How to deal with drama

7 Ways to Stop Workplace Drama

Negativity is the number one productivity problem in the workplace. Signs of negativity include backstabbing, gossiping, power struggles and lack of teamwork. The end result is absenteeism, low morale and turnover. Here are seven tips for improving workplace relationships and reducing negativity.

1. Facilitate Regular Staff Meetings

When done properly, regular meetings provide a forum for listening, problem-solving and honoring peak performance. Meeting mistakes include lecturing instead of engaging the team, inconsistent meeting times, no agenda, and no fun.

2. Institute a DRAMA-Free Workplace

Make relationships a priority and support the relationships with a standard operating procedure and employee manual. Review at least once a year and let the rules be the “bad guy” when it comes to discipline.

3. Eliminate the Open Door Policy

The door should only be open during specific hours and preferably by appointment. This prevents casual visits to vent or tattle.

4. Stop Office Gossip

Sally comes to you and says, “Don’t tell Donna, I said this, but Donna is unhappy with…” Discourage hearsay with a calm question, “Why are you coming to me with Donna’s problem?” Send the message you do not tolerate “rescuing” behavior.

5. Teach Problem-Solving

When an employee comes to you with a complaint, acknowledge the complaint, then schedule the employee to come back with all the facts, and an idea or potential solution.

6. Require Rejuvenation

No rest and recovery equals irritability, impatience, rude behavior and more mistakes. Managing energy is crucial to peak performance and productivity. Make regular breaks mandatory at least every two hours if possible.

7. Be the Change You Wish To See

Master your communication and relationship skills. Set the example: Master your emotions, be fair, listen, have integrity, show respect and have fun. Remember the words of William Penn: “No man is fit to command another who cannot command himself.”

“Susie, it’s just so stressful!” my friend Marni complained to me at dinner a few weeks ago.

Inwardly, I rolled my eyes. Outwardly, I just took a big-ass sip of my Prosecco and exhaled. Marni was launching a new project and—once again—felt stressed as hell. This was a common pattern with my new friend Marni, I was rapidly starting to notice. Her apartment move was stressful—that’s fair enough. Then her relationship with her mother was making her crazy. Then—flustered as usual—she’d send me frantic-sounding texts for my biz input on her various projects.

It’s one thing to be stressed out—heck, we all are at one time or another, right? But Marni’s stress was constant. So much so that… dare I label it a victim loop? This is a term we refer to in coaching when someone has the same problem over and over and takes no responsibility for it or shows any plans to change it. (The solution is to be accountable for the problem and apply action to solve it.)

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Quite frankly, Marni’s consistently drama-fueled energy was making me tired. I like her a lot, but her repetitive patterns cause two things to happen:

  1. She ends up repelling others. Victim loops are never sexy—I bet you can think of a few people in your life with one on repeat right now.
  2. She’s made it difficult for others to believe in or respect the urgent or important nature of her current needs.

Put simply—when everything’s urgent, nothing is urgent. It reminds me of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” (found in this sweet collection on page 41).

Here are some other examples:

  • An anxious coworker flags every email as important. (Sigh.)
  • A friend goes on the same destructive “I’m single, and it’s awful,” or “My relationship is such a mess” rant. (Ugh—not this topic again.)
  • A relative constantly complains about feeling fat or unfit. (Boring, boring, boring.)
  • Your spouse hates his or her job and openly yabbers on about it but won’t do a thing to change it. (For the millionth time.)
  • Not only do these ongoing actions fail to elicit sympathy, they fail to even activate a listening ear.

Here are two key things you can do to silence the wolf cries in your life:

1. Tell the person what they’ve been doing—if possible. This might not work out if the culprit is your boss, but it can be a great tactic with someone in your personal life. For instance, I once told my best friend—who was in the habit of complaining nonstop about her ex-boyfriend—”Do something about Andrew or stop complaining about him to me.” My unwillingness to listen to even one more sob story got her thinking… and she dumped him soon after.

