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This week I had the pleasure of leading a virtual program and discussion on how to identify and deal with the Drainers & Downers (D&Ds) in our lives and workplaces. I must admit, I’m passionate about this topic. Why? Because I think many of us have been led to believe that we are required to put up with negative, toxic, offensive, and disruptive behavior from others in all kinds of settings.

I’m tired of it. Maybe you are, too.

I’ve been around awhile and have dealt with plenty of D&Ds in both professional settings and in my personal life. At a certain point, which was probably far too late, I realized the devasting toll D&Ds were taking on my productivity as well as my mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. It wasn’t easy at first, but I began taking conscious steps to protect myself, and I’ve never looked back. Funny how much more pleasant life can be, how much more peace you can have, and how much more energized, creative, and productive you can feel when the Vampires of the Apocalypse have been identified and dealt with!

If this topic intrigues you, my new book More Than Just Talk includes an entire section devoted to dealing with D&D’s. For today, I’ll simply share a few myths and facts about D&Ds that will get you on the road to eliminating them. Or at least protecting yourself a bit more from them.  Ready?

Myth #1:  Oh sweetie. D&Ds don’t really exist. Everyone has bad days. We’re all human, and most people have good intentions.

Fact:  Hah! I wish this were true! D&Ds do indeed exist. What makes them different from someone having an occasional rough patch or irritable mood is that D&Ds behave badly A LOT of the time. Some don’t realize it. It’s become a habit. Or a means to an end.

See if any of these chronic D&D characteristics and behaviors sound familiar:

Anger   Annoyance   Attention-seeking   Badgering   Belittling   Bitterness  Blaming   Bullying   Complaining   Conniving   Criticizing   Defensiveness

Drama   Gossip   Grumbling   Harassing   Denial   Drama   Insults   Irritability   Judgement   Know-it-all-ism   Narcissism   Neediness   Negativity

Obnoxiousness   Outrage   Overtalking   Passive-Aggressiveness Pessimism   Pontificating   Preachiness   Playing the victim  Pushiness

Resentment   Rudeness   Sarcasm   Selfishness   Whining

I’m guessing that, in this very moment, you’re thinking of someone fits the D&D profile.  Yes, they do exist.

Myth #2:  D&Ds are a reality in the world and in the workplace. No one is perfect. We should be kind and compassionate to all.

Fact: Seriously?  D&Ds take a massive toll on us and in so many ways. Not dealing with them is not only enabling and dysfunctional, it’s also toxic and costly. Check out what Daniel Goleman has to say. He’s a Pulitzer Prize nominee and author of numerous books, including Social Intelligence: The Revolutionary New Science of Human Relationships and Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

“…nourishing relationships have a beneficial impact on our health, while toxic ones can act like slow poison in our bodies.”

Slow poison!

Would you mind taking a nonchalant swig of window cleaner or motor oil several times a day — simply because you thought maybe you were supposed to? Of course you wouldn’t! That would be insane! Yet D&D behaviors are indeed noxious and take a huge toll on our emotional, mental, and physical health, not to mention our productivity and organizational culture.

Still not convinced that D&Ds are a big deal or worth dealing with? Think of someone who could be a D&D in your life or workplace. Does that thought feel good? Or is your jaw starting to clench? Your stomach knotting up? A headache swelling? Would you take that person’s call right now?  Not me!

Myth:  There’s nothing we can do about D&Ds. We must learn to live with them.

Fact:  We can and should deal with them. And again, we do not have to put up with them.

As I mentioned earlier, my book More Than Just Talk includes an entire section on D&Ds, including a full range of options for managing them. These range from pure avoidance to proactively engaging to find out what exactly is going on and if necessary eliminating them from our midst.

Meanwhile, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Become aware. This is a powerful first step. Notice, notice, notice. How often do you encounter a D&D? How often do you allow one to hijack your time, energy, focus, or mood — or those of your loved ones or team? Probably way too often. Congrats! Now you can begin taking mental notes or otherwise documenting who your D&Ds are and the fallout they are creating.
  • Create and uphold solid boundaries. Once you’ve identified a D&D, you can choose to avoid them as often as possible. When this isn’t realistic, you can create and adhere to strict boundaries that keep you from getting involved in an interaction or at the very least help you minimize contact.
  • Vow to begin every conversation on a positive note. Often our first words set the tone of an exchange. This is not to say you should constantly tippy toe on eggshells. Just don’t meet trouble halfway by beginning an exchange, especially with a D&D, in a negative way. A D&D will grab onto that negativity and run with it.
  • Shift the vibe to something positive. If a conversation with a D&D drifts into negative territory, ask a question or make a totally off-topic statement that abruptly shifts the mood back to something positive.
  • Walk away. If you find yourself in a conversation that’s totally draining your battery, becoming antagonizing, sucking up precious time, or making you feel uncomfortable in any way, you are fully within your rights (and good etiquette) to make a quick exit. You can excuse yourself if it’s just an annoyance. (“Oh man. Look at the time.” “I really must get back to work.”) Or simply turn and make a swift exit without a word if it’s something worse.  No, you are not being rude. And honestly, who cares if you’re dealing with a toxic D&D?  Stop drinking the poison!

On that liberating note, I’d love to hear your thoughts on D&Ds. How do you avoid and deal with the D&Ds in your life and workplace? What other D&D discussion-worthy notes do you have for me? Comment here or email me at

Until then, I’m wishing you nothing but enjoyable, productive, and uplifting interactions with the loveliest people on the planet!