Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Are you a "drainer" or a "charger"? That's the question I asked yesterday. In other words, if I spent an evening with you, would I walk away emotionally ready to go or feeling all used up?

Your comments yesterday left me scratching my head. Everything from Liz who doesn't know what socializing means (snicker) to Rachel C. who seemed to be scratching her head -- at least at first -- that "draining relationships" might be part of a person's social life.

"Why," I wondered, "does this subject which is very real to me seem be be no big deal to my readers? Could it be because I have spent most of my adult life in a 'caring profession?' Or is it because I have just lived much longer than most of them?" (Don't answer that!)

I finally remembered that being always on call occasionally takes its toll and, while I am rarely woken up in the middle of the night with emergencies these days, I sometimes simply get tired. Those are the moments I become very sensitive to social settings in which someone wants to talk about church (that's spelled w-o-r-k for me) stuff or personal problems.

That said, I hope I don't sound totally selfish when I tell you that the following is how I love to be treated in my social life...

How to be a Charger (with no apologies to a certain NFL team that -- I'm sure -- stole my term. Just kidding.)

1. Become a sponge. Ask questions. Look for ways to briefly link an experience of your own to what another person tells you, then ask another question. Sympathize and empathize appropriately. Genuinely listen to what you are told.

2. Act like a mirror. When someone asks about you, answer as personally as you can (can you imagine that I LOVE to tell stories?). Then reflect the conversation right back to the other person. Repeat as needed. I like to get people talking about their interests. Often, but not always, men like to talk about their work and sports. If a woman has children, she usually wants to tell you about them. (If she pulls out pics of her grandchildren, politely RUN! Not really.)

3. Play. Most adults love some form of entertainment. In our family, it's table games. For others, it's dinner, movies, plays or concerts. For some, it's sporting events. (If you go to church and know your pastor, find out what he or she likes to do and take them. Don't once talk about church stuff while you're out. And, no -- seriously -- this is not a hint for myself.)

4. Pay. Cathy and I have wonderful memories about our younger years when kids were young, money was tight and friends invited us out. Someone would ask us to dinner and encourage us -- sometimes the whole family -- to order whatever we wanted because they wanted to treat us. Those are some very treasured experiences for us. We are now not so young, the kids are grown and we don't have to pinch pennies (is that shillings over there?) as much, so we get to treat others.

Employ one or more of these techniques and you just might have people lining up to spend time with you! (Give me your address and I'll be there tomorrow. Ahem.)

After your wonderful input yesterday, I await your responses with eagerness!


Heather said...

I think part of why this subject is so real to you is the 'caring profession' part. I've noticed in my own church that for the pastors and one other couple in particular, they didn't really have 'peers' the way most people did because they were always being looked up to and looked to for support and advice. I was very blessed that God gave me a heart for certain leaders in the church and I was able to be a friend that they could be real with, that they could go to for prayer and support.

I think another reason though, speaking of draining and charging, some people get their energy from being with other people, from lively conversation on all sides. Other people find this draining and they recharge from spending time alone or with only one or two other people. Surprisingly, it's often the latter that find themselves called to the 'caring professions'. They are also often the kind that people who are especially needy are drawn to.

Liz said...

I understand what you are saying. And sometimes I'm a charge and sometimes I'm not. I think it depends on the reason for the interaction and the circumstances.

The rare night out with a couple of close girlfriends? We all go home FULLY charged!

A friend hanging out after work, enjoying dinner, playing with my kids, but also witnessing the bedtime routine and the "let down" as Jeff and I decompress from the day? Not so charge-y.

And sometimes I need the charging and sometimes someone else needs it!

Dina said...

I can so relate to Heather's last paragraph above. I often feel a little overwhelmed if trying to engage with a group that is too large. My shyness factor really ramps up in these circumstances. However, I'm totally energized when hanging out with just a few friends or even getting to know just one or two new people at once. Also, I've learned that after several days of lots of activity, sometimes I just need to spend a quiet evening more or less alone to recharge. If I don't, not only am I drained, but even worse, I run the risk of becoming a dreaded drainer.

RMc said...

Heather - I definitely recharge by being alone. If I don't have sufficient alone time, my attitude definitely suffers...

Sam - Balance... How do it happen? You did start this with the socializing context, so with that in mind... I hope that I am more of a charger however I'm sure some folks would consider me a drain.

I work very hard not to let "work" enter into the conversation when I'm not in that context. Some folks tend to forget that aspect and won't talk about anything else!

I like the 4 things you've suggested to help stay on the charging side of the balance.

On another side of things, I tend not to initiate conversations with people when I feel that I might be the drainer because of things I need help with... Someone recently told me that my independence is both an asset and a liability. This is one area where it falls on the liability side of the balance sheet!!

Your art of asking good questions is being further refined...

Rachel Cotterill said...

I did some personality profiling (Myers Briggs, if you know it) where people are divided into introvert (recharge by being alone) and extrovert (recharge from other people). I'm a strong extrovert in this sense, and although there are plenty of things I enjoy doing on my own, I generall do better in a social environment. Even if that just means having my husband in the room while I write!

I've seldom offered to pay for people in restaurants (most people here would find that a bit strange, except in particular circumstances) but I'm always happy to feed people at my house! :)

We enjoy lots of games evenings, too. Great fun!

Sam said...

It is late in the afternoon and I am preparing to write tomorrow's post. I have followed your comments as they came in. (Rachel and Scriptor, I love it that I often wake up to comments from one or both of you. The time difference is something that benefits me!)

As often happens, I am stretched by each of your comments today. Heather, wow! You said a mouthful. As a pastor who discourages a wall of separation between clergy and laity, I loved hearing your perspective. Liz and Dina, the way you looked at yourselves in this area helped me better understand MYself. Rachel C., I will be at your house for dinner Monday night (snicker). Thanks for the reminder of what I have learned from various personality profiles.

Rodney, the Rednecked Reverend... I'm getting to you tomorrow!