Ways to cope with people who sap our energy and cause us stress

Woman feeling drained of energy while talking on the phoneFeel sick in the stomach after talking with someone? Or like you’ve been hit by a hurricane? Perhaps exhausted, stressed-out or overwhelmed? Sounds like you’re the victim of an energy vampire attack. Energy vampires don’t suck our blood – they “suck” the life force out of us. They feed off our energy during social interactions, so we feel drained as a result. Energy vampires might not even be aware that they sap our energy, but do so regardless.

Energy vampires can be in the home, office, down the street – anywhere. They might be work colleagues, family members, friends or neighbors. At times we might, unknowingly, be energy vampires ourselves. It’s important to interact with energy vampires in ways that leave our energy intact, and avoid offence and conflict.

Often energy vampires behave like they do because they are hurting, upset, annoyed or stressed-out, otherwise they would be pleasant to be around. Being compassionate and kind towards them helps us calm a potentially volatile situation, and leave those involved with their dignity.

How can we identify energy vampires? What are some tips to avoid them draining our energy? Read on.

What are some common types of energy vampires?
Spend less time with energy vampires
Set boundaries and limits on energy vampires’ behavior
Don’t be a regular sounding board, counsellor, doormat… for energy vampires
Don’t try to solve everyone’s problems or over extend ourselves
Avoid worsening the situation by fighting and arguing
Take some deep breaths, think positive and stay calm when interacting with energy vampires
Imagine being in calming surroundings while interacting with energy vampires
Shield ourselves from energy vampires’ energy using creative visualizations

What are some common types of energy vampires?

Energy vampires can include:

  • Mr (or Mrs) Negativity – includes chronic complainers, whingers, whiners, nit pickers and fault finders.
  • Drama Queens (or Kings) – make constant mountains out of molehills or the dramas in their life are their main topic of conversation.
  • Crisis Queens (or Kings) – love to talk about the endless crises (perceived or real) in their life.
  • People who mostly use others as counsellors or sounding boards for their problems.
  • People who have frequent mood swings.
  • Excessive talkers or joke tellers – talk or joke so much they annoy and overwhelm people, interrupt their work, peace and so on.
  • Popper-inners, phoner-uppers, emailers… who have very little new to say/rehash the same things over and over again. They can be negative, sad or lonely, so want others to constantly cheer them up.

Now we’ve identified common types of energy vampires, here are some ideas to cope around them.

Spend less time with energy vampires

Avoiding an energy vampire’s company is one of the most obvious ways to deal with them. This can be difficult if we are in regular contact with them, such as our boss, a close friend or relative. If we can’t avoid the person’s company altogether, we need ways to minimize the negative impact they have on us. Below are some ideas.

Set boundaries and limits on energy vampires’ behavior

Just because someone wants to offload, whinge, complain… to us doesn’t mean we have to get too involved or put-up with it for long.

There are many ways to positively deal with the energy drainer. Have polite excuses ready to stop interacting with the person. Practise the excuses in front of the mirror to perfect our body language, such as facial expressions, or with a friend (obviously not the energy vampire!) until we feel confident saying the excuses, if we feel the need.

Here are some ideas for excuses. Adapt and use them as we see fit.

  • “Sorry, you’ve got me at a bad time. I have to go out for a while, so I can’t talk now.”
  • “I find talking about this for too long drains my energy and makes me sad (or frustrated…) because it’s a sad (or negative…) topic. I would really like to talk about something uplifting instead.” Start talking about something different that makes us feel happier, such as a recent health breakthrough, a funny movie we’ve seen or uplifting book or article we’ve read.
  • “I find that when you talk like this I feel overwhelmed (or hurt…). I think our conversations would be more pleasant if you would please talk more quietly to me (or less harshly…), otherwise I can’t concentrate on my work (or find it hard to work…).”
  • “Sorry to interrupt, but I have to finish my work as I have important deadlines I must meet. How about we talk about this more at lunch (or after work…)? (Say the second sentence only if you want to talk more later). I have to get back to work now.” Now get back to work.
  • “I’d like to talk with you about this (or talk more about this), but I have a lot of work to do and important deadlines to meet. I really don’t want to get into trouble with (add person in here, such as you boss or the CEO…). I trust you’ll understand. I must go now (or go back to work now…). Take care.” Then say “good bye” and walk off, or hang up the phone, stop the email conversation…
  • “I find that when we talk about this I feel a little overwhelmed (or uncomfortable…). I am quite a reserved (or private…) person. I’d much rather talk about (add topics in here, such as sport, music, movies…). I trust you’ll understand.”
  • “I need time to think about this. I’m under pressure right now. I’ll get back to you later about it.”

