Despite bearing the moniker of “Peacemaker,” the very nature of my job requires that I listen to and sort through the drama of others, often rolling my eyes without being noticed. This can be exhausting.
Why do some people insist upon creating and/or promoting drama? Maybe their lives are boring, so they want to stir things up. Maybe they thrive on the reactions of others. Maybe they simply need attention. Maybe they lack a certain emotional maturity. Or maybe it’s a way of exerting power over their family members or colleagues. Regardless of what motivates drama-mongers, I suspect that their actions are draining your energy.
Researching for this article has helped me understand that gossip equals drama, even the most benign and harmless tales. I used to be interested when Friend A gossiped to me about Friend B. Now, I don’t want to hear about the drama because, most likely, Friend A is gossiping about me as well. No thank you. I’ve taken to assigning nicknames to some of my gossipy friends. There’s “Tornado Torrie” and “Earthquake Ed,” for example. As with all natural disasters, I heed the warnings to be prepared, and silence their drama for my own sanity and stress management.
With the understanding that creating drama is childish, it might be helpful to treat the drama person in the same manner as you would an attention-seeking four-year-old. Simply advise that you will not engage in conversation until they regain some self-control. Of course, if you’re dealing with your boss, this might not be the best tactic. I suggest an urgent bathroom visit instead. Or, if your boss is ranting at you on the phone, I’m sure you can manufacture an incoming call that you have to take right away, with the promise that after you talk to your kid’s teacher, you’ll call the drama person right back. (Be sure to wait at least five minutes.)
Avoiding the drama is undoubtedly your best defense. Set some healthy boundaries with the people who seem to thrive on drama, and try not to let yourself get sucked into it. I know, easier said than done. If your drama person is a family member, be honest and nicely tell them that their drama is causing you unnecessary stress. Maybe you can suggest that they keep a journal instead of calling you. On the other hand, if your drama person is a work connection, it might be more difficult to avoid those conversations. Hopefully, you can minimize the interactions. Limit the time spent socializing with co-workers, and when necessary, steer the subject back to constructive work topics.
When avoiding the drama in your own life, please remember to give a shout-out to Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., a theoretical physicist who invented caller i.d. and call-waiting. By the way, Dr. Jackson was the first African-American woman to get a doctorate from the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She’s my hero.