Those that make you go grr

My post on Monday was about encouraging positive networks. As someone who has a clear bias towards positive psychology and what it has to offer, it’s equally important to consider the dark side of life in its different guises. So if encouraging positive networks is about identifying those around you who naturally create energy and positivity and influence those around them, what about those who don’t really care?

They make life difficult, and in truth, I don’t like dealing with them. If I had a preference, I just wouldn’t. I’ve met plenty, and know plenty of people who just don’t care about the impact or influence they have on others. They have a very selfish attitude to life and only want to bitch, moan, criticise others and generally be ungrateful swines.

So how to deal with these energy sappers? Well, quite frankly, there’s no easy fix. No matter what you hear, or who you talk to, you can’t use an intervention to make them be less negative. That’s their nature. It’s who they are. They won’t stop doing it because you’ve chatted with them, or tried to win them over. Ultimately, they lack self-awareness and empathy. They have zero clue about what either of those concepts truly mean, and as such, you won’t be able to help them. I doubt even receiving instruction from the Dalai Lama would help them.

But here’s what you can do. Look at how you interact with them. Be mindful of your reaction to them. Not just to their words, but to their presence. Be critical of yourself in how you change your behaviour because you think they deserve no less. This sounds like a cop out right? Wrong. If you know, that you are being affected by someone, and that your behaviour has changed, the only thing you can do is change your behaviour.

Why though? Why should you do this? When they won’t change their behaviour, why should you change yours? Because the energy you spend worrying about how they are sapping your energy, just isn’t worth the effort. You can do so much more by re-focusing that energy to your own goals and your own relationships. Let them be. They’ll moan and bitch about life and will continue to do so until they have an epiphany.

Treat them as you would any other person you would see infrequently. They deserve to be treated with respect because they too are human. But you don’t have to do more for them. Life is about quid pro quo, and they won’t do this for you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be kind to them. Your soul will be better for it. Your energy will be channelled better by it. And ultimately, you’ll care less about them and more about the things that matter to you.

And what about those situations that are truly difficult? Where those sapping the energy are in positions of power? That, my friends, deserves a whole other post.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

7 thoughts on “Those that make you go grr”

  1. Great post Sukh and a great way of looking at relationships and the impact created by presence & reaction. You have to think of increeasing your own self-awareness & empathy to compensate for the others deficiency. I wonder where else this is productive and where it’s collusive?

  2. @ Kay, thanks for the comment, very much appreciated. I’m sure someone would have said the same thing years ago, just internally, in their head! And today, you’re in a different place, and we learn from our past, no?

    @ David, thanks so much for the comment. It just occurs to me that interventions are fine, but difficult people will not change no matter what you try. Yet, you can change your approach, and the energy you use. And, to my mind, that’s where half the battle lies. Not with their behaviour, but your reaction to them, whether they say anything or not.

    1. Hmmm… the change consultant and coach part of me is screaming that people can and do change! But in terms of engaging within the organisation that’s not everyone’s role… if it’s not your role and forte then don’t let the detractors get you down.

  3. Sukkh, fab post and a nice lead on from Monday’s post.

    Reaction is everything but you can only control yours and think this is a great strategy and guideing arm as to how you can achieve the best result. After all many ‘energy sappers’ (in my experience) feed off the negative attention they create and get. Take that away and show them negative attitudes won’t garnish anything and they will soon change.

  4. @ Oli, that’s exactly my point. The funny thing about the ‘feeding off the negative attention they create and get’ is that they probably don’t realise this is what’s fuelling them. And when they’re not getting their fuel, they have nothing to go on. But, and importantly, your reaction is what you control and what you feel.

  5. Great read. Someone told me once that it’s better to spend time focusing oon your good performers to make them great (they tend to be the positive people you mention) as the results will be significant, whereas trying to get the disengaged, poor performers to engage, deliver better results can be enormously time consuming, have little reward and be energy sapping.

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