Instead of blaming work on having to stop the conversation, we could instead swap work with:

  • an important meeting or appointment
  • important family matters we must attend to
  • going shopping
  • something urgent to attend to or a prior commitment (for when we want to be vague)

depending on the situation and what we feel comfortable with.

Persist. If the energy vampire refuses or argues with us, have polite and reasonable come-back lines ready. An idea could be to shorten and paraphrase the excuse we previously used.

Be firm but kind. You don’t have to put up with their negative attitude/energy…if you don’t have to. You have the right to conserve your energy, work and live in peace, and not be continually stressed-out by someone. Avoid energy vampires making you feel upset, exhausted, annoyed, overpowered or overwhelmed.

Feel like making excuses is being mean to the person, or not being sincere? You could be doing the person a favor. Other people might feel like standing up to them, but you might be the one to kindly alert them as to how they make others feel, so help them become more positive/less moody/more pleasant to be around and so on. In fact, if they are a work colleague, you could be doing the entire office a favor if they also sap the energy of others at work. Your work mates might pat you on the back if you put an end to the energy vampire’s destructive behavior.

Don’t be a regular sounding board, counsellor, doormat… for energy vampires

If we often give in to the needs of energy vampires they might expect us to “save” them, fix their constant problems, listen to their crises… If we have the time, listening to them is what we want to do, and we feel a positive energy exchange with the person, then it shouldn’t be a problem. If, however, they are taking-up too much of our time, hindering our work or sport…, and sapping our energy, then it’s not okay.

Remember the old saying “Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile”. Beware of helping people to the extent that they become overly dependent on us, take more than we are willing to offer, and intrude on our lives.

Don’t try to solve everyone’s problems or over extend ourselves

Fixing everyone’s problems can be a sure way to drain our energy. Yes, it can be good to give advice and help others, but if we go overboard then we don’t have enough energy for ourselves and other people in our lives who depend on us. Also, being Mr (or Mrs) Excess Fix-it doesn’t allow others to sort out their problems for themselves. Solving problems is a necessary part of life, and part of people’s growth and maturity. Balance helping others with our own needs.

Avoid worsening the situation by fighting and arguing

Fighting and arguing with energy vampires will most likely further drain our energy. Often it’s best to politely stop or minimize our interactions with them rather than start an argument or fight over the person’s negative behavior. Our anger could fuel their energy further.

Take some deep breaths, think positive and stay calm when interacting with energy vampires

When we are ready to yell at energy vampires out of frustration, stop and remain calm. Take some deep breaths, think positive thoughts and stay in control.

Positive thoughts could be: “I can stay calm now. This will all be over soon. This is a valuable learning experience. I can now say a good excuse to stop this person’s negativity and get on with my work (or sport practise, cooking, hobby…).”

Imagine being in calming surroundings while interacting with energy vampires

When we are around energy vampires, imagine being on a quiet tropical island, in a hot tub, or relaxing on a deserted beach – whatever place is peaceful for us. This will help us be calm, so we are better able to interact with the people peacefully, and politely say our excuse without causing conflict or offence.

Shield ourselves from energy vampires’ energy using creative visualizations

Imagine the energy vampire standing in a box with walls made entirely of mirrors that face them. The negative energy they emit towards us bounces off the mirrors and into the ground. Whenever we imagine the person, or are in their company, think of their negative energy bouncing off the mirrors and into the ground. Sound too strange? Practise it for a while and see what happens. You might be surprised. I use this technique and it works wonders for me.

Another visualization we can do is to imagine ourselves wearing a large waterproof Teflon raincoat all day, every day. This imaginary raincoat protects our entire body from negative energy, but allows neutral and positive energy to reach us. The negative energy an energy vampire emits towards us washes over the raincoat like a wave in the ocean, but doesn’t enter our body, so doesn’t affect us.

written by Nyomi Graef

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20 Responses to “Ways to cope with people who sap our energy and cause us stress”

  1. Tamikha says:

    An example stated here is: “People who mostly use others as counsellors or sounding boards for their problems.”

