Saying Goodbye to Drain People

Posted on March 28, 2015 by Robert Ringer


In my book Million Dollar Habits I wrote at length about the dangers posed by Drain People, those who drain others of time, energy, peace of mind, and, all too often, money. Unfortunately, there are no statutes on the books outlawing the actions of Drain People. The only foolproof defense against them is to keep them out of your life.

As a now-forgotten student of human nature once warned, you’ll never smell like a rose if you roll in a dunghill. No matter what else you do right, if you associate with the wrong people, it’s virtually impossible to succeed.

In addition to causing you endless complications, Drain People will make you look bad in the eyes of others because of the generally accepted truth in the old adage, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Whom you associate with is like a neon sign that informs the world where you are on the success ladder at any given point in time.

Early in my business career, a young hotshot marketing guru (“Frank Fabricator”) with whom I was involved in a business deal so offended me with his blatant deceit that I made the decision to strike him from my life and cut off all communication. I reasoned that if he could stoop to such a low level of integrity on this particular occasion, it must be such an entrenched part of his personality that he would not hesitate to do it again if the opportunity were to present itself.

Nevertheless, Frank sent several letters of apology to me over the years, and, masochist that I was, I finally relented. I not only reopened the lines of communication with him, over time I began discussing a number of business proposals with him as well.

The gory details of the story make me blush, so I’ll just skip to the bottom line. After a brief period of time, Frank, in a clear-cut manner, proved that the first time around was no accident — that he was an individual who was capable of descending to dastardly levels of insincerity. Not only did he once again display a stunning lack of character at the moment of truth ($), he managed to actually outdo his earlier reprehensible deeds.

This little anecdote may have reminded you of a similar experience from your own past, because most of us take the same classes during our enrollment at Homer Simpson U. It’s why they stamped “Doh!” on our diplomas when we graduated.

We would all do well to remember the Law of the Scorpion, based on a fictional tale of a scorpion who asks a frog if he can hitch a ride on his back to get to the other side of the pond. You already know the rest of the story or you wouldn’t be reading my blog, so I’ll just skip to the moral of this little tale, which is simple and straightforward: Once a Drain Person, always a Drain Person.

Meaning that a Drain Person simply can’t help himself, because his desire to drain you of valuable resources is irreversibly ingrained in his nature. Always keep this in mind and heed the wisdom contained in an ancient proverb that warns: You must have gold to make gold.

Make no mistake about it, eliminating Drain People from your life can be a difficult task. One reason for this is that sidestepping a persistent Drain Person can cause significant discomfort. Another is that even when you know someone is a Drain Person, it’s often tempting to make an exception for short-term profit. This is known as: Major Mistake. Trust me, you can’t afford the long-term cost of such an exception.

In addition, it’s human nature to want to give others the benefit of the doubt, which is why you often hear remarks like, “But he means well.” Maybe I’m dense, but I don’t understand what “he means well” means.

I know what high blood pressure is. I know what a headache is. I know what aggravation is. But I’m not sure what “means well” is. Does it mean that someone should be allowed to rob you of your valuable time and energy because he purportedly has good intentions?

The truth is that you don’t have enough hours in your life to give sufficient attention to the people whom you already know to be worthy of your time, so why stretch your welcome boundaries to include people who aren’t? It’s far better to trust your instincts and err on the side of caution.

I find that with each passing year, my instincts about people continue to improve, and undoubtedly you’ve found the same to be true of yours. The guideline I try to follow when it comes to handling potential Drain People is: When in doubt, keep them out!

The hard, cold fact is that people rarely, if ever, change, so it’s a big mistake to believe that a Drain Person will evolve into something he is not. On the contrary, bad character is malignant; it grows and spreads if not removed early on. Thus, once a person begins to drain you of time, energy, and other valuable resources, it’s wise to cut your losses short and get him completely out of your life.

And, by the way, be sure to close the door behind him, because once a small evil has managed to make its way inside, you can be sure that greater evils are waiting to gain entrance.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

34 responses to “Saying Goodbye to Drain People”

  1. Jon says:

    Too soon old and too late smart! Spot-on, Robert!

  2. Douglas says:

    You are absolutely right. After all, Atlas Shrugged for a reason, did he not?

  3. Bill Laux says:

    Ayn Rand referred to producers and looters. Howard Galganov, the Canadian columnist, talks about makers and takers. Looters, takers, Drain People — all the same bunch of freeloading scum.

  4. Carol says:

    I got rid of a drain person several years ago, and though she has tried to get back in many times, I have never let her…t o the point that I look the other way when I pass her on the street, in case she construes eye contact to mean I am open to her approach. It took me over twenty years to realize how much she drained me…of time, energy property, dignity, integrity and yes, money too. She had masqueraded as a friend while her real intent was to take as much as possible from me, even trying to get me to do such things as shoplift and sneak into events without paying admission. Thankfully I resisted doing anything illegal, but I had to suffer her derision because of my refusal. The day I told her to leave my house and never come back was like lifting an enormous weight off my shoulders. I have no regrets, and have been doing my happy dance ever since!

