By Andrew Leigh


Productivity, Energy, Self-Belief – they’re all Affected by the balance of Drains and Radiators in Your Life.

Here’s some common and sound advice you may already have heard: there are two kinds of people – drains and radiators. Get rid of the drains in your life and find more radiators.

But how do you recognise the drains – and what do you do if they are a part of your life? And – (horror!) what if there are times when you act as a drain yourself?


Radiators first. Radiators are the people who put the life into the saying ‘smile and the world smiles with you.’ Radiators are infectious. They naturally make people feel good about themselves. They radiate their energy and enthusiasm like rays from the sun. They are inquisitive and playful but focused too. They have a cup half full mentality.


The Drains are those people in your life who one way or another leave you feeling diminished after you’ve been with them. You know the feeling – you started off a conversation bright and positive and you came out of it dull, negative and frustrated, or maybe unexplainably cranky and irritable.

If you want to achieve below your potential, think badly of yourself and everyone else, and look for the cloud in every silver lining, the answer is easy, just surround yourself with Drains.

The sad things about Drains are that; a) they don’t realise they’re a Drain; b) they don’t actually gain the energy that gets drained away from their victims; and c) they drain their own energy too.

Here are a few of the more common draining strategies.

  • They put you on the defensive – for instance, right at the start of your meeting they’ll criticise something you’ve either done or haven’t done. This is a tactic that’s frequently employed by the ones you love most. And you will often feel a sense of dread and guilt just from thinking about talking with these people.
  • They include you as one of their failure group – this is the kind of inclusion we can all do with out.
  • They point out the pitfalls and dangers of following your dreams and aspirations. It’s a great way of killing your enthusiasm stone dead. Although this kind of ‘advice’ always seems to be given with the best of intentions, I’d argue that your success would be a real threat to the Drain’s comfortable acceptance of their own victim status.
  • They demand one-way attention – and then drone on about topics that are of little interest to anyone but the Drain.
  • They top your problems with worse ones (usually their own) – and top your achievements with better ones (usually someone else’s). When all you needed was to be heard and acknowledged, did you really think you’d get it from a Drain? No chance.

The chances are that you do have Drains in your life. Your first lines of defence are definitely recognition and awareness. If the drain is someone with whom you can easily minimise contact then recognition is probably all you need.

If you monitor your energy levels, your self-esteem and your negative emotions you’ll soon figure out who the drains are. If you want more data, then monitor how you feel when you are planning to see them. Once you begin to look it becomes very obvious – so obvious you’ll wonder how you never spotted it before.

Awareness is useful when you have to be, or want to be in contact with the Drain, for instance, someone you love deeply like a parent or sibling. Spotting their favoured strategies is vital. Once you understand them, you may wish to try some of the following approaches. You’ll need to be patient and careful but over time you can make a real difference.

  • Give yourself some armour against their weapons. How? By first understanding their effect and then steeling yourself against them. Attitude is everything here: you can simply refuse to be drained.
  • Turn your encounters into a humorous game. Again attitude is important. Wait for the attempts at drainage to begin, and be amused by the process.
  • Refuse to play their game or accept their terms of engagement. This one can take some perseverance and tact, especially if the Drain is a loved one. But by consciously changing your typical response – or by pre-empting their usual strategies, it’s possible to reshape the relationship into a more positive one.

Finally, remember that you also have a responsibility not to drain others. Don’t drain or be drained.

Do fill your life with all the positive thoughts and energy that come from being among the radiators. It’s actually a very simple strategy for life – but an extremely powerful one indeed.

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Andrew Leigh helps people achieve better work and business performance, whole-life wellbeing, achievement and change, and fulfilling new life directions.

To find out more about how life coaching can transform your life visit

Copyright 2007 – Andrew Leigh. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Reprint Rights: You may reprint this article as long as you leave all of the links active, do not edit the article in any way and give author name credit.