Purpose Filled Life Episode #51: Dealing with a Life-Draining Person


(The following is the transcript of the podcast.)

I’m talking about dealing with life draining people. Have you experienced that at all? If you’ve lived on the planet for a number of years, you likely have, and let’s just call it for what it is, shall we people?

There are just certain personality types that almost delight in life draining behaviors. So we as women tend to think, I’ll be kind, I’ll do the nice thing, and we put ourselves in situations– perpetually that are actually not very healthy and can be downright toxic.

Now, let me just be clear. It’s taken me many, many years to try to understand and then develop a strategy for how I can deal with these influences because I have thought those very same things. And yet the more that I studied scripture, the more I saw that actually it’s not a healthy way or a spiritually based way to deal with people.

We actually have to deal with these life-draining people and we have to do it in a way that really works in a positive and gives them the opportunity to choose differently and helps us to be able to stay sane.

So I want to share just a quick example and a quick thought about this kind of behavior. There was a gal, real person, that I had coached years ago. She was losing weight. She was doing very well, and she had connected with her coworker and she was saying, “I’m going to do this program and I’m going to lose weight and it’s going to be great and I’m starting this thing.”

And her friend said, “Oh, I’ll do it with you. That sounds great.”

And you know how that starts off. Oh, it’s going to be friends, it’s going to be fun, we’ll be successful, we’ll help one another, we’ll support each other. Now, coaching support and mentoring support, that’s great because that person is totally invested in you with no hidden agenda. Well you would hope, right? If you choose good people.

But the friendship thing is a little bit tricky because what happens if one starts losing weight and the other doesn’t? That’s exactly what happened. And the first Gal that I was coaching lost weight and she was doing really good, but she noticed every time she would come into work, that she would talk to this other gal and she would share her success and it turned out that the person started giving her a little bit of this negative come back.

So instead of saying, “great job, that’s wonderful”, she started giving her digs and giving her negativity and it got to a point where the first gal was just plateauing and was not losing weight, didn’t want to.

And digging a little deeper I found out that this was kind of the pattern, she would go into work, she’d be excited about her progress, the other coworker would tear it down very subtly, very insidiously, not outright, because that would be too easy to understand and overcome. But in this sort of subtle way.

Have you been a party to that or at least experienced that?

And this first gal was just like what happens often with women is instead of being confrontative, then we’ll we’ll just slink back, we’ll just step back into the shadows, we’ll go back to the recesses and we’ll try to make it nice, nice and smooth things over. So nobody’s offended.

That does not work.

All that does is empower toxic people. All that does is give them permission to say, “Oh, she is a weaker person and I can easily bully or manipulate her. So I will continue in my behavior and even increase that behavior.”

And that’s what was happening. So we talked and I said, “don’t share anything with this coworker” and in fact, we came up with the plan that she would enter the office a different way so that she wouldn’t make the same round and do it the same way that she always did it. And as she put that into play, she started losing weight again.

So I want you to consider what are some of the lessons learned in that experience? If you’ve experienced this, it could be a complaining neighbor, it could be a clingy coworker, it could be kind of an Eeyore family member.

But this sort of life draining influence can be by degrees. It can go from sort of innocuous, not really, you know, life-threatening, but all the way to it’s incredibly toxic and is absolutely affecting your health and your mental and emotional wellbeing.

So good things to sort of consider here is first and foremost, look at your life and recognize how do I feel when I am with this person?

So you’re looking at this conversation, maybe you come away from your life, man, I just don’t feel good whenever I talk to this person or I just don’t feel right or wow, it’s just such a negative or a downer. If you start noticing these patterns, then that’s a really good first key to weeding out those kinds of people in your life.

Now I’m going to give you an example. In this sort of scenario, I want you to first be aware of who you are with them.


Is it you that’s changing?

Is it you that seeking that out?

Is it you that’s kind of setting up the negativity?


Be aware of, maybe it’s you that’s being the creator of that.

If you go through that and you’re like, no, I was in a really happy mood. No, I was feeling great. I was sharing happy news and their response was abnormal. If something good happens to you, the good response and normal response would be for someone to say, “great job, so happy for you. Congratulations.”

If you’re not getting a normal, typical response, then that is something to look out for and say, you know what, that wasn’t normal and that did not sit right. So listen to your soul. Really feel that in your soul and recognize, you know what? This is not right. And then like I said, look for the pattern.