    Yet we are encouraged to help others and listen to their problems.

  2. Nyomi says:

    Hi Tamikha,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree that helping solve people’s problems doesn’t always drain the helper of energy. I’ve explained more about what I mean under the headings in this blog post “Don’t be a regular sounding board, counsellor, doormat… for energy vampires” and “Don’t try and solve everyone’s problems or over extend ourselves”.


  3. Elizabeth says:

    I live with some one who talks a lot, who gets louder and annoyed if he is interrupted or another person tries to add to the conversation. He repeats himself and laughs excitedly often during his talking. I was drawn to him after a relationship with a person who spoke very little, we had little communication. So this person seemed refreshing. Now I find it draining.

  4. jackie paulson says:

    •Excessive talkers or joke tellers – talk or joke so much they annoy and overwhelm people, interrupt their work, peace and so on.
    This is my spouse! He won’t let me go anywhere alone.
    He smothers me and driving me nutty. His conversations and jokes don’t mean 0 to me. I ignore him, he keeps on! I will be on my computer at home and he on his acorrss the room, and he will say OMG come here you gotta see this video! I say not now I am busy…he perisitst till I GIVE IN. HELP

  5. Nyomi says:

    Hi Jackie,

    Thanks for your comment and for visiting my website.

    It sounds like your spouse really wants your attention. If you’re on the computer and you don’t want to be interrupted by him, have you suggested to him that you spend time with him later on at a time that suits both of you?

    I have read that experts have found that kids whose parents show them little attention can bother their parents and get into trouble just to get their parents’ attention, as any attention from their parents, even if it’s negative, is better than none. Once the parents’ devote regular quality time to their kids, the kids’ annoying behavior towards the parents/attention seeking can reduce or stop.

    Is your spouse crying out for you to listen to his conversations and jokes, so he smothers you? Is he trying to make you happy by joking with you, and craves your attention and conversation, but can sense you aren’t very interested, so tries harder?

    I think you probably need to have a heart-to-heart talk with your spouse about, for example, his joke telling and topics of conversation, the amount of time the two of you would like to spend together, and behavior that you will and will not tolerate from him. You might want to see a counsellor together, if you feel the need.

    All the best

    Kind regards,

  6. Nyomi says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Yes, what was once appealing can be annoying later on. I hope the ideas in this article are of help to you. In time, if the new person you are with doesn’t stop draining you, perhaps it’s time to find someone else who doesn’t sap your energy, but makes you feel happy and energized instead.

    Thanks for visiting my website and commenting.

    Best wishes,

  7. Paul says:

    I work with someone who sits next to me and is often in a bad mood,crashes and bangs at her desk, on the phone to companies complaining and continually sighs, huffs and puffs and yawns all day.

    It’s not that I don’t like her, but when the mood is constantly negative and all you hear is complaints and loud yawning all day it saps your energy and brings your mood down every day.

  8. Nyomi says:

    Hi Paul,

    This woman sounds frustrating. I suggest you speak to your manager about her and ask your manager to talk to this woman and/or you kindly ask the woman if she could be a bit quieter, so it’s easier for you to work. If this doesn’t work, perhaps ask to move to a different cubicle/office…, if possible.

    I will share the below true story with you, which is food for thought.

    I have a relative (let’s call her Mary) aged in her 50s who worked in an office for a few years with several other people before the organization employed a new lady (let’s call her Shauna) to join the team. Mary and Shauna now shared the same workspace. Shauna did all sorts of things that Mary found annoying. Mary kindly spoke to her manager about Shauna, but the manager did nothing to help Mary. Mary also kindly asked Shauna to stop doing the things that Mary found annoying, but nothing changed.

    Mary decided to move to a different company. She soon realized that Shauna was a blessing in disguise. Mary liked her new workplace and new work colleagues much more than those at her last workplace.

    I hope this helps.

    All the best with improving your work situation. If you ever want to comment on the outcome, I’d be interested to hear what happens, should you wish to post another comment.

    Thanks for visiting my website and taking the time to comment.

    Kind regards,

  9. Dave says:

    I was told tonight that I treated my date (dated about 5 times now) that she feels I use her as a counselor or sounding board. I looked it up, which brought me to your site, and I like her alot and other people that now in hind site, I feel I have done the same thing to.