  5. texas wolfie says:

    Drain People are doubly dangerous and twice as hard to shake if you are related to them. I got a brother-in-law who fits this description to a "T".

  6. larajf says:

    There's no place in my life for someone who takes something for nothing…or worse, takes something with the intent to hurt.

  7. mamalou says:

    The drain person in my life is my only close relative. Is it possible to limit the damage caused by a drain person you can't entirely remove from your life?

  8. J. A. says:

    Is it just me, or does it seem that the number of, and intensity of, Drain people is exponentially exploding across the landscape. Many otherwise capable people would rather be parasitic pains in the rear-end, rather than be normal, self-reliant decent human beings looking for win-win, positive and productive interactions with others. Obviously, "pop culture," so-called academia, Hollywood and Lord knows "government" all champion the Drain people. Perhaps there could be an award titled "Drain Person of the Year." The fierceness of the cut-throat competition for such an award is almost impossible to contemplate, especially for the opposite of Drain people…maybe we should call ourselves the "Natural Spring" people – constantly replenishing what the Drain people keep taking. Or maybe those of us indulging Drain people should be called something more accurate – like "saps" or "easy marks" – until we gut Drain people from our existences.

  9. Val Vassay says:

    Yes, I know all about drain people having had a "friend" for over 20 years (to whom I was unpaid chauffeur, without ever having volunteered for the job!). Finally, another friend asked me if I knew she was speaking 'very badly' about me when I wasn't there. I might not have believed this had it not been for the fact that the Drain miscalculated and, on the very same day, rang my home and accused my husband of behaving badly at a dinner we'd been at together. My husband is the perfect gentleman – to her and everyone else he meets. That was it. I never had anything to do with her again, and I never missed her.

  10. Most of my blood relatives are drain people, and I've either severely limited my connections with them, or cut them off altogether. It can be done if it must. Yes, it hurts like hell – but the alternative is much worse.

    • Alex says:

      Good for you! I discovered the same phenomenon about many of my own blood relatives: my sister, all her children, my step-sister and step father… every last one of them all DRAIN PEOPLE. I follow the universal rule that goes like this: "Freedom of choice. No freedom of consequence!" Absolutely NO GLENN CLOSE PEOPLE in my life! (movie: Fatal Attraction).

  11. JAY says:


    • Stefani says:

      Be very sure that your prospective partner passes the "Drain Person" litmus test before you make a commitment. You and your spouse should be an asset to each other – not a drain. Only way it will work!

      • Robert Ringer RJR says:

        I second that, Stefani.

      • psychicmindvandervoort231 says:

        Yes, but… when you believe you are "in love" and you are young…
        it is almost impossible to be rational. I left a good woman and 3 children when I saw I would be nothing but a "workadaddy" until I died if I stayed. So I was the "bad guy" after I left. I had two wonderful careers I could never have had if I'd stayed. I am still seen as the bad guy including by my ex-children. I am now old and proud of my accomplishments, but… I did hurt four people in order to do the good I did. So, all I can do is point to IS and let the OUGHT to the judgment of others. I'm sure I'm not the only man or woman who faced such a decision.

  12. vg vi says:

    Boy, Do I wish I would have read this years ago…not that I would have listened back then. Great advice!

  13. Guy Castagne says:

    Your piece reminds me of a quote from Benjamin Franklin: "Beware of meat twice boiled, and an old foe reconciled".

    Great article.


  14. Sharplikestump says:

    Robert, This has to be one of your best ever! One of the worst drain people that ever weaseled his way into my life played me for a sap several times. It generally centered around money, and ironically he was the one who was rich, and I was the one struggling to raise a family, working very long hours to do so, while building a business. He would get me for thousands when we could not afford to lose hundreds. I thought I was free from him when a mutual friend invited this drain person to join a group of us that got together to fish in Alaska. This scoundrel created such hard feelings amongst the locals, and since I had started this group, they came down on me. He actually brought a sweet old WWII Vet to tears. That did it. You wrong our vets, and you gain me as an enemy. No mas! Cut that cord for ever!

  15. RealitySeeker says:

    I wish I could say "goodbye" forever to the IRS, bankers, phony capitalists, Bible thumpers, corporate polluters (who "drain" the environment), public schools that drain the childrens' mind, MSM, the legislative, executive, and judicial branches along with the entire government tree right down to the roots that suck up and drain everything good from the soil—- and let's not forget to say bye,bye to Wall Street before it totally drains main street.

    It would be nice to pull off all of the leeches, flush them down the drain say goodbye and good riddance, but that's not going to happen.

    What's happening is: say goodbye to freedom and hello to collectivism, because that's just the way it is in America now.