How often is this happen?

Now come on, we all have our days. We just, somebody comes in, all perky is that I just won $1 million, right? And we don’t know if we can make the rent. Then it’s like, no, we’re not feeling real happy. And we’re like, great. So happy for you. How about you give me a loan? Right? Something like that.

But if, if you feel like, okay, it’s just once in a while and you know, somebody just wakes up rough, whatever, that’s not the same as a consistent perpetual pattern of this kind of behavior where it’s life draining, they are enjoying in a sense and getting a hit from being negative and draining your positive.

So you really want to look for that pattern.

And in essence, the second thing is once you’re aware, then you want to weed out those people. And I call it weed out the dodder, not daughter as in my daughter as in a child, but the dodder d-o-d-d-e-r also known as strangle weed.

Appropriately named it likes to hook on to certain plants and it just sort of wraps around and winds around them and then it sucks out the water and the chlorophyll from that plant. And what’s interesting is at first the plant will sort of wind around and test it out, test out the prey to see if it can really be a good fit, if it’s going to get the nourishment that it needs. And then once it figures that out right in there with the puncture and it starts draining right away, it’s a real plant.

So that’s kind of what happens in real life. Someone kind of feels it out. How patient, how tolerant, how much are you going to sit through their whiny, whiny woe is me. And when they find someone who’s just going to sit and listen nonstop to their bitter diatribe without any kind of suggestion of improvement, well they found a willing victim.

So consider that as the third thing. What are your responses to this kind of behavior? What’s your response to this kind of toxic behavior?

Some really good things that you can try when you are engaged with this kind of a person, especially if you don’t know it and they start talking to you at a party or at a function, and then you start realizing what starts off.

At first of, “Oh wow, that’s terrible.” Yeah. You start realizing that they’re really, really going for it. Um, some good things to do.


  • Our first to be able to say validatingly you know, I’m sorry that happened to you. So what’s something good that happened today?

They hate when people switch the victim gear and make them be proactive about the positive. So switch it as soon as you can.


  • “I’m so sorry that happened. So tell me something good that’s going on your life. Tell me something good that happened today”

And they say, “Well, you know, it’s just a rough, rough time and I’m not a lot of blah, blah, blah.”


  • You’d say, “Oh, you know what? Second thing I have a suggestion. Do you know what you can do about that? Is there something you’ve thought about what you can do about, have you thought about way to solve that?” And then you are welcome to offer suggestion.

They will get the idea that you are not going to just listen endlessly and they do not want to hear solutions. Now at first, a lot of them were just going to give you solutions back.


“Oh yeah, I tried that, but my back still hurt and then my corn started hurting.”


  • Now. Then you get to decide, “I’m so sorry that happened. Well, what’s good about what’s in your life right now?”

Do you see the cycle here?


You’re not going to let them go down that very scary train track. You are going to stop it in its tracks and if they are not open to solutions–if they are terrific–if they’re not open to solutions, then you are also welcome to be able to just say, “Wow, that’s really tough time for you. I wish you good luck with that and move on.”

Do not feel that you have to stand or sit and take that kind of toxic behavior just to be “nice”. There’s nothing nice about engendering toxic behavior. You’re not being very kind. What you do when you push back is give them a choice. Do they still want to play this game? Do they still want to stay in this victim mode? Do they still want to be sucked into that vortex? And a lot of times they will and they’re just looking for willing victims.

So I want you to consider some of those things and being able to utilize those. I know for many years I really struggled with how to do this and then I realized in the scriptures that is not how it is solved. In fact, one of the things that I’ve noticed, this is just my personal take, is that to be with really good, wonderful people including God, that we need to become really good people because we have to want to be around him and be where he is and in order to be where he is and be comfortable there, we’re going to have to be our better selves and you will be amazed how often you really don’t want to be your better self.

You’re like, no, I really just want to stay on the couch and binge watch Netflix. I really don’t want to be my higher self. Right. I have been amazed how often I’m content with that and then this feeling, this rumble in my soul helps me get back to, no, I don’t.

This isn’t fulfilling this, this doesn’t do anything for me. I want to be my better self.

So when you consider that, I see how often when you choose not to have healthy behaviors, you don’t get to be with God. You don’t get to be with good people because their goodness requires that you up your game.

Just being who they are requires you to up your game because you have to start facing yourself. You are not going to get away with just bleh or going back into the haze. No, you’re with really good people who are up-leveling all the time and pretty soon it’s going to get uncomfortable and one of you is going to have to do something different.

