Developing a support network

Draining and sustaining relationships

Draining relationships

These relationships take many forms and can be very destructive. They slowly drain off our energy, frustrate us, and generally make for an unhealthy negative environment. Some of the different types of people who contribute to draining relationships:

- People who dump all of their problems on others.

- People who are volatile and explode without warning.

- People who manipulate others to get their needs met.

- People who complain about their things and never do anything to change their situation.

- People who feel entitled to special attention and consideration.

- People who don’t communicate well and feel that you should already know what they want.

- People who criticize all the time, but never tell you what you do right.

- People who are intrusive and ignore the rights of others.

- People who are possessive or jealous.

- People who do not tell the truth.

The reason why people become draining individuals is that they have felt unable to manage certain aspects of their lives in the past. They developed dysfunctional ways to cope with this powerlessness, and unfortunately the dysfunctional ways worked for them at the time. Thus, the behaviour was reinforced.

Relationships continued to pattern because the individuals were perhaps too young to realise the effects their behaviour had on them. The hope was that they would be able to continue to get their needs met. The pattern became an unconscious one.

Draining people come in all shapes, sizes and levels of authority. The level of draining also comes in different intensities. Some people may drain occasionally, others - on a daily basis. By learning to watch out for such behaviour, you can build a buffer zone for yourself that acts as a protection for your valuable psychic energy.

Personal relationships

One of the most frequent types of these draining relationships in our personal life is the dump-and-run. These people come in two types: those that use others to vent their problems, and those that drop work or responsibilities on others.

When the dumper-drainers are finished unloading their problems, fears or anger on someone else, they depart feeling relieved. The receiver of such behaviour winds up pressed by the weight of that person’s problem because all of that negativity was left behind. The receiver may even feel some responsibility for the feelings of the dumper.

This dump-and-run type often does not want to resolve personal situations or becomes stuck in the problems, unable to move into the solution. It is as if their emotions flood their brain and there is no room for adult thinking. So, the only escape from this overload is to deposit it on someone else.

The second type of dump-and-run drainer, when overwhelmed with responsibility of work, sheds the weight by dropping duties or commitments into the laps of friends or family.

Another common category of draining person we find in our personal life is the criticiser. This person feels that it is her duty to inform you of what you have done wrong and what you should do to fix the situation. This type is the consummate advisor and authority on everything.

An additional draining relationship that we see in both our personal and professional life is the incompetent-person type. This is a person who cannot do anything independently. He is always making mistakes, asking others to take over, and generally acting unable to figure anything out without help.

A final type of draining relationship is the bully. This is someone who uses intimidation to coerce others into giving him his way. He often uses anger to manipulate others’ needs because he is so needy himself. Men and women are equally guilty of this draining approach.

Draining people in industry situations

It is especially unfortunate when the draining person is your manager. Association with a manager is an important relationship, and effective handling of it must be a priority for a healthy work environment.

A draining manager can make each work day very uncomfortable. She can cause great anxiety, contribute to an unhappy and unhealthy place to be. The situation often leaves the employee feeling hopeless and helpless, with little or no control over what happens to him.

The draining types that might exist in personal relationships might exist in ample numbers in the workplace too. Coworkers or team members can dump and run, the head of operations can be a bully, and your supervisor can plead “I’m new” for an entire year. Sadly, many never outgrow the dependent, overbearing or thoughtless patterns of their childhood. Maturity required to be involved in respectful, sustaining connections with others does not necessarily come with age.

Sustaining relationships

Sustaining relationships contribute to your overall well-being and sense of feeling valued and cared for. They support without crossing your boundaries, fortify you emotionally, provide a place from which you can view the world in safety, offer opportunity to be yourself without criticism, light up your environment with their unqualified acceptance, offer strength to your spirit, lighten the burdens of life and enable you to move forward with hope. All sustaining relationship have certain characteristics in common:

- Comfort and consistency allow for free flow of emotions.

- Both the person and the feelings are valued.

- Needs are met in a reciprocal fashion.

- Listening is two-way and responsive.

- Personal limits and boundaries are respected.

- Reasonable expectations are met with reasonable support.

In sustaining relationships, people genuinely like and admire many of the qualities the other has. They are also very accepting of each other’s imperfections. A value in these types of relationships is to do what it takes to maintain and enhance the relationship. Self is secondary to the relationship. Ironically, the solidarity of the relationship enhances self.

Sustaining business relationship

Sustaining relationships can also be quite valuable in business. They can offer support, knowledge, connections and direction.

One element of sustaining relationships is especially important in business: boundaries for self and for others. This is needed for several reasons.

1. In business, all relationships have an impact on the company.

2. In business, the relationships should be primarily on an intellectual level.

3. Certain protocols exist in business to ensure the recognition of power relationships and accountabilities.

4. Fairness of treatment among employees can be jeopardised if boundaries and limits of relationships are not observed.

Professional networking relationships

Formal and informal groups are found in every profession. Unions, service organisations, and civic groups, as well as career specific organisations, all provide the potential for relationships and for professional support. Networking in this manner is not structured, but can be very valuable to help you move to new jobs or advance in your profession.

Before you get excited, you should limit your expectations from a relationships perspective. Everyone in the room is to either sell services or gain valuable information or leads from each other. The most successful people attending may offer you business or assistance that they can pass along without any real loss to themselves. However, in general, expect an all-business, though congenial, situation.

Adapted from

McKee, S.L. and Walters, B.L., 2002. Transition management: A practical approach to personal and professional development. Prentice Hall.

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