We shape up when someone we love holds a mirror to us. It might feel harsh, but in most cases, this can be incredibly helpful.

2. Give yourself a reality check. We’re swift to highlight the faults of others, but I’ve yet to meet a person—ever—who doesn’t cry something a little too often. It might not be wolf, but it could easily be “too busy,” “too tired,” “too fill in the blank.” When I wail to my husband for the 917th time that I’m “stretched too thin” in my business and life, he tells me, “Stop choosing it, then!” Because I sure as heck pile on the fun projects and social commitments at will.

You have way more power to choose your life’s actions than you give yourself credit for.

The most important steps toward dialing down the drama: Don’t be the boy who cried wolf. Be accountable for your actions. If you don’t, the price you pay is that you can’t change a thing. Be honest with yourself and responsible for your life—self-awareness not only commands the respect the admiration of others, it’s better and easier for everyone.

But most importantly, it’s better and easier for you.

Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!

Is it just me in my role as business advisor, or is emotional drama in the workplace increasing? Team members seem to be spending more and more time venting to anyone who will listen about the motives and actions of others, and less time introspectively focused on their own productivity and accountability.

The result is less real engagement and more negativity for all to endure.

According to a new book No Ego by international keynote speaker and business consultant Cy Wakeman, the average worker spends 2.5 hours per day distracted by drama.

Wakeman presents a convincing array of real examples that we have all seen, and offers the following reality principles for business leaders and professionals who want to turn this trend around in their environment:

1. Always give others the benefit of the doubt — assume noble intent.

Drama is all about assuming the worst intent in team members and leaders, and wasting time venting wasteful thought processes and unproductive behaviors.

The best leaders are highly focused on hiring only the right people, and modeling a high level of trust and respect.

2. Remind people that venting doesn’t resolve anything.

It only ramps up negativity, and is ego’s way to avoid self-reflection. Smart co-workers and managers refuse to listen to venting, and are quick to turn the discussion to reality, by bringing the relevant parties together for resolution of suspected or real differences. Actions speak louder than words.

3. Diffuse suffering from imagined stories rather than reality.

We all have a human tendency, developed in our childhood, to make up stories which paint us as a victim rather than the problem. In business, the best leaders diffuse this tendency by asking good questions, insisting on decisions based on real data, and not edicting results.

4. Use empathy when employee ego is creating doubts and chaos.

Self-reflection, accountability, and reality are an affront to egos. Avoid ego’s trap by avoiding sympathy and using empathy instead.

Sympathy exacerbates the pain rather than healing it. Empathy bypasses ego, shares an observed reality, and makes a call to greatness.

5. Confirm that challenges are the only reality for success.

As long as people believe that business realities are hurting them, they will remain victims. Real leaders improve the readiness, training, and preparation for these events, so that circumstances are not a source of pain, but are expected and can be accomplished with personal satisfaction.

6. Remember that engagement requires accountability for results.

Engagement without accountability leads to entitlement. Low-accountable people may appear to work hard, yet find complaints about everything.

They come to believe that making them happy is someone else’s job. Hire, incent, and reward people that accept personal accountability.

7. Remove resistance to change as a source of drama.

Traditional change management techniques need to be replaced by business readiness training and focus.

When people are fluent in the now, and ready for what’s next, they won’t feel the pain, and will feel a sense of excitement and eagerness to capitalize on the possibilities change can bring.

8. Communicate that personal preferences don’t drive the business.

Business leaders must convince the team that the decision makers today are customers, the marketplace, competition, feedback, innovation, and breakthroughs.

The personal preferences and ego of anyone in the company has little to do long-term business success and satisfaction.

9. Check your own ego before you attempt to engage another.

People who are prone to emotional drama are also super-sensitive to ego and emotions in their leaders and peers.

Countering drama with more emotion or violently shaking them up is not productive. Humbly make the call to greatness as you gently spur self-reflection and confidence.

