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Episode 040: Living Without Drama

The cause of drama can be summed up in one phrase: lack of direct communication.  However, this lack of communication can be due to a number of things, fear of conflict, shame, perfectionism, lack of trust, lack of integrity, etc. In this podcast, I explore how to have a tough conversation without the drama.

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Hi and welcome. You are listening to the Stories from a Quest to Live Happier Podcast, and I’m your host, Nancy Jane Smith. I’m a licensed professional counselor and in this podcast, I share my stories and lessons I’ve learned, and I continue to learn on my quest to live happier. The show notes and a full transcript can be found at This episode is number forty, and it is entitled, Living Without Drama.

I confess. One of my favorite ways to unwind is watching Real Housewives on Bravo TV. I love it because it’s so unlike my life and then sometimes, my nearest and dearest will walk in while I’m watching it and say, “Ugh. How can you stand to watch this? These women are so full of drama.” He’s so right. The show is all about the drama. I think I love watching it because it’s a great insight into how drama works. How easy it is to get sucked into it and how truly, truly devastating it can be to relationships and to self-esteem because if you ask anyone if they enjoy drama in relationships or drama at all, and they will share a resounding no.

Why would any of us want drama in our lives? That’s one of the frequent … You see those quotes like, “I hate drama in my life. No more Drama. I’m dumping all the drama.” In reality, drama in varying degrees is a real part of life. The drama of, “I can’t believe she just did that,” or, “What if she’s mad at me,” or, “Oh my God. What are we going to do?” That drama, that anxiety, that worry, that oh my gosh, that can be summed up in one phrase, lack of direct communication. When we communicate directly and honestly with the people in our lives, there’s honestly little room for drama. That’s easy enough, right? I mean, just directly communicate. However, this lack of communication can be due to a number of things. Our fear of conflict, our shame, our perfectionism, our lack of trust, our lack of integrity, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Something that drives me crazy about this self-help industry is that the insight ends at more direct communication equals less drama. Yeah, that’s true, but the act of direct communication is freaking scary because direct communication requires vulnerability. It requires a strong sense of self. It requires being able to overcome rejection, setting strong boundaries, and holding them over and over and over. Not to mention, having to do all of that when you were awash and shame because someone is thrown up their drama all over your shame triggers. Yes, more direct communication is the key to less drama, but learning how to directly communicate is a process that takes time. It also takes trial and error, self-compassion, and lots and lots of baby steps.

If you have drama in your life, you’re not a terrible person. In fact, you’re a human being who struggles with being vulnerable and that’s normal, and it is possible to limit the level of drama in your life. There’s a lot underneath drama, needs, shame, speaking up, boundaries. One of the biggest things is having a difficult conversation with someone without drama, without getting stuck in the “he said, she said” or the blame or all that stuff. During this tough conversation, it’s helpful to think of the drowning person analogy.

If you’ve ever done any lifeguard training, you know that when a person is drowning, their instinct is to fight back, to fight for their survival. As someone comes to rescue them, the drowning person who’s acting instinctually will try to save their life at any cost. Even if that means, taking down the lifeguard. To keep his head above water, the drowning person might push the lifeguard underwater as well. Lifeguards are trained as to how to rescue this person without drowning themselves.

This also happens when we engage in a difficult conversation with someone. When we approach our boss, coworker, or spouse with a need to approach something, differently. No matter how loving, kind, or open we are with the other person, on some level, instinctually, may feel like they’re losing control and when we lose control, we feel attacked. When we feel attacked, we tend to lash out, enter drama. Similarly to the drowning person who is overwhelmed by the water, feeling out of control can overwhelm people, and they go on the attack.

A typical conversation will start with person A. Let’s call person A Fran. Fran lovingly explains that they want person B, let’s call person B, Sam, to talk directly to them, rather than going through a coworker. Sam feels attacked. Maybe Sam knows they have been engaging in this behavior. Maybe Sam even feels bad about it, but Sam initially doesn’t like being called out on this behavior. It feels uncomfortable and really out of control. Sam attacks back and calls Fran for taking too long at the staff meeting. Then, on it goes back and forth. Tit for tat. Not really making any movement at all because Fran doesn’t even remember why they started the conversation in the first place.