And guess who that’s going to be? It’s probably going to be you or me that says, you know what? “I really don’t want this. I want to complain about my bunyans.” Right?

So if you to consider that because when we choose toxic behavior, we don’t get God, we don’t get him, we don’t get to live where he is and, and be where he is. Again, that’s my understanding.

So I’ve also realized over the years and in reading scripture and also in working with people that it took me a long time to value and validate my time is precious. My time is what I have that commodity that I have to decide what happens with that. And when I choose to give that time I had better be super wise because I have my family and that’s who comes first. And then I have the people that I’m helping and they come second.

That means my church responsibilities, my neighbor, my ministering responsibilities, those that I’m helping and loving and then those that I have a stewardship over and then people that I’m helping in my programs and in the things that I’m doing to help women and families. So that all takes a lot of time and I need to make sure that I am giving them the time that they need and that I have a stewardship over.

If someone’s going to try to drain my time by a toxic behavior, I’ve been able to come to a place of going, nope, you don’t get that. I choose no. I choose to divvy up my time with people who are going to be reciprocal and people who are going to respect my time. Now it doesn’t mean everybody walks around Pollyanna with you know, passing out daisies from a basket.

No, but what I’m talking about is those who are consistent life drainers with this kind of toxic personality. They do not deserve my time because they are not respecting it nor valuing it.

And again, I’m all about giving them choice. I want them to realize what they are choosing when they do that and especially with me. So again, something to consider about that.

In this book, The Compound Effect, I really enjoy, it’s by Darren Hardy. He talks about two principles that I wanted to share with you that I think are fantastic.

He says, “decide how much you can afford to be influenced based on how people represent themselves…It’s difficult. I know, especially with close family members, but I will not allow someone else’s actions or attitudes to have a dampening influence on me.

Now we all have people that don’t make the mistake of, of misunderstanding. What I’m saying, if you, if you don’t mind, I’m not talking about, oh, there’s a crotchety neighbor and they’re always crotchety. We have one of them in our neighborhood and we all just smile, and at Christmas time we bring them cookies and then occasionally we will pop by with a plant or something.

We’re like, hey, how are you doing? “It’s grumble, grumble, grumble” like, oh, okay. Well it’s so good to see you. And we love him. We just love it. And that’s just how he is. We got it, but he doesn’t sit and drain the lifeblood out of me. So that’s a different story. And I’ve also chosen not to allow that either, but I’m not talking about being kind to people or being there for them in their moment of need. I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about this perpetual, um, consistent, chronic kind behavior particularly.

So what he [Darren Hardy] says is “I’ve got a neighbor who’s a three minute friend for three minutes. We have a great chit chat, but we wouldn’t mesh for three hours. I can hang out with an old high school friend for three hours, but he’s not a three day guy. And then there are some people I can hang around for a few days but wouldn’t go on an extended vacation with. Take a look at your relationships and make sure here’s the kicker. You’re not spending three hours with a three minute person.”

Again, go back to how did I feel after interacting with that person. And then you have a choice, either you need to set clear boundaries or you need to make more intentional choices about how you engage with that person. Or that person does not get to spend time with you. You do not spend time with that person.

They don’t get that gift. That is you and your time and I love this other parts of something considered because it really does involve getting clear about what’s happening.

Remember I said earlier about being aware and then choosing how to weed out those toxic perpetual influences in a positive way and that involves setting healthy boundaries and I love this other quote that he says, again, this is Darren Hardy,

When you make the tough decision to put up boundaries between you and people who drag you down, realize they’ll fight you, especially those closest to you.”

Have you seen that in your life? When you try to shift it? Harriet Lerner talks about the dance and when you do a different step now at forces the dance to be different even when someone doesn’t want it to be and they’re going to fight for, to go back to that homeostasis, go back to what’s familiar, go back to those old patterns and they will fight to the nail.

If you haven’t experienced that, watch out, especially those that are closest to you. They do not want you to shift and it’s just a survival mechanism. A lot of times of just, that means I have to face my own demons. That means I have to change what I’m doing and I really don’t want to do that. So, recognize that’s the fight that they are feeling within themselves and that they’re manifesting to you.

