What Are Social Skills? Don’t Let Value Vampires Suck the Goodness out of Your Life.
From the “what are social skills” series: understanding value can help you spot value vampires.
Are you a value vampire? Or do you let value vampires feed on you? Before you answer that, let’s take a minute to recap the concept of value.
We usually associate value with the three “A’s:” attention, approval, and acceptance. When you offer these things to people, that gives them value. The body releases dopamine, and the person is fueled with positive feelings. It’s almost addictive.
Once you feel that rush, you start looking for it from others. It makes it easy to become a value vampire without even realizing it. That’s what we call people who go around sucking up value from others without ever offering any value in return. You give them value and you get zilch back for the investment.
We talk a lot about becoming high-value, which pretty much comes down to being the kind of person who is generous with their time, energy, and resources. Here are five things you can do to stay high-value when you’re dealing with a value vampire:
Value Vampire Killer #1 — Lead the Way
The first thing to do is to take lead. Make sure you’re managing the interaction and pointing it in the right direction. If you take the lead and show them the way, they may be able to learn to create a little more value for themselves and others by following your example.
Model being a high-value person to everyone, not just to the value vampires. Show them that being a positive, inspiring, cooperative person is a trait they should want to project to others.
If you’re able to get them to follow your lead, you’ve changed their life. They’ll feel better and will realize the reason is that they have become a more positive person. They learn they’re able to do that for themselves, and they don’t have to continue looking for it from someone else.
Value Vampire Killer #2 — Honesty
The second thing to do is be honest. You need to be frank with the person. A lot of us struggle with this when someone is sucking value from us. We get upset or frustrated, but we try to hide our feelings from them.
You also need to be honest with yourself. You need to know where your boundaries are when it comes to how much you’re willing to do for others. Don’t let them shove you over that line. Be honest and let the other person know how you feel.
Value Vampire Killer #3 — Less Time
Sometimes, leading the way and being honest doesn’t work as well as you might hope. If that happens, the third thing you can do is to simply give the person less of your time. Time is your most valuable asset. Once you spend it, you don’t get it back. So if you’re dealing with a value vampire who cannot get the message, it’s time to limit how much of your precious time you’re giving up.
Think of your time as a pie chart. You have work, hobbies, family, friends, and you only have so many hours in a day. It’s up to you to use your time management skills to determine who gets what slice of your pie. If there are not enough time slices to go around, it doesn’t make sense to give a big chunk of it to a value vampire.
You can swing back around and use Value Vampire Killer #2. Be honest with the person. Let them know you’ve got a busy week and won’t be able to fit them in. Sometimes a person continues to demand attention, approval, and acceptance from you and gives nothing in return. When leading the way and being honest hasn’t gotten the results you want, it’s time to offer less of your time.
Value Vampire Killer #4 — Dealing with Family and Coworkers
This can be a little trickier. You can’t pick your family. Most of the time, you can’t choose your coworkers. So how do you deal with value vampires in those groups? You can try the same things we mentioned earlier, positively leading the direction and being honest.
Honesty works best in family situations. Sometimes they don’t like anyone telling them to change or how to act. In these cases, your best bet may be to just set a good example and hope they’ll come around. If they don’t, just try to kill them with kindness when you have to be around each other.
We allow things to happen with family members that we wouldn’t tolerate with friends or coworkers. But when someone in the family is a value vampire, they’re not only hurting you but usually hurting other family members as well. Sometimes in these situations, you can get leverage if more than one family member or colleague is willing to start using similar approaches in handling the value vampire in your circle.
Value Vampire Killer #5 — Don’t Tolerate Emotional Manipulation
This is a value vampire’s favorite tool. They may try to make you feel guilty. Friends may say things like, “Oh, I see why you don’t want to hang out with me, you think you’re too good for me now.” They use emotional manipulation to try to make you feel bad for being high-value and having boundaries.
You may hear “I guess you’re too busy with your fabulous new life and your new friends.” They frequently have an “Eeyore”attitude: woe is me, everything is bad, and nobody loves me. When you hear those kinds of red flag phrases, recognize them as tools the value vampires use to try to make you feel bad about who you are and the things that matter to you.
You can try to let them know that it hurts you when they say those things, but often they’re in a lot of emotional pain themselves and may not be able to change their thought patterns. Sometimes you come to the realization they’re stuck in that pattern, especially if they aren’t willing to take some initiative to change.
It’s important to understand you won’t be able to change everyone. When you encounter a value vampire who insists on remaining a leech and nothing you’ve tried has helped, sometimes you have to leave them, find new friends, and just move on.