Do you have any friends or family members that you find yourself making excuses not to see? Or who leave you feeling exhausted and drained after spending time with them? If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably felt guilty about feeling this way too. But no matter how hard you try to help them, they don’t really want to listen to your advice anyway. What’s more, if they do follow your suggestions, you can be pretty sure that it will all turn out badly (which is obviously all your fault.) These kinds of people are sometimes referred to as Drains.

Other identifying features of Drains

They will often start a conversation by subtly (or not so subtly) criticising you.

They will get a strange kind of enjoyment out of drama, and conflict. You’ll often hear ‘You’ll never guess what’s happened now!’

They will find reasons why you shouldn’t do whatever it is you were excited about doing.

Sounding familiar? By this point you are probably thinking of someone specific.


The opposite of Drains are Radiators, who are the kind of people who radiate energy and enthusiasm, and make you feel good when you spend any time in their company.

It would seem pretty obvious that you should be looking to surround yourself with Radiators, rather than Drains. And that’s good advice. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to cut people who are behaving like drains out of your life.

How to deal with Drains

Everyone can be a little Drain-like at times (including you?) so the first thing you might do is to see whether you can use your awareness of what is going on to help them shift out of Drain mode. Humour is an excellent tool here. Rather than getting upset or taking offence at their criticism or negativity, try stepping back a bit and just being gently amused. It takes two to play these kinds of games, and if you stop getting pulled in, they might stop complaining, criticising etc.

If you have a good enough relationship, you can also try gently pointing out to the Drain what is happening, and the impact it has on you. For example, you could say something like, ‘You might not realise it, but you’re actually being quite negative about this. I find it quite discouraging.’ You could get a defensive response, but they may also go away and think about it.

Finally, you can simply limit how much time you spend with them, and make sure you go into each interaction fully aware and mindful of what is likely to happen. Spending lots of time with Radiators will also help you to top up your reserves of tolerance and patience.