Plugging the Areas Draining the Life Out of You

Marriage and other inter-personal relationships are a hot topic in the work I do. In addition to being an author, speaker, and trainer I also inform and inspire as a business/life coach. I work with leaders and front-line people alike in the professional realm, but I also help them find more balance personally, which often leads to one-on-one work.

Years ago, I identified something I call invisible drains. Best described as culprits in creating chaos, confusion, and conflict, these drains hinder human beings from enjoying a satisfying life, both professionally and personally. Invisible drains are simply those areas that drain time, energy, resources, and money from us, though we seldom recognize the true source. And they will drain the life out of you.

Most often in my work, I find people mistakenly believe some of their symptoms are the core problem, but upon closer examination, the real issues are revealed. And when it comes to relationships, there is one invisible drain that far surpasses the rest. Want to guess what it is?

Good, old-fashioned, clear communication. I remind people all of the time; communication is not cliche. So, let's look at some specifics when it comes to the impact of poor communication on work/home balance.

Communication drains us when we don't tell others how we feel in an honest, respectful, and mature way. The consequences are particularly massive if we hold onto fear, worry, frustration, and resentment over something we believe someone else is pressuring us to do. Making fear-based decisions is a common error in this case.

Emotional energy drains are invisible because we often don't pay attention to the time and energy we're expending, as we focus more on how we feel over the facts. We can lose time tossing and turning at night as we replay scenarios in our minds, or imagine what others might be thinking. Without adequate sleep, our next day is negatively affected by the consequences of fatigue: lack of energy, reduced mental clarity, and distraction. Left unresolved, in daylight hours we also tend to circle back to these thoughts, further weighing us down and hampering our productivity.

Expectation is the source of most, if not all conflict. And unless you exercise conscious intentionality, odds are, you will not communicate your expectations to others. (If you think you are good at this, I would suggest you ask those around you to confirm.) Human beings become upset for one of two reasons.

  1. We expect someone to do something and they do not comply.
  2. The other party does what we ask or tell them, but we do not express appreciation.

You can see how this can quickly generate negative emotions—even if they are not verbalized. And whether you hear about their reactions or not, invisible drains will suck the life out of your efforts to get things done or to enjoy peaceful interchanges.

And speaking of acknowledgment, I'm a raving cheerleader for public displays of appreciation (PDA). When you do not communicate your appreciation directly to the person who works alongside, with, or for you, over time, it will cause a drain. Do yourself and those around you a favor by plugging the common but no less invasive invisible drain created when people do not feel their efforts are noticed or acknowledged.

Some drains originate from the purely practical—especially when it comes to people not knowing what they don’t know. So at work or home, investing intentional time to teach others the necessary steps to do something well according to your expectations, can save you and them much angst. Think about some of your biggest pet peeves. Is it finances, cleaning and organizing, honey-do projects, workouts, or even sex? 

Whatever niggles at your mind is worthy of having an honest, detailed, but very respectful conversation about. This isn't about attacking someone, but about plugging drains with true understanding. Remember, you do not have the right to complain if you do not communicate. And I would be remiss if I did not mention one more crucial piece to the communication drain.

Never make the mistake of talking “at” someone, creating a monologue where there should be a dialog.  If you are not listening twice as much as you speak, you're likely creating additional invisible drains alongside the ones that already exist. Ask more questions, then focus on “hearing” the other person.

If you do nothing more than follow these tips to start, you'll soon see positive plugs working to prevent the invisible from draining the life out of you. After all, strong and healthy relationships make home and work more pleasant when you're there.

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