10. Develop accountability through coaching and mentoring.

Building a culture of accountability with minimal emotional drama is a key element to organizational success today.

High-performing companies formalize these coaching and mentoring programs, and apply them universally, rather than activate them only to solve specific problems.

I’m convinced that every entrepreneur, team member, and business leader needs to practice these principles to eliminate workplace drama, end entitlement, and drive more satisfying results.

None of these deny the fact that business today is hard, and requires rapid adaptability to change and opportunities. Yet smart people make it a source of satisfaction, rather than continual pain.

How to deal with drama

If you’ve been in the working world for more than a few months (and have been at least slightly paying attention), it’s very likely that you’ve come across an office gossip (or two) at your company. Whether you’ve been personally involved in a run-in with the company’s unofficial drama queen, or you’ve simply heard through the grapevine about Marc from accounting’s recent snafu with HR, I’d be willing to bet you can think of an instance when a co-worker’s personal business was the topic of conversation.

Working with people you like and enjoy speaking with—especially about non-work related topics—makes the eight hours most of us spend at our jobs every day more enjoyable. There are so many aspects of work that can be a little bit (or very) irritating. Things like having a long commute, working irregular hours, or dealing with a difficult boss only scratch the surface of the many reasons people hate Mondays.

This is why it’s like a breath of fresh air when you wind up in a situation where your colleagues are easy-going, normal human beings—people you can not only collaborate with on a work project, but also debate your thoughts on Sunday night TV. People to grab a happy hour drink with or vent to about the latest annoying thing your boss said at Friday’s team meeting.

But, how do you know when you’ve crossed the almost microscopic line of sharing personal frustration and observations about work to the dark side of gossiping?

It’s perfectly harmless (and normal) to engage in conversation with a trusted co-worker about your observation that Tommy’s LinkedIn profile has been extra active lately and you think he might be ready to leave the company. But, when these conversations start to happen every single day, become the catalyst for rumors, or teeter into malicious territory, you’ve most likely gone too far. If you’re not careful, you might get labeled the office gossip—and that is not a reputation to be proud of.

Of course, the concept of work gossip is not a new one, and it’s something that human resource departments and managers have been dealing with since before the cubicle was invented. Most advice on avoiding it revolves around one central theme: Shut the perpetrator down. This involves saying things like, “I’m not comfortable talking negatively about Emily” or “I don’t think Ryan would like us talking about his personal affairs.” Yes, this approach does have its place and can be successful, but as a former office gossip queen, I can tell you that this method is often not the most realistic.

So, what can you do if you want to make sure you avoid any mean-spirited conversations about your colleagues? Or what should you do if you accidentally find yourself in a questionable conversation with the office blabbermouth?

1. Don’t Ever Vent (Personal or Professional) Frustrations to Someone You Don’t 100% Trust

The easiest way to get sucked into an inappropriate conversation with a co-worker who gives you anxiety after the fact is to give an “in” to someone you don’t know well. When you start sharing your thoughts on people in the office, the rumor you heard about someone in your department, or the status of your recent job search, you become an accomplice, giving your chatty colleague an opportunity to use you as a source or worse, spread your own personal business around the office.

Instead, keep your personal thoughts to yourself, to your non-work friends, or to your very closest office pal. If you are speaking to a co-worker you don’t know that well, stick to non-controversial topics only. It’s important to be extremely selective about who you share anything with while you’re on the clock so to speak. Venting to the wrong person can lead to unnecessary workplace drama, and you don’t need it.

2. Learn to Identify Trigger Situations and Topics

Whenever I was about to divulge some information that I had no business repeating to someone else, I would usually start off by saying something like, “I’m going to tell you something, but you can’t tell anyone.” As soon as the person I was speaking with gave me the OK, the floodgates opened and all the juicy details I was holding in would come rushing out.