    • boundedfunction says:

      the coriolis trees vs the coriolis forest? i was thinking the same thing. & also this: the congregation effect – bunches of "trees" in close proximity, "forest" – is soon, late & regularly a pernicious thing. nothing is unmitigated.

      yes, we’ve got no bananas. but we’ve got the united fruit company*. and the standard fruit company*. and. and. and. banana republics are, first & foremost, projections. & projections are projectiles that always ricochet back to the bull’s(hitter’s) eye that sited & “solved” the ballistics. that’s the chris kyle moral, & it scales.

      or: no matter how tidy your bit of bowl, you’re still a tidybowl man. lol….

      *don’t remember for sure, but “confessions of an economic hitman” might have discussed these, put them into context & perspective of what he was employed by the neo-colonialist "canopy" to do. but even just wikipedia will put the taste in your mouth.

      • RealitySeeker says:

        John Perkins continues to explain the "fruits" of Wall Street, transnational corporations, the banking cartel, big government and the other fruit companies and the rotten fruits who run the system.

        The system is built on a syndicated network of company stores in a political context underwritten by printed wealth. The situation has become so bad that it's like a cluster-fuck of leeches sucking everything that moves (including each other) until all the lifeblood is completely "drained".

        Natural Law, Natural Economy, Natural Money and Natural Self-government are all concepts which are completely rejected by the ignorant leeches and the ruling leechers. The result is that every country in the world is full or 'drainers" going down the drain. The vortex is picking up speed as the drain begins to gurgle. It's still too early for the amerikan-fruit company-and-company to get sucked down, but the undertow is building………..

        BF, thanks again for the email; I'm collating worthwhile economic data; when I'm done I'll share some of my findings and make my reply.

  16. Neb says:

    The truth is, everyone, to some extent is both draining and drained. As the saying goes, "You can fly with eagles if you scratch with turkeys."

    So you avoid the turkeys, and try to hang out with the eagles. The problem is, the eagles view you as a turkey and avoid you.

  17. Tim says:

    Your article is entirely accurate, but nothing new, as you quite rightly say it's all in "Million Dollar Habits"..

  18. bullwink says:

    RR, this is pretty good, the three type theory in "Looking our for #1" puts it out there, if you can spot neurosis you're on the way to good decisions, neurotics are like the dying they want to kill you to…
    rational people have your interests at heart too.. symbiosis vs predation…
    the government cannot give anyone anything w/out taking something away from someone who earned it..
    since most fail "equal opportunity" means we all fail…. 30% more effective than placebo just pay separate shipping and handling one low price…..for the free whatnot,,,Hitler liked things oversized to the point of impractibility,,those in power have ego's that belittle all, and are elected by a majority of the same type of people, Thoreau ….1000 patrons of virtue to 1 who has virtue, now 100,000 ? "
    I add to the list of drain people anyone who gives advice w/out being asked, I view it as a tip off to "predatory behavior", to think about it "anyone who is rude or even angry, or high/drunk… has little or nothing good to share" and needs to be avoided, thanks again RR for a modern Tao…there is a way to success in life…but it is only one Path..

  19. Jean says:

    I question the idea of "meaning well" also – after all, a person IS what he or she DOES, not what he or she BELIEVES they are doing. Results matter, and they are the genuine measure of a person. I'm not a mind-reader, so what a person "intends" is of less importance to me than the results they produce. I've shed a number of Drain People in my personal and professional life, and have lived a much happier and more profitable existence for it.

  20. Scott theczech says:

    Is it true that one reason it is so difficult to remove Drain People from one's life is that they are often sociopaths? They even believe that they "mean well," they even lie to themselves?

  21. dolldesigner says:

    Good that you're still around Robert. I cherish your raggedy paperback- "Winning Through Intimidation."

    FYI, my baby sister (age 61) is a Drain person. She has no boundaries which makes her unpredictable and totally terrifying. She can actually effect you without being around. She has stolen (jewelry) from me, sued me, and given me pubic lice (i.e. she borrowed my undies without my knowledge)! Oh did I mention, she's also a documented criminal.

  22. speakerman says:

    To TheCzech:
    I recommend a well-written book by Martha Stout, "The Sociopath Next Door". Another book good book that identifies "3 Types" is "Don't Let Jerks Get The Best of You" by Paul Meier.

    To Mr Ringer:
    Your writing, your work is a joy. Thank You.

  23. Pail says:

    The hardest drain people I had to say goodbye to was my children. I felt that if I smoothed the bumps out for them, that they would have an easier path than I did. All it did was the make them feel entitled , after years of trying to get along with them, i finally am letting them grow up. I'm hoping that they will see the light.

  24. This will be a great website, would you be involved in doing an interview about how you designed it? If so e-mail me!

  25. Robert Ringer RJR says:

    Actually, no. Just move out all the politicians and it would be a great city.