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Monday, February 2, 2015

Emotional Leeches

Heh! Heh! Heh!

I recently learnt a new term: "emotional leech". I know it sounds ummmm... perverted, but I feel like I have managed to discover a series of secret compartments in a Chippendale miniature writing desk. See HERE. You know, it is that feeling of repressed excitement that is about to bubble over in a giggle or two because you found something useful hidden in plain sight.

What are emotional leeches?
These are the people that are always in need, always come to you for advice, phone you up, and even after you have provided hours of advice, they don't do what is required to solve their problems. They feed off of your sympathy, kindness and attention, coming back for more. They can be friends, co-workers or family. They take up time that one could use in other productive pursuits.

I never knew emotional leeches existed because my old job did not require me to coach parents. In my current job, I need to help children. The process of helping children sometimes requires me to coach parents on specific action steps. I must say that most parents are quite normal. Once they grasp the action steps and principles, they act and resolve their children's issues quickly. Parents are busy people. They can be forgetful or distracted. Nonetheless, the large majority of them are able to follow the step-by-step instructions I provide where necessary.

There are the odd few parents whose lives are fraught with problems and issues. Such parents misinterpret my parent coaching as "emotional support" and then I am saddled with Too Much Information about the woes in parent lives that form seemingly daunting obstacles to their being able to work successfully to address their children's issues.

How To Recognise an Emotional Leech
(1) They like to mention "friendship" as an excuse for their own poor behaviour (tardy fees, expectations of 24 by 7 service levels from Dr Pet, expectations that Dr Pet will be available for all sorts of types of consultations). I have come to a point where all my warning bells ring when a parent tells me "We are friends, no?" ***** Ahhhhhhh! Run screaming down the dark tunnel****** Even worse is the phrase "We are GOOD friends, no?" Luckily, no one has presumed to be my bestie as yet.
(2) They lay on the guilt trip when you try to put down boundaries.
(3) They have a series of recurrent SAME problems.
(4) They have a lot of small problems.

How To Manage an Emotional Leech
(1) Minimise contact.
(2) Never feel guilty.
(3) Never give advice more than once. Preferably, do so in writing.
(4) Ignore all requests for advice on small problems irrelevant to work... or even big problems relevant to work, if these get too time consuming and energy consuming and advice has already been given.
(5) Set boundaries and enforce.

After a while, when a leech does not get what he/she wants, he/she quits bothering you and moves on to someone else. For more on how to deal with emotional leeches, go HERE.

I have discovered that emotional leeching is contagious! If you hang around an emotional leech long enough, you will run out of emotional resources and then you yourself will go find someone to leech onto. It is like vampirism. A vampire who sucks you dry turns you into a vampire.

Eww! Eww! Eww! I don't want to turn into an emotional leech. That will SO not happen to me. I know how to deal with emotional leeches now and I will. Ruthlessly.

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