It’s extremely beneficial for you to train your ear to hear when gossip is about to come your way so that you can be better prepared to avoid it if you’ve already been toeing the line. Think back to any of the times you were on the receiving (or delivering) end of this conversation, what were the common intro tactics? Be on the lookout for these so that you can be ready to divert it. If a colleague comes at you with the old, “I’m going to tell you something, but you can’t tell anyone else” line, that should be your cue to respond with something like “Well, you probably shouldn’t tell me then—I’m not the best at keeping secrets.”

3. Change the Subject Smoothly

If you’re like me, then you agree that it can be unnatural (and super awkward) to cut your co-worker off mid-sentence and launch into your rehearsed lecture on the perils of gossip in the workplace. The good news is that there’s still another way to stop her in her tracks. Nothing beats a good old-fashioned change of subject.

Colleague: “Did you hear about Todd? Apparently he had a little too much to drink at the holiday party last night and told his boss exactly what he thinks of her.”

You: “Yes, the drinks at the holiday party were really strong. I can’t believe I was able to wake up in time to make it to work today! BTW, do you know the name of the band that performed? They were amazing!”

What office gossips need (besides some good, juicy tidbits) is a captive audience. Don’t let that audience include you. Regardless of the topic at hand, there’s almost always a way to lead the conversation to safe waters.

4. Never Repeat Anything That Shouldn’t Be Repeated

Even when you try your best to avoid engaging in gossipy conversation about your co-workers, your boss, or your boss’ boss, it can be challenging to be 100% mum, and sometimes, you can’t do anything about being caught in the middle of this type of chatter.

But even if you know how to identify the trigger words and have gotten really good at changing the subject, there may be times when you still find yourself privy to information you should know nothing about. The simplest, most effective way to ensure you don’t get caught in a web of controversy is to keep your mouth shut! File the information away in your mental safe deposit box and carry on with your day.

There’s no reason it needs to go any further—at least not on your watch.

Gossip at work can result in low morale, reduced productivity, and even disciplinary action. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time for that. What’s important to remember is that it’s often not what you say, but who you say it to. I obviously don’t condone this kind of talk in the workplace, but if I’m being realistic, it’s safe to say that it’s nearly impossible to never talk about someone else’s business. But the safest way to avoid getting caught up in office chatter—besides avoiding it altogether, is to be extremely cautious about who you share anything with in the first place.

Workplace Drama Can Kill Your Bottom Line

It never fails, no matter what industry I am working in, how strong the leadership is, or how much they focus on team building and support, every organization seems to suffer from workplace drama. Just last week I was working with a CEO who is brand new in her role. When I asked her what her biggest challenges were, despite being new in her role and being in a heavily competitive industry, she put office gossip and drama at the top of her list of challenges.

How to deal with drama

She shared that these are tough times and she needs every employee focused and engaged. Yet despite their best efforts both she and her leadership team are challenged with how to get workplace drama under control. So what is it with office drama, why do we have it, and how do we stop it?

We have workplace drama because we have people working for us.

Humans are emotional and whenever emotions are involved, you get gossip, hurt feelings, and some sort of adrenaline rush from stirring the pot! While I must admit it’s kind of fun to talk a little trash now and then, the office is not the place to do it.

How to deal with drama

As a leader, you need to understand that there are much bigger consequences to workplace drama than the fact that it gets on your nerves.

The level of drama you have in your workplace and the amount you tolerate directly impacts the overall success and performance of your organization.

If you want to increase your results in your company, then you need to understand office drama and how to stop it. As a leader you need to design a culture that does not tolerate the drama. Instead, your culture should promote effective communication and problem-solving strategies.

Why Stopping Drama Matters to You & Your Organization

3 ways that workplace drama impacts your organization

I am sure we would all agree that workplace drama can have a serious negative impact on your organization. However, we may not be aware of just how exactly drama will infect your company if allowed to continue. Uncontrolled workplace drama impacts your business in the following areas:

1. Your Bottom Line

The more your team members are gossiping or stirring the pot the less time they are focused on your customers and their overall performance. Drama takes time, time to start a conversation with another employee, time to be negative or angry, and time to spread it to other employees. That is time you are paying for, and time that is doing nothing to positively impact your bottom line.

