We all know at least one. They drain you. Sometimes they are fun and charming, but after a while they can become hard to be around. You have to make a real effort. Spending even a small amount of time with them can cause a huge dent to your self esteem, your positivity and your motivation. There are different types but they all have one thing in common… their negativity sucks you dry.
Debbie Downer: “Everything Sucks”
They enjoy playing the victim. Life is always a little too hard, and they constantly need your help and attention. They either don’t know how to fix it, or stick their head in the sand hoping it will just go away. You can suggest ways for them to take ownership of changing the situation but they will just find excuses why they can’t.
Karen: “Should you be doing that?”
They have an opinion on anything and everything. Nothing is ever right. They may disguise it as helping, but constant criticism over time is just destructive. That’s because it’s not well intended concern they have for your wellbeing, it’s putting others down in order to make themselves feel better.
Shaggy : “It wasn’t me.”
It’s never their fault. They take absolutely no responsibility for their actions, and are very adept at shifting blame to someone else, to the point where the solution to the problem becomes very complex and convoluted. Anything to avoid having to change their own behaviour or attitude.
Vlad: “I need help/love/attention”
The real blood suckers of the world can show up in various ways, but all are designed to pray on your emotions to the point of being both mentally and physically draining. It might be devaluing your opinion, gossiping derogatorily, argumentative for their own amusement or just creating conflict for no reason.
Alex: “Why is it that all the interesting people are always married?”
AKA the Bunny Boiler, they usually want what someone else has, yet are not motivated enough to find their own path to achieve the same goal. Similar to Karens in that they enjoy putting other people down, they never acknowledge anyone’s achievements and instead see any success as being unearned, instead of appreciating the hard work it took to get there.
Kim: “Does my bum look big in this?”
Superficial is an understatement. So fixated in their own appearance that you will never really know them as a person. You will only ever see what they want you to see, which will be filtered and photoshopped beyond recognition. Their life looks perfect, and it takes a lot of work and insecurity to keep it that way.
It’s all very easy to say “stay away” but sometimes you just can’t. Some of these people are co-workers, and family members. Whilst it may be difficult or even impossible to avoid these people altogether, it is possible to minimize their impact on you. Firstly it is important to remember that you cannot change them, and it is likely that they will not even recognize their actions or behaviours as being detrimental to others. It’s not your job to convince them otherwise, and the majority of the time it will be a further depletion of your emotional energy.
If you can, the best strategy is to avoid or minimize contact as much as possible. Set boundaries for yourself. If certain topic of discussion bring out their negative behaviours, then avoid discussing these topics if you can. For example, don’t be telling your office Vlad about your personal life if you don’t want everyone in your office to know about it by the end of the day. If you don’t want Karen’s opinion on whether you should have put nuts in your cake recipe best to avoid the subject altogether, right?
When you know you have to spend time with these people, keep clear in your mind what you would like/need to achieve in the situation. Try to avoid getting sucked into any shitty subjects or dramas, and prepare an exit strategy if things start to become challenging for you. Practice saying “I would prefer not to discuss that subject”. You don’t owe them an explanation as to why if they probe further. It also helps to pre-define your time limits so they don’t take liberties. For example, “I only have an hour, then I have to leave.”
It’s OK to say no to a social situation, and you don’t have to give them a reason why. If they try to change your mind, simply continue to decline and use your exit strategy if needed.
If this is a work situation and it becomes increasingly difficult to interact with that person, you may need to seek assistance from your management team or Human resources Department. If they don’t help, unfortunately it may be time to decide whether your career is worth jeopardising your mental health for.
Ultimately you and your mental health are the most important factors. You don’t need to accept bullshit attitudes or behaviours from anyone, even if they are related to you. Keep your life a BS Free Zone.