Let’s be honest. Some people are best avoided. Completely. Don’t even try to tell me you have never ducked into an alcove at the mall to miss one of them.
At best, a chance encounter leaves you mildly irritated. At worst you end up depleted, discombobulated and just plain exhausted.
Enter the energy vampires. They suck all of the air from the room, demanding your full attention, your complete understanding and every ounce of your time. Duck and dodge all you want, bob and weave to your heart’s content but if your energy vampire is someone you work with, it’s not that simple. You’ll need to come up with a plan.
As it turns out, not everyone is affected by toxic coworkers or bosses. Some people have a knack for letting negativity bounce right off them. Others are less titanium and more Superman after a brush with kryptonite. Completely bereft of a single super-power.
If that’s you, I’ll bet you are what Judith Orloff, MD would call an empath. You’ve got empathy in spades, true, but being an empath is much more than that.
In her new book The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, Dr. Orloff defines it this way:
Ordinary empathy means our heart goes out to someone else when they are going through a difficult period. It also means we can be happy for others during their times of joy. As an empath, however, we sense other people’s emotions, energy, and physical symptoms in our bodies, without the usual filters that most people have.
This natural gift of sensitivity that the empaths possess can, and does, have a powerful impact, bringing a humanness to the workplace that might not exist without them. This gift comes at a cost. If you are an empath who has been side-swiped by an energy vampire at work, you won’t soon forget it.
How Do You Recognize an Energy Vampire?
You will know you’ve met one when, after an encounter, you will notice:
- You are suddenly in a terrible mood
- You don’t feel seen or heard
- You start doubting yourself and become self-critical
- You become anxious, angry, or negative when you didn’t feel that way before
- You feel shamed, controlled or judged
Sound familiar? Before you run for the hidden stash of chocolate covered almonds that you keep for just such emergencies (oh wait, that’s me), you might want to try a healthier approach. Here are a few tips from among the many Dr. Orloff offers in her book.
- Ask yourself, Is this symptom or emotion mine or someone else’s? If your discomfort dissipates when you’re not near this person, it is probably not yours.
- When negativity strikes, immediately focus on your breath for a few minutes. Slowly and deeply inhale and exhale to expel the uncomfortable energy.
- Set limits and boundaries. There’s no way around it: to survive and thrive, we need to set limits with people. If someone is draining, don’t be a doormat.
- Plan alone time to regroup. Empaths need alone time to reconnect with their power. If you’ve picked up unwanted energy, be sure to plan some alone time to center yourself. For a few minutes or more, quiet everything. No noise, bright lights, phone calls, texts, emails, Internet, television, or conversations.
Years of coaching have taught me that to be of service to others, I must protect and maintain my energetic boundaries. If I allow myself to be depleted by other people’s dramas I can’t be of much help to them. Likewise, you cannot do your best work if you are constantly at the mercy of the whims and moods of those around you.
There is no need for you to “toughen up” or stop being so sensitive.’ Your sensitivity is a gift you bring to the world at a time when this kind of compassion is sorely needed. You may need, however, to understand and manage this super-power in a way that keeps you healthy and in balance.
Through some cosmic serendipity, the copy of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People that I purchased arrived early (before the release date). I found it so instructive that I read it cover to cover in two days and am now on my second reading. This time with a highlighter and a notebook.
I have known since I was a kid that I am an empath. In the early years, I didn’t have words for it. Later, my Psychology degree helped me fully understand where my desire to assist people in dealing with their personal and professional challenges is rooted. Many of my coaching colleagues are just like me in this way. Maybe you are too.
This book has already helped me effectively manage a couple of high stakes coaching conversations and one super-volatile family drama without getting dragged through the emotional mud.
In each situation, I found I could stay fully present and focused on the issues at hand. Later, I was able to decompress quickly and move on. These have always been strong capabilities for me in my coaching work, but reading this book has helped me integrate them in a slightly different way.
If you suspect you might be an empath or find yourself occasionally emotionally wrung out at the end of the day, you may want to consider The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.
You can pre-order here.
Oh, and before you go, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Take a minute and leave me a comment in the box below.
Author: Cathy Shaughnessy
Cathy Shaughnessy is a PRISM award-winning ICF Master Certified Coach and active ICF Assessor. Cathy coaches senior leaders, mentors credentialed coaches, trains fledgeling coaches and creates tools and programs to assist coaches seeking ICF Coach Credentials. Get more information on Cathy’s group mentor coaching programs here. Get more information on Cathy’s ICF CCE unit programs here. Quick links to Resources for Coaches.