2. Respect

Even employees who actively engage in workplace drama wonder why their leaders don’t do anything to stop it. As a leader, it is more important to be respected than to be liked, and the more you avoid dealing with workplace drama (no matter how small) the more respect your employees are losing for you.

3. Retain Top Talent

Good, productive employees want to work in a place where they can be successful. They are self-motivated and focused, and they know (even if you as the leader do not) that a workplace full of drama is not one where they can thrive. They will move on to greener pastures, and company cultures that do not tolerate workplace drama.

How to deal with dramaHow to deal with drama

How To Stop Drama Cold

3 strategies to design a culture void of workplace drama

Now that we know the negative impacts, it is clear that investing time and energy to stop it will have a major impact on moving your company forward. The only question left is how do we stop it?

1. Don’t Engage

First and foremost, as a leader do not engage – no matter what. In any company, leaders set the tone and even if all you do is listen, the moment you allow employees to vent, you have just said that engaging in drama is accepted and encouraged in your company.

2. Face-To-Face

One of the biggest problems with workplace drama is that some of it is legitimate. To determine this, you will need to hear and flush out your employee’s issues. So if you, as the leader are not supposed to engage in drama, how are you going to flush out the problems that need to be heard?

You handle any issue an employee has face-to-face, meaning all parties involved. When someone comes to you and has an issue or problem (aka drama) you cut them off immediately. Let them know you want to hear the problem, but not without the other person present to ensure all parties tell their side of the story.

If you want to separate the real issues from the drama issues, nothing does it faster than not allowing employees to talk about departments, people or issues without those they are talking about present to hear and respond to the conversation.

3. Take Action

Most importantly, you as a leader need to take action. If workplace drama is going to stop, you need to stop it. That means that you need to follow steps one and two, and beyond that you need to enforce it.

Creating a culture that encourages teamwork, development of employees, and promotes harmony begins with the leader defining it, demonstrating it and enforcing it.

Your words are important but your actions are what stop the drama cold.

In Conclusion

So there you have it: a three-step set of business growth strategies to stop workplace drama cold. Running a company these days is challenging enough; margins are tight and competition is strong. You need every employee focused and productive.

Related

The drama queen at work walks into the office like a hurricane just rushed in, and all you can think of your coworker is “Oh no, not again . . . here comes drama.” Coworkers who are emotionally draining can suck the life out of you while you’re just trying to get your job done, so learning how to set boundaries and properly respond can help you get along better with your office drama queen or king. Drama queen examples can take many forms, including constant complaining, gossiping or making mountains out of molehills.

Prepare Yourself

If you practice a response to the dramatic coworker ahead of time, you can lessen the impact of her behavior and minimize any other instinctive negative reaction you would have toward her that could incite further drama. Keep your response rational, short and sweet so you can quickly move your attention back to work.

For example, if your coworker repeatedly tries to draw you into a gossip or complaining session against other coworkers or your boss, you can have a canned response ready, such as “Well, I’ve got a deadline the boss is waiting on, got to go.” One of the best ways to prevent the drama from getting worse is to only use “I” or “we” statements – never “you” – when responding, as these will focus attention on your coworker and foster further drama.

Disengage From Dramatic Coworker

Getting along with your coworker who thrives on drama means you will have to disengage from him, according to Performance Magazine. This means refusing to allow your emotions to take over and cause you to react. Do not allow yourself to become defensive, for example, if your coworker criticizes you. Keep your tone of voice steady and calm. Stay detached at all times, no matter how much the coworker presses your buttons.

You may need to bring in a third party, such as your supervisor, to handle the situation so you can disengage. For example, if your coworker thinks a project needs to be done only his way, and he’s very adamant about it but you disagree, you can diffuse the drama over it by letting your boss decide how she wants the work done.

