QUESTION OF THE WEEK: I feel like I need to “feng shui” my friends. Do you have any comments on this?
Absolutely! Some people zap your energy, live in a world of negativity, lean on you too much and leave you feeling drained. When they call, you think, “ugh,” and then either let the call go to voicemail or brace yourself for a tiring interaction. You need a more effective strategy so that you don’t lose your energy when dealing with them.
Identify who they are
Some people help build your energy, rejuvenating you (a reciprocal process), while others leave you exhausted and tend to:
• Not respect your time
• Not take no for an answer
• Be “drama queens,” making mountains out of molehills
• Be judgmental, critical and fault-finding • Complain and blame others for what’s going on
• Stay stuck in a problem that you’ve repeatedly listened to
• Never bring anything new to the table — it’s always about their bad relationships, horrible work situation, crazy life, etc.
Strategies for minimizing your time with energy-draining people
These people you identify are not “bad people,” but they do not serve you, and their problems should not become yours. Here are a few steps to help you now and in the future:
• Identify existing and potential energy-draining friends.
By name, who are the current energy drains in your life? In the future, you also can identify these by trusting your intuition and visceral reactions after an encounter with a potential friend. Though this person may come across as witty and smart, or have good stories to share, stay tuned in to how you feel during and after your encounter.
• Limit your contact.
If you can’t limit your contact, for instance, with family members or coworkers, always start out the conversation with something like, “I only have a few minutes and then I have to go.” Keep the conversation brief and on point, then exit gracefully. If you cannot exit, lovingly tune the person out.
• Do not allow yourself to get pulled in.
You may think that you can help the individual fix his or her problems, but it is unlikely. Your best strategy is to set clear and firm limits, and resist offering solutions, even when asked. Listen for a short while, then say something like, “I’m sure you’ll find the right answer for yourself,” or “Things will work themselves out.” Be kind, but firm, and do not try to solve or fix anything for them.
Still having trouble?
If you have a hard time holding the boundaries with certain friends, honestly ask yourself what you are getting out of it. Do they make you feel needed? Do you use your interactions with them as social currency with others? Do you feel “above them,” because they are so “messed up”? Do you feel sorry for them? If so, remember that it is up to them to make changes in their lives, not you.