Just about everybody has at least one of them in their circle of friends and relatives: energy thieves. They’re people who complain a lot, often have a negative attitude and steal a lot of your energy, leaving you feeling drained.

The first thing you should do is identify them. You could go through the list in your head and ask yourself, “What would my first reaction be if person X or Y called?” Would you hesitate to answer the phone? Would you think, “Oh no, not them again!”?

Both reactions are signs that the person costs you a lot of energy, writes psychologist Felicitas Heyne in the March edition of the German women’s magazine Emotion.

There are various ways to neutralise energy thieves. You can simply turn the tables and give the perpetual whinger an evening full of his or her own medicine. This can be an effective lesson. Some energy thieves will then realise just how taxing their behaviour is.

Sometimes only direct confrontation helps. For instance: “Listen, I’ve had enough! I don’t want to hear about that again. Either we talk about something pleasant or I’ll have to hang up.”

Another strategy to neutralise an energy thief is to suggest doing something together that doesn’t involve talking – such as going to the cinema. – dpa