4 Tips to Avoid Drama

I love all things John Townsend. He is a friend and brilliant thinker. I suggest you follow him at TownsendNOW.com. Many families tell me that there is just way too much drama in their homes. I thought this blog spoke practically about how to avoid drama.

4 Tips to Avoid Drama

Human beings are prone to drama. Unfortunate, but true. It’s just in our nature.

You need to know how to work through drama when you encounter it. Otherwise, you’re headed toward a vicious cycle that will only drain you emotionally.

How Does Drama Start?

What is drama? Drama is when a person has an emotional meltdown in your presence. If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone and things begin to escalate with no good resolutions, you understand how drama can evolve quickly.

Difficult conversations are often a result of trying to diffuse drama. Read my thoughts on how to approach a difficult conversation with grace and truth here.

4 Tips for Avoiding Drama

Here are four tips to help you avoid these unproductive and useless conversations.

  • Avoid the toxic triangle and communicate.  A toxic triangle is when one person hears something about another person through a third party. You probably know it better as “gossip.” For example, you don’t want to hear that your boss thinks you have a poor attitude from a coworker. Instead, you need to have a healthy and open conversation with your manager where you both are vulnerable. Direct communication always wins out over triangulation.
  • Nip it in the bud.  Misunderstandings between people almost always fester over time if we ignore them. Let’s say you had a conflict with a friend. Don’t let the issue linger. It’ll create an awkward and unhealthy environment when you’re spending time with mutual friends who will know the conflict hasn’t been resolved. That creates drama. Take the initiative and act.
  • Listen before you express your point of view. When you can see that the other person is upset, don’t try to explain yourself immediately. They are not experiencing you from their rational, prefrontal cortex part of the brain. They are lodged in the amygdala, where they feel fight, flight, freeze or fold feelings. Instead, show concern for what they feel, and authentically make statements such as, “That must be difficult”, “Tell me more,”  and “It sounds overwhelming.” Don’t assume this has worked because you said it. Ask if you understand. This calms down a great deal of drama so that people can get to be friends again.
  • Set ground rules.  Unfortunately, there are people who are just walking dramas. They blow up, interrupt, yell and make life miserable for everyone. Also, they tend to never solve their problems! When you are with this type of person, before you have the talk, set these three ground rules:
    • We can finish sentences without the other person interrupting.
    • We can be upset, but not yelling or disrespectful.
    • We will seek to understand what each other is saying.

Most people will agree to these fairly simple boundaries. However, keep in mind that, when the conversation begins, they will lose their perspective and start violating the ground rules. That’s okay. Just gently remind the other person of the boundary: “Remember the interrupting ground rule? I need to finish my sentence first.” Most people will remember and agree to continue in the right way. If they continue to violate your set boundaries, simply halt the conversation and say you will need to resume it at another time when the other party can abide by the rules in a calm manner.

Open communication and boundaries are the keys to negating drama before it gets out of control. Follow these four suggestions and you’ll be on the road to a drama-free life!


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Dr. John Townsend

Dr. John Townsend is a business consultant, leadership coach and psychologist. He has written or co-written 30 books, selling 10 million copies, including the New York times best-seller Boundaries series, Leadership Beyond Reason, and Handling Difficult People.

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