He [Darren Hardy] continues, “your decision to live a more positive goal oriented life will be a mirror to their own poor choices. You will make them uncomfortable and they will attempt to pull you back down to their level. Their resistance doesn’t mean they don’t love you or want the best for you. It’s actually not about you at all. It’s about their fear and their guilt about their own poor choices and lack of discipline. Just know that breaking away won’t be easy.”

Isn’t that beautiful? Once you know that ahead of time, then you can be prepared for the difficulty of those choices of being able to say to someone, you know, this is just not gonna work for me. I really, I appreciate you and I love you and this kind of behavior is not working for me. It’s actually dragging me down and I’ve done a lot of different coping skills for me to try to deal with it and they’re not working, which means I’ve gone as far as I can go here.

So either you will choose to shift and if you like too, that’s great or we just not going to be able to spend time together and we’re going to need to take a break, whatever that looks like for you in a conversation. That may be what needs to happen.

What I’ve also found helps is when I’m engaging with someone with that personality and they’re “woe is me and they’re nothing’s ever going to be ride and it’s never going to be good enough or whatever”, then I try to put it back in their lap and just be able to put the ownership back where it belongs. So if you remember when I said, “well, what can you do about, um, I’m sorry that happened. What good thing happened to you?” Trying to put it back into their ownership and their choice to do it differently.

I have a good friend and she works with, um, assisted living buildings in the Midwest and she is amazing. She has, I don’t know, 16 buildings and she loves those residents and she makes sure those things run so beautifully and smoothly and helping those elderly to feel validated and valued and seen and loved and respected.

It’s just, it’s a beautiful thing to watch, but she deals with a lot of different personalities and she has to utilize those skills in her church efforts. She was given a stewardship over a lot of women and she found those things kind of came into play really well in these church responsibilities.

In this one particular situation there was, she was in a particular responsibility that was over, um, women who were then leaders in their own kind of congregations over the women. She met with a bunch of these different leaders individually and when they went to go meet with this one leader, they could tell right off the bat she was sharing this experience with me.

She could tell right off the bat this one, every time somebody brought something up, she was like, “no, we can’t do that because now that doesn’t work here because….no, that’s not gonna work because well, you might think that, but it doesn’t really work like that…..”and these kinds of responses.

And so when it came time for her to ask questions, she said, “I need to know how to do blah, blah, blah. I just, I don’t know what to do about this situation, I need you to tell me.”

I said, “what did you do?”

And she was so wise, she said, “I knew anything I said to this woman was not going to be received, nothing. So all I said to her was, you know, I know that you can pray and get your answers. I know that you have that capability. I have every confidence in you that you will find those answers. Good luck. Let me know how it goes.”

It was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Other people she talked to were receptive and she could give some tips and ideas and things that they said, “Oh, this is great, thank you so much. “

She knew this personality was not going to receive it and so she was wise. She didn’t spend her time and energy trying to convince or share or prove none of it. She just put it back in that woman’s court and let her figure it out because that’s what she was choosing.

I hope today you got some ideas. This is not the 11th commandment. This is not the only way to handle situations. These are things that I have learned from reading and some different things that have worked for me.

Just to kind of recap, if you’re have experienced dealing with the live draining person, remember you can, you can be aware.

What’s the pattern here?

How do I feel after being with this person consistently? Not just once in a while, they have a bad day, but it’s a consistent thing and how you feel after you’re having that interaction.

Then you recognize is it my part, is it their part, what am I contributing to this?

And then weed out the strangle. We’d read out the dodder, the, the D-o-d-d-e- r. Weed out those ones that are going to drain that lifeblood that they’re kind of poking around to see how much you’re going to tolerate. And then they will just drain you dry.

When you’re in that situation, if you want to give them choice than you can say things like:

  • I’m sorry that happened. What’s something good that happened to you today? What’s something good in your life?
  • Or you can say, well what are you going to do about that?
  • Or what have you done about that?
  • Did you want to talk with someone about that?

So that you can give them a decision or an opportunity to be able to move forward and do something about it because they know next time they see you, you’re gonna check up on him and they’re going to avoid you like the plague.

And then lastly, remember they don’t get your time.

If they don’t value and respect you and your time, they do not get your time. You have too many people that you have responsibilities over that need that time. So you can give them what you can, but that is it. When they can come to that middle line, when they can show that they can do something more than be toxic, then they can get more of that time and more of that goodness. More of you, more of that wonderful you.

All right, and again, the book that I took those quotes from was The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy.

Hopefully, you got some wonderful things today.

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