Be Drama Free

"Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain - and most fools do." - Benjamin Franklin

It seems natural, harmless even, to engage in a little gossip about folks you know doing “talk-worthy” activities. How else are we supposed to keep up on what’s going on around us? Besides, Boston's Northeastern University researchers say,  "[Gossip] is a powerful way to learn whom to befriend and, even more important, whom to avoid—all without the costly and time-consuming process of learning from firsthand experience."  

Sounds useful, except...

  • Gossip is never the whole story.
  • The source should always be suspect.

Ever notice how the same people are the drama makers and gossip mongers? Ever wonder why?  

Loraine Van Tuyl, a licensed clinical psychologist based in Berkeley, California, says that people who make drama suffer from low esteem and fear low social status. Essentially, they stir up gossip to elevate their self importance. It’s a power play for control in a social group.

Not only does it help the gossiper feel better about their own flaws to point out flaws in others, but they are trying to bond with, and make an ally of, their chosen confident. They basically hope to manipulate you by engaging in what feels like a special social bond. The drama maker essentially hopes to share the idea: “I value you more because I am gossiping to you and not about you.”

If you buy in, they gain higher social status with you, and, if you credit them for being “in the know,” then they gain higher in-group status from others as well. But, as we all know or learn the hard way, drama makers usually spare no one in their narcissistic pursuit for status and esteem. You can be the social bond recipient one day and the gossip victim the next.

If you want to have less drama in your life, you need to actively shut it down. And if you’re the drama maker, learn to recognize when and why, really why, you’re compelled to stir the shit. If it’s not you, but friends, family or others you care for, you must learn how to recognize toxic behavior in others and then learn the art of emotional jujitsu.

Here’s a few quick tips for drama shut down and diffusion:

Gain Awareness of Social Control Drama: In self and others… learn to spot it immediately so you can work to break the cycle. Learn to respond authentically and compassionately instead of heaping on and then change the subject. As in, “It sounds like her life is really challenging right now. I’m thankful I’ve never been in that situation. How’s your family life been treating you?”

Disengage from Defensiveness: Sometimes you’re on the receiving end. Try and remember it’s about the gossiper and not about you. Yes, you may be the subject, but the best way to combat the assault is to disengage and take the high road. Sometimes, the payoff takes longer, but is longer term. When you rise above, it cuts the drama maker off at the knees. They wanted to make themselves the center of attention and gain status. If you don’t play ball, they do not get the escalation and power they desire most and eventually look petty and may even lose the status they so desperately crave. Karma.

Make your Life a Solution-only Zone: Often drama comes in the form of complaining. “So and so said or did this, can you believe it? Can you fix it?” One of the easiest ways to shut this behavior down is to take a stand against complaining. As in, “I don’t listen to complaints, I only listen to ideas about how to make things better.” Make the complainer or gossiper reorient their thinking back out and away from themselves. Take away their victim hood and make them help solve the problem -- whether it’s a co-worker who won’t clean the microwave or a sister-in-law who won’t answer text messages about Mom’s birthday. Take the lead in helping everyone think differently about the addictive nature of complaining.

Rocky Lewis
Rocky Lewis