How to Stop Drama From Disrupting Your Life
Most of us don’t do drama even though we’ve encountered our share of it on our professional journey. There’s a certain atmosphere that accompanies drama: heightened emotion, heart-pounding stress and raised voices are common hallmarks of dramatic situations and their impact is far-reaching.
Drama shows up from inside your company in the form of a disruptive team member or hostile former employee. It may come from the outside when a disgruntled customer complains about your services, or when an internet troll targets you and your business. I call these people Drama-Drivers, because they have an uncanny ability to insert their agenda into any situation as they drive the tone and focus of the conversation.
Drama-Drivers steal precious hours from your day. Their disruptive ability frequently gets in the way of your real mission. Not only does drama impact productivity, but it creates a potentially hostile culture with the power to undermine your team’s success and morale.
I’m guessing you already have enough on your plate without drama constantly rearing its ugly head, so what can you do to stop drama-drivers from disrupting your life?
6 Ways to Minimize Drama
Don’t Take the Bait: Drama-drivers are pros at baiting others to join in the act. They’ll push your buttons, use a tone of voice, gestures and words that get your undivided attention. Like a fish on a hook, once you’ve been reeled in, it’s almost impossible to extricate yourself unscathed. Steer clear of the spectacle and refuse to take the bait. This may mean refocusing them on a different subject or occupying them with a solitary task. In particularly heightened situations, removing yourself physically from their presence may be your best option.
Assume Everyone Has Good Intentions: When emotions are running high, we generally assume the person creating drama is coming from a place of malicious intent. This is not always the case. Many drama-drivers come from a mindset where they believe it’s all about them. They often lack the self-awareness to sense the havoc they’re wreaking on other people’s lives in the process of feeding their emotional needs. While it’s sometimes challenging, give them the benefit of the doubt and proactively seek to understand what they want. Most humans seek acknowledgement, so do what you can to make them feel heard. At the same time stand firm and clearly communicate that disruptive, demeaning, and hostile behavior is not an appropriate way to address the issue.
Avoid Overstepping Boundaries: Most of us strive to be helpful, but sometimes in our desire to assist others, we can overstep boundaries by offering unsolicited advice or instruction. When this happens, the other person might feel threatened or feelings of insecurity may arise. One way they may react in this case is with drama-driven interactions. You may find yourself in a situation where the other person is talking about you with other team members, using words like “interference,” “invasiveness” or “micromanaging.” Some act in a passive-aggressive manor toward you or will even shut down completely in your presence. Even when you have the best of intentions, ask permission before jumping in to assist others. Some conversation starters include “May I make a suggestion?” “Do you want to talk about it?”, or “It sounds like you’re in a tough situation, is there anything I can do to help?”
Know Your Boundaries: Conversely, knowing your own boundaries can minimize any drama that comes your way. If someone begins pulling you into their situation, or engages in gossip, disruption or personal attacks, you have the power to clearly let them know you aren’t interested in the continuing the conversation. If they are relentless in their attempts to pull you in, stay firm and repeat that you refuse to participate. Walk away from the person and situation if that’s what’s needed to make your stance clear. It’s also important to be consistent with your boundaries. Refusing to engage with one individual while jumping into the fray with another creates confusion. People will test your boundaries on a frequent basis if they aren’t sure what you stand for.
Stay Calm: Drama-drivers love to amp up the emotional volume. They’ll raise their voices, get in your physical space, gesture wildly, often going to extremes to get others emotionally invested in the act. An effective drama-driver can be found surrounded by others mirroring their actions and tone as these unwitting victims get pulled further and further into the show. Your best defense is to step back, take a deep breath and resolve to stay calm and emotionally detached. Choose to respond mindfully instead of emotionally reacting and be determined to be the voice of reason in a heated situation.
Avoid Social Media Brawls: Let’s face it, trolls exist. They hide behind the anonymity of social media handles and love to roast others with hateful and incendiary comments. You may encounter totally random people who just love dishing out grief to anyone within reach, or you might find yourself dealing with an unsatisfied customer or disgruntled former employee. No matter who sends the heat your way, avoid the urge to respond in kind. These things rarely deescalate when fuel is continually added to the fire. If someone has a legitimate complaint, even if they’re handling it in a less-than-diplomatic manner, this is your opportunity to turn it around. Respond thoughtfully and apologize if you’re in the wrong. Invite them to have a private conversation with you where you can address their concern and help make things right. If, on the other hand, you’re dealing with your standard internet troll, avoid replying, remove the offending comment from your post, and block them from further communication on your feed. If they’re behavior is egregious, they’ve probably earned the extra bonus of being reported as well. Remember, everything you post is in full view of your audience, customers, employees and friends. Always show up in a way that makes you proud to be you.
Drama is inevitable. You may not be the one inviting it in, but once it shows up, you have the power to manage your response. Use the steps above to help minimize the distraction of drama in your professional and personal life. It takes focus and effort to disrupt the drama-drivers, but the peace, focus and productivity gains you’ll get in return are priceless.
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