How to Set Boundaries with Negative People

How to Set Boundaries with Negative . Do you know some negative people or energy vampires? Setting boundaries is the key to managing difficult relationships with people who annoy you and deplete your energy.


Negative people deplete your energy

Negative people are like “energy vampires”. I first encountered the term energy vampire when I read Judith Orloff’s book Emotional Freedom (affiliate link) a few years ago. No matter what you call them, we’ve all encountered them. Energy vampires are those people who exude negative energy, drain you emotionally, and leave you empty and annoyed.


Healthy relationships should have a mutual give and take. Emotional vampires only take.

Most people intuitively know when they’re in the presence of an energy vampire. You feel physically tired around them. You dread seeing them. They squash your positive mood. They leave you exhausted.

Energy vampires can show up anywhere in your life. I recently encountered some among the parents on my son’s soccer team. Honestly, the soccer team hasn’t been playing very well. In fact, I don’t think they won a single game last season. And although it’s a competitive team, they’re nine years old and I don’t think we need to take winning or losing all that seriously. But it became apparent that some of the parents do take it very seriously or they’re stuck on everything that’s wrong. They groan and complain to each other about how poorly the kids are playing. They yell from the sidelines about all the missed shots. It’s a real drag to sit near them. They ruin the fun. So, I try to sit at the other end of the field in order to avoid their toxic vibes. They aren’t trying to be Debbie Downers, they’re just discouraged and frustrated. The problem is their negative energy ripples throughout the whole team.

Some vampires will bleed you dry intentionally. They’re mean and manipulative. They’re entitled and unpredictable. Others are more subtle and needy. They always have a problem, but are incapable of listening and helping when you’re in need. Some are like the soccer parents — chronic complainers who spew their unhappiness on anyone in the vicinity.


Who are the energy vampires in your life?

Does this description remind you anyone in your life? Jot down the names of the emotional vampires in your life. How many are there? How often do you see or talk to them? It helps to be aware of just how pervasive the problem is.

It’s also important to note that some people are more sensitive to other people’s energy in general. If you’re a highly sensitive or intuitive person, you’ll feel the effects of an energy vampire strongly and you’ll need to take extra precautions to protect yourself.


Set boundaries with negative people

Unfortunately, dealing with an energy vampire isn’t as simple as wearing a garlic necklace (or as gruesome as a spike through the heart!).


  • Limit contact. Your first defense against energy vampires is to avoid them when possible. Say “No” to invitations where they’ll be present. If you have to go, arrive late and leave early. Keep your office door shut. Don’t make yourself available at all hours to attend to their needs.
  • Nurture yourself. Whenever you’re experiencing something that’s taxing your time, energy, emotions, or other resources, it’s important to increase your self-care. Many people find that they need more time to decompress, be alone, and experience quiet when they’re dealing with an energy vampire. Keep this in mind and try to slow down, lighten your schedule, and prioritize time alone or with people who fill you up emotionally.
  • Release negativity. Negative energy needs an outlet. Some suggestions include journaling, exercise, psychotherapy, a hot salt bath, or a sage smudge stickan ancient tradition for releasing negative energy (affiliate link). Find a way to release negative energy that works for you; we’re all different.
  • Create some emotional space. One of the healthiest things you can do when surrounded by needy or negative people is to create some emotional separation. Consider saying these things to yourself:
    • These aren’t my problems.
    • I’m not responsible for other people’s feelings.
    • I am not the only one who can help.
    • What do I want to do?
  • Honor what you need right now. Listen to what your body and mind are telling you. Are you tired? Are you experiencing headaches or back pain? Do you feel overwhelmed? How can you meet these needs? It’s time to put yourself first and attend to your needs. Remember you can be your best self when you’re depleted.
  • Eliminate the “shoulds”. When you believe you should do something you create an unrealistic expectation. The result is either guilt when you fail to live up to it or resentment and burn out if you continually do things out of obligation.
  • Clearly state your boundaries. It’s imperative that you set boundaries. Vampires will walk all over you if you let them. You can’t assume that they know how you want to be treated. You need to explicitly and consistently state your boundaries by saying “No” when you don’t want to do something or know it will leave you exhausted, angry, or overwhelmed.


Try using a variety of these strategies to help safeguard your energy and well-being from the energy vampires or negative people in your life.



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©2016 Sharon Martin, LCSW. Originally published by the author on PsychCentral. All rights reserved.

Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.

One Comment

  1. Yes trying to deal with one right now and in a nutshell you are saying look after yourself and keep good boundaries with them and just stop seeing them so much – if at all if it’s pervasive

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