Avoid the Drains

By Dwight Longenecker Published on April 26, 2020

Some years ago I went to a seminar about relationships. The speaker’s catchphrase was, “Avoid the drains.”

By “drains” he meant a certain type of negative person in your life. A “drain” is a person who, like a drain, sucks you into a downward spiral. A drain sucks you dry. A drain leaves you empty. A drain drains you. They drain your emotions, drain your peace, drain your spiritual life, drain your mental life, drain your time, drain your money. They are drains.

Four Kinds of Drains

The Whiner Drain

The first category is the whiner drain. This person is not just a “half empty instead of half full” personality type. It’s worse than that. For whatever reason they do nothing but complain. They complain about their health, about the weather. They complain about their boss, their spouse, the government and the church. They blame others all the time, and their blaming and complaining drains you dry because you feel you must listen to their whining.

The whiners have spotted you as someone who will give them sympathy. The drains are good at that. They know how to latch on to the sympathetic people and suck them in. The whiner drain makes you realize they have serious problems. If you’re not careful they will drain you with their complaining so that eventually you become worried about them all the time.

But the whiner drain will never do anything about their problems and furthermore–the really strange thing is— they don’t really want you to do anything about the problem either. That’s because they like to complain. They actually like being miserable. The sooner you realize this about the whiner drain and avoid the drain the better off you will be.

The Arguer Drain

The second type is the arguer drain. The arguer is always looking for a fight. He’s wants someone to disagree with because he gets a buzz from being right. Stop and think. The arguer drain doesn’t actually want to win the fight. You’ll discover this when you agree with him. He’ll stop for a moment, not sure what to do about you agreeing with him. There will be a pause then he’ll start another argument. He’s the arguer drain. He argues because that’s how he gets attention. If you allow yourself to get sucked in, you will find yourself obsessed with thinking up how to answer him and how to get the better of him. Don’t go there. Avoid the arguer drain.

The Self-Pitying Drain

The third type of drain is the self-pitying drain. They are like the complainer, but they’re fare more manipulative. They wallow in their self pity and put on a mournful and sad expression. If you ask how they are they will pretend they are okay, but their self pitying look says it all. They are sucking you in. They want your sympathy. They want you to do something for them. They want you to cheer them up. But they’re the self pitying drain. They don’t really want to be cheered up. They don’t want their problem to be solved. They get attention with their self pity. They wouldn’t know how to live without their self pity. They want to suck you in with you sympathy and good will. Don’t go there. Avoid the drains.

The Angry Drain

A fourth type of drain is the angry drain. The angry drain is usually also the self righteous drain. They are angry with the rest of the world for being so sinful, so depraved, so selfish and proud. They are the angry drain. They will draw you in and invite you to share their anger and their accusation of others. They want you to participate in their anger and share their self righteousness. If you listen to them you will be drawn in and soon you will share their anger, their fear and their suspicion of others.

Cleaning Out the Drains

My advice to avoid the drains may sound harsh. Aren’t we supposed to help people in need? Should we really avoid those we find unpleasant? Isn’t that a cop out? If we don’t help them who will?

Yes, you should avoid the drains, and here’s why: the drains don’t want to be helped. They are happy being miserable. They self dramatize. Their complaining, self pity, arguing and anger makes them feel good. It makes them feel important and most of all it makes them shift the responsibility for their problems to someone else.

So how should you avoid the drains? I’m not suggesting that you would be unkind. Don’t cut them off. Don’t exclude them or make the feel guilty. Don’t reject them.

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There is a simple trick to avoid the drains:

When they complain argue or indulge in self pity, when they are angry and blaming others, when they are demanding…

…Do one thing.

Listen politely and kindly to their problem, then ask, “Well, what are you going to do about that?”

That’s right. Listen carefully then inquire, “What are you going to do about that?”

This simple question forces them to stop shifting the blame and take responsibility for the problem. If they come up with a plan of action, they are not a drain. If they are prepared to do something about the problem, then roll up your sleeves and volunteer to help in any way you can.

If you ask that question and they do not come up with a plan of action you will not have to do anything to avoid them…

..Because they will avoid you.


Go here to check out Dwight Longenecker’s new book Immortal Combat-Confronting the Heart of Darkness.

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