    I probably do like to talk about my life more than hers and I do like to challenge others to debates. I know the simple answer is to stop doing this but it’s not that easy. I don’t even realize what I am doing most of the time and I don’t really know any other way to stop.

    I guess I always felt I was a very interesting and intelligent person and also so many things seem in a disarray in my life.

    So… How do I stop?

    Thank you so much for your kindness.


  10. Nyomi says:

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your comment. You’re already on your way to being a better communicator because you’re aware that you can be too talkative, and you’d like to talk less.

    To help you cut down on how much you talk, how about asking the person you’re talking to more questions about their life, and genuinely listening to their answers? Most people like to talk about what’s going on in their lives, their interests, and so on.

    Ask enough open-ended questions. In case you’re unsure, these questions have answers that need elaboration. They are the opposite of closed-ended questions, i.e. questions that, for instance, require a simple yes or no response. Be careful, though, you don’t want to ask too many questions, so sound like you’re interrogating the person you’re talking to. Balance is key.

    Think of a conversation between two people as being like a game of table tennis: half the time you talk, and half the time the other person talks. No one hogs the ball, meaning no one hogs the conversation. A good game of table tennis has a good back and forth rhythm, just like a good conversation.

    Also, be friendly, sincere, not overbearing, have appropriate body language, and so on.

    Good books about communication and/or a good counsellor might also help, if you feel the need.

    All the best Dave.

    Kind regards,

  11. hank says:

    i’m thankful that i came accross your article. i feel much better now.
    thanks a lot for writing this.

  12. Nyomi says:

    Hi Hank,

    Thanks for reading my article and for your kind comment. I’m glad the article helped you feel better. People like you make me feel that my writing is worthwhile.

    Thanks again Hank.

    Best wishes,

  13. Brooke says:

    I am a senior person in my workplace and have issues with two colleagues. The first is an excessive talker who will come into my office, sit down and interrupt my work. At times the topics are relevant, but mostly they occur towards the end of the day when I’m trying to finish some work and go home to my family. Despite continuing to tap away on my computer and not giving eye contact, they don’t get the message and keep talking. Even saying I need to finish my work doesn’t seem to work. The only thing that works is to get up and leave the office, which means I can’t complete what I am trying to do.
    Another colleague is very sensitive, and feels overly hurt by things that should not be an issue. Part of my role is to be supportive of my team members, but this person is constantly draining my energy with their ‘poor me’ attitude and I would not be comfortable in addressing this with them as I would be concerned it would make them feel even worse. Their demeanour is noticeable to all the moment the step into the office. Any tips?

  14. Nyomi says:

    Hi Brooke,

    Thanks for your message and question. That must be frustrating for you having two colleagues draining your energy regularly.

    In response to your question, have you asked your manager to kindly chat to these two people about how they are negatively affecting your work, and ideas your colleagues can implement to overcome it? One of my previous workplaces regularly used this approach rather than having the people who are being bothered confront their colleagues directly. It’s a common technique. As an alternative, a polite and kind colleague of yours, rather than a manager, might be a good person to speak to the overly talkative people.

    Another idea is to kindly say to the ladies (pretend) that you have a headache, stomach ache or other health problem, then say sorry but you need to have some quiet time while you finish your work as you aren’t feeling the best. Pretend to look a little ill, leave your desk and get a glass of water, or do a short walk around the office. Go back to your desk a few minutes later. They might have left by then. Although this is a white lie, a counsellor suggested a similar idea to me when an excessive talker was bothering me and I wanted to stop being in his company but not offend him.

    In addition to the ideas that I’ve suggested in the above article, there are many books with ideas about how to handle difficult people. I did a search on Amazon using the words “deal difficult people”. Here’s the URL to the list of books that was generated: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=deal+difficult+people. I like to buy books online from Amazon and various other bookshops too, such as AbeBooks and The Book Depository.

    All the best for a happier, more peaceful and more productive time at work soon.

    Kind regards,


  15. sam says:

    Hi and thank you for the informative article…
    I wonder if you could help me with a situation I am in with my boss. It is getting to the point where I am feeling physically unwell and feeling uneasy about going to work because of her behaviour. I work in very close proximity to her in an office with few co-workers and a lack of upper management support. She talks a lot and most of the time is not having a conversation but talking at me for sometimes 20-45 minutes on end. A simple question spirals and I find myself not wanting to ask for clarification on certain things to avoid having to be talked at. She seems to be unaware of how her behaviour affects those around her. I have tried physical signals, putting on my coat to leave, saying I need to use the bathroom, etc but she still continues to talk at me. Any advice is much appreciated as I am finding it more and more difficult to be in this environment.