Find Common Ground

To keep yourself from getting into arguments with your dramatic coworker and further inflaming the situation or losing precious work time listening to problems, learn to not take anything the person says or does personally. Find something generic and impersonal to talk about – such as a favorite snack to eat at the office – that you can relate to on a personal level with the coworker, so this way you have something to hold onto that keeps the peace with the person.

Just be careful not to share anything too personal that relates to your coworker’s big crisis, such as a health or career problem, or you could find yourself engaged in an overly long and distressing conversation when you should be working.

Stay Away

When all else fails, do everything you can to not have to be in the same room as the dramatic coworker, according to Business Know-How. If you work closely with this person, this may be difficult, but take advantage of every opportunity to not be in the person’s presence if possible, such as by taking breaks when she is around, or having lunch at a different location or time.

The easiest way to keep the dramatic coworker at bay is to listen briefly if necessary, then repeatedly turn the conversation back to work tasks so that it does not veer off into another complaint, crisis or gossip session. This way, you can work at ending workplace drama.

Have you ever dealt with someone who was overdramatic? This can be a family member, a friend, an acquaintance, or even a stranger. They may say things that often times are exaggerated or act in ways to get attention, which can often cause lots of frustration when dealing with them. I’m sure everybody has gone through these types of situations before.

For example, I had a roommate who was a very in-your-face type of person, meaning he talked to you in a very loud way where the topic matter wasn’t emotional at all. I had an aunt that always needed to be right. She enjoyed turning small, trivial matters into a drama fest that drew the attention of the entire family, which would result in loud arguments.

I also had an ex-girlfriend who would talk to me endlessly about her problems of her chaotic relationship with her college boyfriend – a super senior, gambler, and a drug dealer. Now, if there’s one type of people that get on my nerves, it’s people that turn small issues into big drama.

Now, if there’s one type of people that get on my nerves, it’s people that turn small issues into big drama. I’m not saying these people were bad; they were good people. But sometimes good people can still frustrate you. And I realized that if I couldn’t deal with 3 people, how could I possibly deal with hundreds of other people that would appear later on in my life? If you’re a person who finds themselves leaning more towards the rational, calm side of being, here are a 5 ways that I’ve learned over the past to help you deal with dramatic people.

Don’t Judge People Right Off the Bat

The reason I say this is because is you never know where people come from or what their background is. Both of these things don’t pop in your head during a heated moment. A person’s past and their environment will often shape up their beliefs and who they are when you dealing with them in the moment. Once a person has a firm belief about what is the right way to act and speak, it’s very difficult to change them, especially in one setting.

For example, my roommate had come from Shanghai, and from what I’ve heard from my teacher and from other people in Taiwan, is that people from Shanghai normally talk loud and are very fast paced. The pushy-shovy, get-things-done mentality, is normal in the type of environment that is very busy and metropolitan. My aunt was divorced about a decade ago and had to raise a child by herself. I can see why see has a masculine personality because she has to take the role of a mother and a father at the same time. My ex girlfriend was a person who needed to talk and needed a person next to her side to talk to her about her problems all the time (This is why we broke up back then ).

Don’t Feed the Ego

Second, is to never give into feeding the ego. Most of the times, people who frustrating or dramatic often times are very much identified with their ego. Their sense of identity often lies in perhaps winning the argument at all costs, or showing people that they are right, or even putting you down so that they can feel more superior.

If you never give in and you kind of reply always reply in a way that’s sort of neutral (e.g. “I see,” “I understand,” “Yes”) you may confused the person, or even take them off guard with your peaceful reply. Whatever drama that happens will soon end because there’s no resistance. People who are frustrating or cause drama often times look to the other people reply in a way that will feed off of what they are saying, (e.g. “I don’t think you’re right…” “Not really…” “Are you sure about that…?”) These responses are just begging for more drama.

You have to be aware and ask yourself an important question in case you somehow happen to be in a dramatic argument, “Do I try to win this argument which can take more of my time and feel frustrated, or leave this argument as soon as possible and feel calm?” Some people will serious go through lengths of time (hours and hours) just to win and argument, but at the end, they don’t feel any much better. And although after a period of time, realize that they have just seriously hurt another person’s feelings, which backfires on them later on.

