Most of us hate drama. We have enough stress as it is—we don’t need extra, unnecessary craziness. Yet drama follows us every where we go. It’s the gossip your neighbor or co-worker is dying to share with you.
It’s the headline in the newspaper that proclaims the end of the world is a few short years away. It’s the social media post that was written with the intent of being personally inflammatory—to you. It’s the aggravating thing your spouse did that started the fight that neither of you wanted to have. It’s the thing your in-laws do that always makes you wonder what they really think of you.
It’s attitudes, facial expressions, incendiary statements, unsolicited opinions, obvious-but-unstated elephant-in-the-room realities, causes, and the people that become absorbed by them.
If you’re like me, you want a way to click the minimize button on drama in your life. Who needs artificially inflated problems? Here are three powerful strategies to deflate the drama in your life and make your stress more manageable.
[bctt tweet=”Three powerful strategies to deflate the drama in your life:”]
1. Don’t waste time and energy looking for hidden meanings.
Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to figure out the hidden message others might be trying to communicate. It’s challenging enough to process what other say. It’s another thing entirely to allow yourself to obsess about what you think they aren’t saying but might be thinking. Good grief! No one needs that kind of burden.
[bctt tweet=”Stop stressing about things others MIGHT be thinking…”]
“But Jonathan,” you say, “there are people in my life who are like that… they don’t say what they really mean and so you have to figure it out. It’s kind of like a puzzle.” I sympathize with your experience, but here’s a dose of healthy freedom: if they can’t tell you straight-out what they wish to say, that’s their problem. You’ll never be a good mind reader, and trying to become one will create enormous stress in your life.
Here’s what works for me: Take what other people tell you at face value… if that. When you let someone convince you that it’s your job to search for the hidden meaning beneath their words and actions, they are training you to take responsibility for their poor style of communication. Don’t let them do that. I do best when I make the choice to take what others tell me at face value.
[bctt tweet=”Take what other people tell you at face value… if that.”]
Sometimes I don’t even take things that seriously. In our culture, exaggeration and hyperbole are commonplace, especially when someone is upset or frustrated. Sometimes it pays to take a comment at less than face value. Regardless, I have come to the conclusion that I can put my time to better use than to become absorbed by what someone might have meant.
2. Choose to believe the best and the boring.
Whether you happen to be reading the latest op-ed from your favorite journalist, going through the posts and comments of your friends on social media, or listening to your neighbor regale you with the latest details about the conflicted couple down the street, you have a choice to make. You can either choose to believe the worst and the exciting, or you can believe the best and the boring.
[bctt tweet=”Choose to believe the best and the boring.”]
Think about this and see if it mirrors your experience: in my life I’ve noticed that most gossip is about either some potentially huge impending news, or it’s about someone else’s misfortune or shortcomings. And here, our life experience should teach us something. How many major news stories have you heard that eventually turned out to just be someone’s hunch that never materialized? And how many stories about other’s shortcomings turned out to be inaccurate and one-sided?
When we accommodate the worst and the exciting, we are bound to digest a very choppy, unbalanced stream of information. As a result, we find ourselves dealing with the resulting drama. Sure it’s a little less thrilling to focus on the best and the boring, but it’s a lot more stable.
Even when the exciting and the worst is true, it’s not the kind of information that should get our primary attention… not if we want to deflate the drama in our lives.
3. Be a peacemaker-not a secret-keeper.
If others view you as a good listener, good for you. Just beware: when people who thrive on drama find out that you are a good listener, you may be in for an ear-full of negativity. This is the way gossip finds its way into the lives of good, caring, loving people. They don’t start by spreading gossip, they start by hearing it. Some drama-filled busybody loads this poor unsuspecting person up with craziness, and then says “please keep this confidential.” Ugh. This is what you don’t need.
If someone comes to you to complain about another person, one potential solution is to suggest that you invite them to the discussion (this tends to end the drama in a hurry). If you take the position of peacemaker instead of secret-keeper, one of two things will happen. If you’re talking to a person who is simply frustrated and seeking help, they will welcome the opportunity to involve you as a peacemaking third party. If, on the other hand, you’re simply talking to a pot-stirrer who thrives on drama, they will likely move on to a more receptive listener. Either way, you win.
I hope these ideas have been helpful. I’m interested in hearing what you think about this. How have you successfully reduced the drama in your life?