  16. Nyomi says:

    Hi Sam,

    Thanks for your comment. You’re in a difficult situation with your boss talking at you, rather than to you, for too long. Similar to what I suggested to Brooke earlier this month, on 5 April (see above), consider asking a polite and trusted co-worker/manager in your organization to speak to your boss to kindly request that your boss talks less to you so, for example, she summarizes, is more succinct and/or stays on track. A reason this manager/co-worker could give your boss is because you must spend more time doing your work and less time discussing things (with your boss). You could, of course, come up with one or more other reasons for the request, and discuss alternative ideas with your co-worker/other manager. This idea might improve your work environment.

    Also, like I suggested above to Brooke, there are books with ideas (in addition to the ideas in my article above) about how to deal with difficult people. Check out the last paragraph of my reply to Brooke, if you’re interested to know more.

    I hope things improve for you at work soon, Sam.

    All the best,


  17. sandra says:

    Hi and thank you for your article.

    OMG I sit here in front of my computer searching for a reason why I feel so drain after spending a day with my husband and his daughter. I feel mad, sad, anxious and drain so I google why … and I found your site.
    I cant no more be in this situation. After reading and reviewing I feel that I have no hope. I love my husband of 1yr of marriage but is getting to the point that I avoid him as much as I can to hear him complain, and be negative and laugh about things. Even in the way he walks. His daughter in the other hand, whom comes and visits every other weekend, is the same way and she is only 8. I have 3 month old now with him and dont want my child growing up in this environment. I can’t…. I am seriously considering leaving this relationship for the sake of my son and my own, I feel I cant handle it anymore. I get to bed tired and with fever sometimes and is not because I work or take care of the baby, is because of him., and on top of that he is a narcissist, everything is about him all day long… Please help…

  18. Victoria says:

    Thanks for your article. I woke up so depressed this morning feeling like my life’s not worth living any more. I have been away from work for 2 months because I was extremely exhausted. Also the environment is really toxic. So during my time away my physical health improved a lot as well and I was at peace. However closer to the time of returning to work I started to get palpitations again. I just willed myself to go back.
    On the 2nd day back this lady I work with invited me out to a drink. She often offloaded a lot of stuff to me at work prior to my time off. I didn’t realise that I had become her sounding off board. There’s a person who was bullying her and that person has apparently left. She took me for a drink to rehash the old things this woman did to her. I listened kindly. However I was also confused because at time in the past this lady used to also say the bully had turned over a new leaf. To the point that I said to her that she was contradicting herself at times saying nothing was wrong, and then turning again. I told her back then that she confused me.
    Anyway two days ago at the coffee there she was going on and on. She kept me for 3 hours yadayada ring away. She must have sucked up all the good energy I had built up for myself praying n relaxing on my break. I realise that now. I only realised as I talked to God to help me. I asked God why I was so low n I explained I did not know why. As soon as I knelt down to pray I heard the Lord say her name, that it was because of that long meeting with her. And then I had to Google what kind of person interacts like that. I am quite empathic too so she clearly took some advantage even if she didn’t realise. There was no positive exchange because when I spoke she did not really here me. She would just repeat what she had just said.

    Thank u Jesus. I shall be avoiding her now. And thank you for your article.

  19. Nyomi says:

    Hi Sandra,

    Thank you for sharing information about your life. You’re in a difficult situation. It sounds like your husband’s behavior is badly affecting your mental and physical health. Some of your options include:
    * staying with your husband and tolerating the situation
    * talking to him about your problems with the hope that this improves the situation
    * going to marriage counseling together
    * you going to counseling alone and/or phoning a support hotline
    * leaving him

    I hope that everything works out for the best for you, Sandra, whatever you decide to do.

    Kind regards,


  20. Nyomi says:

    Hi Victoria,

    Thanks for commenting and for sharing your experiences with someone who drains your energy.

    I agree, avoiding the energy vampire you discussed sounds like a great idea. She sounds toxic, and her bad energy was badly affecting you. Boost your health and energy by associating with more positive people.

    All the best

    Kind regards,


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