Condition Their Behavior in a Positive Way

Third, sometimes you will deal with people that are seriously important in your life. I hope you don’t ever have to have this happen to you, but most likely you will find yourself stuck in a situation where you have to deal with dramatic people all day long. This can be a demanding boss or a negative friend (one that you care for). What you do is you condition their behavior in a subtle way, but positive way.

If you have a boss who is mean, one way to change their behavior is to do things that show them the positive aspects of themselves. You have to emphasize it to make them focus on their rare positive traits though, or they will continue with their ways. For example, if your boss was somewhat encouraging to you, you might say, “Hey, thanks, that means a lot to me. I think it will help me do this task better” instead of “Thanks.” Doing this will let them be more are that they are changing someone’s day, rather than just being the role of a boss.

“If you’re dealing with a negative friend who’s always down, don’t make him or her focus on the bad things. Be observant. Compliment or praise them for whatever small things they are doing. For example, you friend may be writing and suddenly say something that’s kind of unique. You may say, “Hey, what you said there was pretty cool. Do you read often?” or “Hey, what you did there was pretty unique. I wish I had that ability. Can you teach me?” Drama is negative energy and usually comes from a negative attitude. By changing a person’s behavior to a positive one, you will often times get a positive person who is less inclined to creating drama.

The Straight Forward Response

Then there is the straightforward, no B.S. approach. You don’t give in to the drama, you just tell the person how you are feeling, what you’re true opinion is, and you get out. Sometimes people are so consumed in their drama that they don’t even know that they are! They are unconscious when this is happening because they are no longer talking; it is a voice inside that is talking for them, and the only way to get them is to snap them back into reality.

This is performed by using a direct straight forward response of how you really feel, perhaps showing them another side of you, a bold, confident, strong side that suddenly and completely takes them off guard, (e.g. “Hey, look.”) It’s just like sending an email that has one or two sentences of concise and effective points, instead of a long-winding passage of a person’s biography. The most effective ways to get to people are sometimes the simplest ways.

Avoid Drama from the Start

Finally, if you don’t want to be around dramatic people, the best solution is to just not be near them. If you have a crazy boss, get a new job. If you have an overloud roommate, live alone. If you have a dramatic ex girlfriend, get a new one (yay, for me ). The point is drama only happens when there are other people to talk about drama. Of course, we can experience drama ourselves individually, but that’s for another topic. Drama is like fire. It can only spread when there are inflammable things nearby. If you don’t start the fire, the fire will not be able to start itself. Similarly, stay away from drama in the first place, and you will be drama-free.

Believe it or not, you can stay calm, defuse conflict, and keep your dignity.

How to deal with drama

We’ve all been there—trying valiantly to reason with an incredibly difficult person. The situation proves frustrating, maddening, and sometimes even frightening. The truth is, you can’t reason with an unreasonable person. However, there are proven techniques to better manage such dicey situations.

I learned the ropes of what’s technically called “verbal de-escalation” from many years working in hospitals. Every year, we’d go through training on how to defuse difficult situations in which a patient, family member, or even another employee was extremely angry and seemingly out of control.

What follows are the tactics that professional crisis intervention teams use, and you can learn them, too. You can use these techniques with your boss, a customer, a family member, even a stranger. Keep in mind: The closer your relationship the person, the more knowledge you’ll have of what will best work to calm things down.

These tips may feel unnatural at first. When you’re dealing with a person behaving unreasonably, the fear response center in your brain (the fight-flight-freeze part) is going to be activated. This part of the brain can’t distinguish between a customer that’s yelling at you or a vicious dog about to attack you. It’s up to you to engage your conscious mind in order to defuse the situation. Some of these tips are general, suggesting a mindset to cultivate. Others are more specific in advising you what to do in the moment.