Beware, they’re in your midst.
On the surface, they’re quite charming. But once their true self comes out, they’re likely to drain the emotional energy out of you.
“Emotional vampires are not just annoying people, but darkly seductive,” says Al Bernstein, a Portland, Oregon-based clinical psychologist and author of “Emotional Vampires: Dealing With People Who Drain You Dry” (McGraw-Hill, 2002). Next year he will publish a version that deals with workplace vampires.
Whether at home or at work, emotional vampires find a way to manipulate those around them, again and again. In the office, Bernstein recommends finding a way to manage the situation when they’re around. But first you have to identify and understand them. Emotional vampires have personality disorders. Unlike individuals with a neurosis or psychosis who drive themselves crazy, these people drive others crazy. Their condition is mild enough for them to behave normally until they’re in a stressful situation.
Bernstein identified five main emotional vampires:
1) Anti-social vampires, the most common type, hate boredom. They’re anti-social because of their lack of empathy. Most are either bullies looking for a fight or con artists seeking to deceive you. They do know how to read people and get their way.
2) Histrionic vampires love drama, but they’re also public cheerleaders. They need lots of attention and approval.
3) Narcissistic vampires have huge egos and tiny consciences. They only worry about themselves.
4) Obsessive-Compulsive vampires are perfectionists, mico-managers and control freaks. They have a hard time seeing the bigger picture because they’re too focused on getting the details right.
5) Paranoid vampires are either visionaries or green-eyed monsters. They are always looking for the Holy Grail: the one idea that will explain everything, even if it makes no sense to anyone else.
Bernstein offers some tips for dealing with emotional vampires:
• Don’t assume they have learned their lesson and will do the right thing next time around.
• Don’t let them drain you with what they say. Always focus on their actions, not their words.
• Pick the important battles and ignore the rest. And avoid fighting battles you can't possibly win.
• Don’t get emotional. Instead, choose your words carefully. “With emotional vampires what you say, how you say it, and when you say it are all crucial to the outcomes you are likely to achieve,” Bernstein explains.
• Know your limits. Sometimes it's better to run away, or not get involved in the first place.
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