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Negotiating With Energy Vampires

By JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton)

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Dracula himself would be no competition for energy vampires, those mortals whose purpose in life is to frustrate, distract, depress and anger their opponents, colleagues, friends and family. You have been bitten, albeit figuratively, whenever you’ve attempted to negotiate with them.

The Count could, of course, fly off toward the full moon. You’re stuck with trying to make sense of a negotiation that sucks the emotional, mental and intellectual life out of you. The result is physically tiring to a fare-thee-well.

Playing the Game

You can win when you learn to play their game, your way. The actions I’m recommending will stand you in good stead in professional and personal negotiations. Your purpose is to consider your own best self-interests while guiding and motivating energy vampires to join you in communicating logically and positively.

Accentuating the positive drives energy vampires crazy. It plays against their natural tendencies toward self-pity and complaining. However, flattery is a virtue when you are able to strike just the right chord in complimenting them. It’s worth the research to discover their soft spots.

Strategies & Egos

My goal is to prevent your saintly patience from erupting into thumping heartbeats, mumbling four-letter words and adjusting attitudes downwardly.

Energy vampires’ strategies, actions and behaviors are as deceptively simple as they are maddening. The traditional win-win negotiation mindset never occurs to them. All aspects of the negotiation will revolve around an ego-focused what’s-in-it-for-them philosophy.


The more you enable energy vampires to take advantage of you, the more you will turn your frustration inwardly as anger. Only when you do not allow them to make you do their work, can you stop this dastardly cycle of failing to set boundaries, pretending their problems don’t exist, and providing money and other resources that allow them to continue on their illgotten paths.

Be specific in describing precisely what you want and when you want it. Energy vampires will interpret your requests as they like, not with accuracy or logic.

Everything in Writing

Energy vampires’ memories and commitments to accuracy leave much to be desired. Email well before your first meeting. Specify date, time, location and attendees’ names. Attach the agenda and materials requiring advance review. The agenda, in addition to topics and spokespeople, must include start and end times for the meeting itself and each topic. Bold face an RSVP request and follow up until you receive one.


You enter the meeting room confident and fully prepared. You expect the other side to be just as ready. They are not. Nor did they even intend to be.

Punctuality is anathema to energy vampires. Insecure and doubting their own powers, their strategy is to arrive late, keep you waiting and waste time blaming others for their delay.

A meeting that does not begin as scheduled punishes professionalism and rewards energy vampirism. Common sense, logic and respect for yourself and other on-time members of both negotiating teams necessitates adhering to agenda timing. It does not require summarizing what has occurred when the energy vampires finally arrive.

Mutual Goals

The goal of most negotiations is effective communications and compromise leading to both sides feeling like winners. The goal of energy vampires is based on denial, lying, procrastination and delusional thinking. They will often agree for the sake of getting items past the stage of discussion, while never intending to follow through on commitments.

Centering Attention

Communicating to energy vampires means being the center of attention. It is in your best interest to control how centering that attention can progress the negotiation. Consider the Pareto 80/20 Rule that 80% of accomplishments are the result of 20% of actions. Focus attention of only those areas in which energy vampires hold both responsibility and authority for decision-making.

For the Record

A precise, careful, accurate written record of negotiation proceedings is essential. Audio or video recordings can be worth than weight in gold when memories reveal diametrically opposite realities.

Energy vampires are never anxious to do work, much less what they consider extra work. When you take the responsibility for the record of the proceedings, you know it will not only get done, but it will also reflect what actually took place.

No Decision is a Decision

Energy vampires do not realize, or refuse to face the reality, that not making a decision is a decision. Do not give them too many choices or they will impede progress by using the Yes, but…this is why it can’t happen gambit. You can agree to disagree and drop the non-essential topics forever. Essential topics need to be clearly and as concisely as possible negotiated within set timeframes.

They live to never do anything once if they can do it two or three times and still get nothing done. It is up to you to quickly stop the cycle. If the energy vampires’ focus is on activity that is not destined to come to fruition, do not allow him to luxuriate in repetition.

Historical Count Dracula

I assure you that Transylvanian noble Vlad the Impaler (aka Count Dracula) never permitted himself to be bested in negotiations with energy vampires: Nor should you.

JB Shelton Photo
JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton) is a journalist based in Raleigh and Oxford, NC. She writes about children growing up and grownups reinventing themselves. JB teaches Professional Negotiating Skills: Transforming Life’s Challenges into Win-Win Results at Duke University in Durham, NC.  Angel in Your Mirror: Musings from the Curly Mind of JB Shelton-Spurr is available on Contact her at [email protected].

Copyright © 2014 JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr
Copyright ©   2014  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  March 2014