – surprise – doing the opposite of each statement above.
Allow others to do the talking and don’t interrupt them when they do; try to stay focused when you have the microphone; say thank you more, be specific, and mean it; don’t take things personally – not everything is about you; practice taking a positive perspective; stop one-upping; and seek more to understand than to be understood. Do these things and mark my words, people will start to give you the same gifts and you will truly feel heard.
My final thoughts on this topic come from the words of Carlos Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan (a favorite book of mine that is fantastically challenging to get through and full of life lessons we all need to learn and re-learn): Be a little more inaccessible. Touch the world around you sparingly; deliberately avoid exhausting yourself and others; and don’t “use and squeeze people until they have shriveled to nothing.”