Don’t be a sucker!

Let me know if this sounds familiar.

You are chatting with co-workers, friends or even family about any range of topics. All of a sudden, a certain someone enters the conversation, and within 5 minutes or less sucks all of the energy out of the discussion and quite possibly the room. They do this in a number of ways: interjecting negative comments, introducing doubts to new ideas, and/or playing the victim / ‘woe is me’ card.

Before long, the whole group is gossiping, complaining, stifling new ideas and mentally drained.

Who are these people!? How did that just happen!?

These people have come to be known as Energy Vampires. I’ve also heard them referred to as C.A.V.E. people this week (Colleagues Against Virtually Everything). I’m a big fan of cave people… might have to start using that! 🙂

The reality, is that these people are going to show up in our lives one way or another. It’s what we do after they show up that matters – will we be sucked into their negativity spiral, or will we rise above and ensure our positivity, drive and vision for the future remains intact?

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” – Ghandi

As leaders and Inner Athletes, we need to focus on leading with positivity and building up our team to show them a compelling view for the future.

Also, as I’ve discussed before, there is just so much negativity in this world… we don’t need to add to it!

While we can’t escape the reality of running into these energy vampires and cave people, let’s talk through some approaches and strategies for fending off their negativity and ensuring our teams (ourselves included) don’t get hijacked and sucked into the vortex of their ways of thinking.

So, let’s grab our garlic, stakes and holy water, and talk more about defeating these energy vampires and building positivity!

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My first professional encounter with energy vampires was during my first job out of college. While it’s been 9 years and counting since I left that job, that experience still sticks with me as a warning light of what can happen when that negativity starts to affect everyone on the team (including me!).

After being hired, I quickly moved into my first customer-facing technical role and loved it!  I was hungry to learn everything and although I was the most green on the team, I started to receive some of the most important and toughest new and existing clients. I ultimately received the nickname ‘The Future’ from my Director. Life was great, I was excited, and I saw a great future there… until the energy vampires arrived.

Honestly, given how long it’s been, I can’t quite recall where it all started. Whatever it was, it started to bring out an incredible amount of negative energy from most people on my team.

One by one, each member of my team started getting sucked into this ‘sky is falling’ / victim mindset. Everything that happened – decisions from management, customer issues, success of another team – it was all met with anger, frustration and resentment. There was nowhere to turn.

And over time, when you are ‘in it’ each and every day, you start to see things through that same lens of negativity. Before I knew it, I was one of the energy vampires too. Work became a chore instead of something I was excited about. All the ‘good’ things about my job seemed to disappear, although I’m sure if I reflected on it at the time, I would have realized they were still there. It was just my mindset and viewpoint that changed.

Now let me quickly clarify one thing – it wasn’t anyone else’s fault that I gave into the negativity.  It was my fault – period.  Thankfully, my failure helped me to realize that as a leader, we must be a champion for positivity – an energy giver – no matter what the situation.  It isn’t easy to do, and at the same time it is our largest responsibility.

Thankfully, life circumstances worked out in a way that I was able to escape and pursue a fresh start in a new company and new city. That new start helped me to recreate my vision for a brighter future, and filled me with a large breath of fresh air.

Since then, I’ve improved my ability to build up my resilience to the energy vampire / cave people influence.  However, as leaders, we have to think about more than just ourselves. We must do more than ensuring we aren’t being affected. It’s time to step up and increase positivity for everyone around us rather than just keeping the negativity at bay. Let’s talk through a few ways to do just that!

Battle Back Against Energy Vampires (No Stakes or Garlic Required)

All it takes is one cave person or energy vampire to create an exponentially negative impact on your team or organization. So how can we as leaders protect ourselves and team to pick up the ‘blitz’ that they are throwing at us?

Here are a few strategies to inject positivity and energy into an energy sucking scenario:

Decide to be an energy giver

Above all, we must make the conscious decision to be an energy giver and not an energy sucker.  It is so easy to give into the gossip, complaining, venting, criticizing, etc.  So easy!  If we cannot commit to living our lives giving energy and spreading positivity, then we risk becoming a part of the problem.  Decide now before you take that first step out onto the field.

Create an environment of positivity

As leaders, we shoulder the responsibility to create (with formal power) or influence (with informal power) the culture and dynamic of our teams and organizations.

Creating an environment that fosters and spreads positivity includes pretty much everything that we do.  Have positive conversations and change the subject when someone tries to introduce unhealthy complaining.  Walk around with a smile on your face, and engage your colleagues with warmth, positivity and laughter.  Build your tribe of energy givers in the workplace and on your teams, so that you can collectively overpower the energy vampires and cave people that try to pull the group down.  There is strength in numbers, so be the leader and build that strength.

Practice empathy (and listen)

Leaders must be inclusive and always willing to build up those who need extra help.  This strategy is built around the fact that we never know what someone else is dealing with in their lives.  They may appear to be their normal self on the outside, but at home, they may be going through hell – a hell that may cause them to show up as an energy vampire.

So, in the spirit of being there for everyone on our teams, take the time to be empathetic and lend an ear.  Understand where these people are coming from.  Some people just never feel heard, or don’t think anyone cares about them.

Give these folks the time and attention and see if you can fill them up with positivity.  Make sure they know how much they matter!

Uncover the ‘Soul Role’

During my coaching program this past week, I heard the term ‘Soul Role’ and I think it has great applicability here.  In short, a Soul Role is when an individual is in a position / doing work that makes their heart and soul sing.  This often occurs when individuals are in roles that align with their strengths and passions.

When people are out of alignment, the opposite becomes true.  During my class, I heard several stories of people who were either awful to be around and / or on the brink of being fired.  However, when they were repositioned in a role that played to their strengths, they became MVP-caliber players for their organizations.

If you come across some energy vampires and cave people in your organization, invest in a conversation or two with them and try to uncover what they are passionate about.  If you discover a misalignment, help get them somewhere that they can get their heart and soul singing!

Challenge / question them

Recently, I’ve also read a bit about inquiry.  Specifically, in the content of challenging some of the stories we tell ourselves.  Asking ourselves honestly if the story is true – undeniably true.  It’s a great tool as we try to change our stories in life.

To that end, I would challenge us to challenge those who only bring negativity.  In fairness, they may feel that what they are saying is 100% true.  However, let’s challenge them to think differently – not in a confrontational way, but in a way that pushes them to peel back the onion a bit on what they hold true.

Often, their view can be a matter of perspective, and by asking honest and open questions, we may be able to help them see the world through a different lens.

Walk… or run away!

Then of course, we have our worst case scenario.  Honestly, deep down some people enjoy and thrive on creating negativity for themselves and others.  They just wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m sure that all of us, at some stage in our careers, met someone just like this.   So, at some point, our time and leadership is better used somewhere else (or anywhere else).  Sometimes we just need to cut ties and walk away.

Let them enjoy their negativity while you bring your light and energy to those who can most benefit.  Strengthen your culture of positivity, and eventually, those king and queen energy vampires won’t have anyone else left to listen to them.

In Closing…

If you only take away one actionable item from today’s post, it is my sincere hope that you decide to be an energy giver.  If more people make the internal commitment to bring in more positive energy, thoughts, beliefs, and hope for the future to their own lives, then collectively we can make a powerful change in our lives and the world.

Make the commitment today, and watch your world change.

Discussion Question: Where is one area in your life that can use some more positivity?  How can you approach that space differently, and start to starve out the negative energy?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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