Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Six Ways to Handle Your Sucker

Photo by AmankyThere once was a girl who was bubbly
She made a lot of friends suddenly
At the drop of a dime
She complained all the time 
And scared all of her new friends asunder-y
- Nursery Rhyme and poetic license courtesy of Ms. Pillowz
Ain't I talented?  :-p

Behold: The Sucker
The other day, we had a visitor.  He'd had an operation and I was so happy to see him back up on his feet.  The visit started off pleasantly with him talking about what he is doing to stay active in his recovery and plenty of jokes thrown in to boot.  Suddenly, the visit took a nosedive.

He started complaining about what happens to the body as you get older.  He complained about his other health issues.  He complained about problems that he is having with people in his family.  He complained that some of his old friends have been avoiding going out to dinner with him lately.

What started off as a pleasant visit quickly turned into something dark and exhausting.  What's worse is that he has been this way for a few years now.  He is a total Sucker.  

Definition of a Sucker
A sucker is someone who spews their negativity on their relatives, friends, or acquaintances, and sucks up their time and energy while leaving behind frustration, exhaustion, and more negativity.  We're not talking about a one conversation vent session, but several conversations over a period of time.  Perhaps weeks or months or even longer.  

There are different behaviors that suckers tend to exhibit.  Besides complaining a lot, they can also be whiners, people who constantly ask for money or other things, drama queens, and people who don't take responsibility for their problems.

Suckers have the same problem(s) that come up and they don't make any progress in fixing it.  You can offer to help them, give them advice, refer them to others who can help, but for some reason either they say that it can't work or that it didn't work.  Suckers thrive on a lot of attention, but most importantly, Suckers don't contribute much to you, if they do at all.

They are constantly taking and not giving anything back.  It's a lopsided arrangement that will eventually fall flat.

Suckers just suck.  (Click to tweet it!)

Discovery of Suckers
I've had my fare share of experiences with Suckers, but it never really bothered me.  I am The Fixer.  I am the one that people call for help.  I know my role and enjoy being of assistance, so I didn't mind my friends calling to cry on my shoulder, vent, or ask for advice.

I'm sure that I have, at some point, exhibited some Sucker-like tendencies with some of my friends, as well.  I have complained a great deal about the same thing or vented about an issue for a while.  However, I'd like to think that I rebalanced things by listening to my friends' problems or by being supportive to them in some way.  Things haven't gotten so out of whack that any of my friends have avoided me.

I didn't exactly understand what a real Sucker was until I met someone, who we'll just call Nina.  She was nice and an absolute riot.  We had a lot in common and we got along really well.  After a few conversations, I noticed that she was super negative.

She had problems with everything.  She had issues with the people she worked with, she had man issues, issues with her family, issues with money, and so on.  At first, I would listen and try to help her by giving advice and suggestions.  Nothing ever worked.  Either she had a reason why it wouldn't work or she already tried that and it didn't work.  Then, it got to the point where all I would have a chance to say was "hello" and she would take over and complain through the ENTIRE conversation.  

During this one conversation, I could, literally, feel my energy draining with every word she spoke.  I laid down on my couch and drifted off a few times without her missing a beat.  After we hung up, I had to take a nap.  I felt so used up!  That was when I realized that this was another level that I couldn't handle.

I stopped calling her and avoided her phone calls.  I know that that wasn't the right way to handle things.  I was younger and didn't really know what to say to her.  I didn't want to call her out, as I tend to avoid confrontation.

Six Ways To Deal
We all have had our experiences with Suckers.  For some of you, this is an issue that you are still dealing with.  Here are a few tips:
  • Be honest - If your Sucker is someone who means a lot to you and you want to remain friends, try being honest.  It isn't a good idea to do this during or right after one of their Suck Sessions, when you are feeling frustrated or angry.  It's much better to wait until you are in a better frame of mind and then carve out a time where you direct the conversation.  
Tell then that you love and care about them, but their problems are becoming a burden to your relationship.  Let them know how you feel in a loving manner.  Things won't change overnight, but by bringing it to their attention, maybe they will be more aware of their behavior and make an effort to fix things.
  • Stage an intervention - This also involves being honest, however the intervention involves other people in your circle who interact regularly with the Sucker and have similar issues with their behavior. 
  • Ignore the behavior - You can always let them be.  You can start your conversation with pleasantries and other things that you want to discuss, but once things start heading to Sucker Town, take a deep breath, and get ready.  
In the A New Earth series on OWN, Eckhart Tolle talked about a Sucker, (I'm calling her that), who constantly came over to complain.  She came over one day like she normally did and started complaining.  He looked at her and was present for her without giving her any of his energy.   He didn't say a word.

