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For some reason I'm a magnet to bad people or people who are chronic complainers or attention seekers. They often come to me when they need to talk or vent. Especially at work. I don't really want to talk to them but I'm too friendly and not good at setting boundaries and I often just listen to them offering advice. It stresses me, especially when they are angry and they come to me to talk about it.

How can I deal with this in a skillful manner? I tried practicing Metta towards them which didn't work due to their negativity being too strong.

  • Praying will help. " May I be happy. May my enemies be happy. May all sentient beings be happy ". You may make your own prayer. I'd suggest you to leave the workplace if needed. Peace is priority. – Christopher Oct 25 at 13:33
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Difficult question because you wouldn't want these angry people turning on you because such people in the workplace often do. These people are often loitering in the workplace and can be a real danger. I left my last job due to such a person, who for years, I listened to, so often helped them with their work & at times even did their work for them. They were a talk-aholic, who had very low productivity (who I could manage due to my high productivity). But, during a certain issue, they turned against me & were used as a pawn to attack me.

Your 1st priority is your work. You don't want to be seen by your employer spending your time talking to others rather than working. The suttas say:

The employees thus ministered by their employer show their compassion to him in five ways:

(i) they rise before him, (ii) they go to sleep after him, (iii) they take only what is given, (iv) they perform their duties well, (v) they uphold his good name and fame.

Sigalovada Sutta

In Buddhism, it is taught to never harm oneself for the sake of another.

  1. Let one not neglect one's own welfare for the sake of another, however great. Clearly understanding one's own welfare, let one be intent upon the good.

Dhammapada

You can possibly begin by replying: "I am really busy now and must focus on my work. Maybe we can talk during the tea break or lunch break".

You might find these people won't want to waste their tea & lunch break talking.

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    Thank you very much for this! Very helpful. As a matter of fact one of them, the worst one, turned on me and is now angry with me. He's the worst of them because he's so angry all the time and he talks loudly, yells, curses and has intense body language. I'm enjoying my peace now due to him not contacting me at the moment. I hope it lasts. I don't want to reconnect and have decided that if he approaches me again I will tell him that I can't have contact with him anymore, except when its purely work-related. The verse 166 really helps with this. Thank you. – Jade Empire Oct 19 at 23:00
  • nice advice and good question & nice gracious comment: maybe just be less explicit re why can't be talking as much, and also simply say less, or if see them outside of work; telling them theyre rejected/ignored isn't really necessary & doesn't really add any value and so is merely a risk & in itself also a form of interaction: so maybe just be pleasant & simply engage less: description of workplace & work could also be helpful for advice :) – M H Oct 20 at 11:00
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Good listeners are often magnets for people who talk. Significantly, any emotional affirmation given while listening can perpetuate that very talking. Such emotional encouragement can stem from our own cravings and aversions. Therefore this is an opportunity for practice that can benefit us. In particular:

MN62:8.5: This should be truly seen with right understanding like this: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’

Such practice will at least curtail involvement, but good listeners are often sought out for new problems. Because of this, good listeners often have to do more than merely listen, especially when time is short and other needs more pressing. And in this case the limitless release of the heart can help.

MN127:7.2: It’s when a mendicant meditates spreading a heart full of love to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, they spread a heart full of love to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will. They meditate spreading a heart full of compassion … They meditate spreading a heart full of rejoicing … They meditate spreading a heart full of equanimity to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, they spread a heart full of equanimity to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will. This is called the limitless release of the heart.

So after listening, one can ask what love, compassion, rejoicing or equanimity can be found here. And if the answer is "none", well then that complainer will become speechless under your gaze and walk away mute. And if the answer is a thoughtful silence, then that complainer will have found a new perspective to be grateful for.

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    That's very helpful, thank you! – Jade Empire Oct 19 at 15:53

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