Oh, The Drama!
I think Cheryl Richardson hit the nail on the head. While we might KNOW it’s not our drama, the most challenging part of refraining, or resisting the drama, lays in identifying boundaries. That’s right…sometimes we get confused about which luggage is yours, which is mine, and we end up carrying other people’s bags. I’m no lobby boy (click to Tweet).
My theory is this –
In the vast expanse of most of our brains, there is a tiny corner of doubt. I rather appreciate that place, because it sometimes stops me before I speak, keeps me from making rash decisions and generally keeps me out of trouble. You probably have that corner, too. It’s a corner of doubt that can also be self-critical, keep us from pulling the trigger on our dreams and often gives some people a foot up as a stepping stone to pull us into their drama.
Politicians and marketers know about the using the corner as a stepping stone.
So do drama queens.
Now, not everyone has a “doubt corner.” Most of those who don’t are politicians and socio-paths. It is with this knowledge that I’m grateful for my occasional doubt. (click to Tweet)
Any ol’ hou….sometimes we dive into other people’s drama under the guise of wanting to help, to be supportive, or to prove we “care.” There’s a plethora of reasons, including that doubt – we just don’t know what’s ours to do and what’s theirs to do. Sometimes the border can be almost invisible and it feels like the illegal immigration of our minds. One day you wake up amidst the drama and say, “Hey, this is really none of my business!” Now, the work of extracting yourself will begin. It’s best to have an early detection system where you can walk the other way, walk away from the drama, before you’re in their play.
If you can’t deflect the drama, there’s a tool for dealing with it and putting it back into the hands of the willing owner. I’ve found acknowledging and validating to be a very useful tool, so the person feels heard, but you’re not helping or participating. Here’s how you do it:
- Recognize ahead of time their drama is their business. You are not going to try to “help” or join them. It’s their path, their issue to learn from and their business how big of a deal they want to make it in their OWN lives. This is the most important step because this keeps their “stuff” in their lives.
- Acknowledge their feelings. Example: “It sounds like you’re really angry at your mother for calling you “crazy and irresponsible.” Stick to the facts by restating them.
- Now, validate their feelings with, “Most people would feel that way.” Key here – most people. Don’t make it personal by saying YOU’D feel that way, too. Don’t step into the pile. “Most people”…got it? Good!
- You can conclude your conversation on the topic by sharing some words of confidence to send them on their way. “You’re a very smart person, I know you’ll find a solution to this.” “You’ve got this, I have a great deal of confidence you already know the answer.”
Skilled people might ask a couple open-ended questions before going to step #4 – but this is not for the faint hearted. It’s one of the easiest ways to get a role in the drama queen’s play. So, if you want to be SURE not to end up on stage…proceed without asking questions, to the #4 wrap up. Here are the MOST important points
Now, in my book of doing the work, you’ve done your part to support this person. Don’t wade in any further. Excuse yourself and go about your business. This works great with kids, too. Trust me on this…It’s supportive and empowering to let them figure out a solution on their own.
If you’re wondering if you’re a drama addict and part of the problem, you probably are. If people avoid your conversations, don’t blame them, examine your own topics of conversation and behaviour. If you’re compelled to help a drama queen, if you’re dying to “fix it,” you’ve got other issues. We tend to repeat behaviours that give us a pay-off. You might start by asking yourself, “What’s the pay-off for me in getting involved?”
Now, back to that little corner of doubt – know that it’s there. Protect it. It serves most of us well, but can be misused by others. Learning where boundaries lie is difficult because they apply to so many areas and contexts of our lives. Certainly, we don’t want to NOT help people who are truly asking and need it. Learning the difference is a valuable skill because you never signed up to be a supporting cast member of the crazy play.
Exiting Stage Left,
Michelle Andres is a writer and artist. She is a trained personal and executive coach, has a BA in Psychology and an MS in Organization Development. She’s an advocate for all of us cultivating our own, “Well-Lived Lives.”
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