In the middle of her rant, she stopped and said that what she was ranting about really didn't mean anything at all.  She had come to that realization right in the middle of a sentence.  Then, she grabbed her papers and left.  

I do believe that you can be present and allow them to continue doing what they normally do without them negatively affecting you, but it can be a process that could take time to master.
  • Set limits for yourself and stick to it - You can set time limits on your conversations, so that you don't get too bogged down in the muck.  Tell yourself that the minute that the sucky behavior starts, you will only allow yourself to listen to it for 10 minutes.  You can also start the conversation by telling them that you have a limited amount of time to talk.
  • Divert the discussion -  As soon as they start driving you down Sucker Road, you can change the direction of the conversation to something that you both find enjoyable.  Tell a funny story or find something to help lighten the mood or end the conversation completely. 
  • Shed them - Release it gently - Shedding them is pretty harsh.  It is also very hard to do with friends who you genuinely care about.  Instead, you can release the tight hold on the friendship.  Give yourself some distance to focus on the things that are important to you, things that make you happy, and others who support you.  Ease back on calling, spending, or giving too much of your time.  Do check in from time to time, spend as much time with them that you can allow.  You are in control, so you get to set the parameters.  
Tell Us
In the comments below, tell us about your experience with Suckers?  How did you deal with them?  What was their reaction?  

Also, be on the lookout this week for new pages!

Photo credit lurve: Photo by Amanky


  1. Question - how do you know if you are the sucker? What can you do to stop if you are?

    Love you and love the limerick!

    1. These are great questions! I think that the best way to identify it is to think back to a recent conversation that you've had and really reflect on how the conversation went. Did you speak for most of the conversation? Were you gossiping or venting? Did your friend get a word in? Did you start right in on what's going wrong in your life? Did you ask your friend how things are going with them? A one off conversation like this does not make one a sucker, so apply the questions to as many of your recent conversations as you can. If you answered yes to these questions for your conversations over a long span of time, then you just might be a Sucker.

      The first step in stopping it is being aware that you do it. Once you're aware, you are more likely to strive to balance it out. Start the conversation by asking your friend how they are doing, listen more to what they have to say. Abstain from gossiping or venting and allow the conversation to be about them. That's what I would do to start off.

      Thank you so much for your questions! I think I might have to do a post for Suckers who want to rehab their ways. Hope my answers help and be on the lookout for the follow up!

  2. You call them suckers, I call them joy thieves. My method is to tune out most of what they say and limit my time with them. The goal is to spend time with them in situations that bring out the best in them and avoid all topics that lead to sucker/ joy thief type tangents.

    1. You are absolutely right. This is especially good for Suckers / Joy Thieves who are really good people who's company you enjoy up until something happens and they take things too far.

  3. I really like your tips for handling suckers. I have one I need to use these on NOW.

    1. lol Good luck, Janeane, and let us know how it goes!

  4. I find it helpful (as kindly as possible) to ask these people straight out: Wow, sounds like you're having a tough time. Do you want my advice/opinion, or are you just wanting to vent to release the stress a bit? With either response, I always softly suggest they talk to a professional as I don't feel equipped to be able to help them and that I'm concerned about their well being.

    From then on, as soon as they start the downward spiral into whining, I butt in and exclaim: wow, are you still feeling like this? I'm worried about you, that's not good, I still think you really need to talk to a counselor. Let's call someone now and make an appointment.

    Then when they do it again (and they will!) I am a bit harsher and say: look, I have to be honest. You're stuck in a pattern and really need some help. I care about you so I really encourage you to talk to someone professional about this to help you break the pattern.