Rather than causing a spiral of craziness, the next time Fran goes in for a tough conversation, she can remember that most likely, no matter what she’s talking about and confronting on, it will be initially hard for Sam to hear it. Even the most enlightened among us, when initially feel attacked, sometimes that feeling can last for thirty seconds. Sometimes that feeling can last for thirty years. The trick is for Fran to have a clear purpose for what she wants to get out of the conversation.

Some examples could be that she wants to be heard. She wants to come up with a new way of dealing with the situation or she wants to be understood. Fran also needs to remember that Sam will flail. He will try to attack, just like the drowning person and it is Fran’s job to just lovingly understand that. To not try to attack back and just to keep coming back to the intention that she initially set. It is Fran’s job to keep the conversation as calm and positive as possible and keep the intention first and foremost. It is not Fran’s job to be attacked, to be abused. She can walk away at any time, but for Fran to yell back and cut below the belt and engage in all that drama is not necessary. She needs to take care of herself, but also keep coming back to that intention, first and foremost.

Let’s go back to the original example. If Fran wants Sam to talk to her directly, she can start brainstorming a way to make that talking easier. It might just be a functional issue. Maybe Fran’s door is always closed, or she might need to dig a little deeper and brainstorm why it is challenging for Sam to do it and how to make it less challenging. Bottom line, Fran needs to keep the intention of facilitating direct conversation forefront in there conversation and be opening to brainstorming ways to do that.

Tough conversations go much better when we as the instigator can have a clear intention in mind and recognize before we start that we are catching someone off guard. We are instigating a tough conversation, and we need to give the other person a lot of room to flail. To some degree, it’s our job to recognize our tendency to flail as the person who’s been confronted in a tough conversation. It’s our responsibility to notice our own tendency to go on the attack. When you noticed yourself attacking like the drowning person, it’s okay to admit you’re uncomfortable. Apologize for attacking or just ask to take a break and if you do ask for a break, make sure you set aside a time to begin that conversation again.

Tough conversations are hard, and they are the root of drama. Doing them wrong leads to drama, but the more we practice, the better and easier they become. I promise you, but you have to start intention. Being clear on what it is you are there for, why you want to have the conversation, and also being clear when you’re getting triggered, when you’re noticing the shame when you’re flailing, and put a stop to the conversation, but also making sure you start that conversation up again.

That is my two cents on limiting the drama in your life. This conversation could go on and on and on. Living without drama is an ongoing process that starts with intentionality, and vulnerability, and being aware of how we’re entering into the world and what we’re doing and the behaviors that we’re engaging in.

Weekly Ritual Segment:

One thing that has really helped me Live Happier is adding regular ritual practices to my daily life so each week I am going to be sharing a ritual with you and challenge you to complete it

Mindfully Enjoy Your Morning Cup of Joe

Now it’s time for the weekly ritual challenge. One thing that has really helped me live happier is adding regular ritual practices to my daily life. Each week, I’m going to be sharing a ritual with you and challenging you to complete it. This weeks weekly ritual, I have taken from The New York Times and they had an article about noticing your cup of coffee in the morning or whatever beverage you enjoy in the morning if it’s tea, or water, or I don’t really care. I enjoy my cup of coffee and so thus, noticing your cup of coffee. It’s taking the five senses meditation that I’ve talked about in the past and focusing it deeply on your cup of coffee. What am I feeling? What am I tasting? What am I smelling? What am I noticing about my cup of coffee and really being intentional about that. As you start your morning, it’s a great way to add a mindfulness practice to your morning so you can face your day more connected and ready to go.

That’s the show. Thanks for listening. The Stories from a Quest to Live Happier Podcast comes up every week. If you have questions, please email me at Until next time. Here’s to living happier.

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