Tips for Avoiding Drama with Family and Relationships

Generally speaking, communication can often be a challenging part of a relationship between two people, married or not. Take these steps to alleviate useless or unproductive conversations in your relationships and avoid drama:

1. First remember that you are responsible FOR your own feelings, not for others’ feelings. However, you are responsible TO the person you are talking to, be present and listen to them carefully. Listen fully before you express your point of view or your opinion. When you see that the other person is upset or emotionally reactive, do not explain or defend yourself immediately. They are not experiencing you from their prefrontal cortex and rational part of their brain. Stay calm and quiet and let them finish. Show concern for how they feel. When they are talking to you with intense emotions, they are operating from a different part of their brain (the Amygdala in the brain) where they experience fight, freeze, and fold feelings. Show concern for how they feel, validate their feelings in an authentic way. Start by saying something like, “that must be difficult” or “tell me more” or “that sounds overwhelming”. Do not assume that these comments worked because you said this, ask them if they understand, and verify they do by repeating back to them what you heard them say. This calms down a great deal of drama in the conversation.

2. Deal with conflicts as soon as possible – nip it in the bud. Don’t think that time will remove or erase the conflict, the problem, or tension. Ignoring issues or misunderstandings can fester emotions and turn toxic. If you have a difficult person or friend in your life that creates conflict, do not let the issue linger. It will be more complicated when you spend time with mutual friends or family members with unresolved issues. This creates drama, don’t wait, take the initiative and act. If the drama continues, seeking a family therapist may help you resolve these issues.

3. Avoid the toxic triangle, communicate honestly and openly. A toxic triangle is when one hears something about another person through a third party, this is known as gossip. You don’t want to hear from your in-laws what your spouse thinks of you. Instead, you want to have a healthy, open conversation with your spouse where you both can be vulnerable. Direct and honest communication is the healthy approach, and always beats triangulation.

4. Be clear and firm with your boundaries in any relationship. What does this mean? Set ground rules. Rules are good, they keep us sane and healthy, creating order in our relationships. Sadly so, there are people who are walking drama. They interrupt, react, blow up, yell, and make life miserable for people around them. These negative people never solve problems. When or if you have people in your life who thrive on drama, set a few ground rules before you engage in conversation with them. Discuss these when they are calm, not in the midst of high emotions, they are:

A) Finishing a sentence without the other person interrupting
B) It is OK to be upset without yelling and using disrespectful words. You can say “when you yell or you are disrespectful, I will stop listening and will talk to you when you are able to follow these rules”.
C) Each person will seek to understand what the other person is truly saying.

These are simple rules, however, accept that mistakes will be made. When attempting to navigate through the points above in conversations, the dramatic person may lose perspective, and violate the above ground rules. Gently remind the other person of the boundary, and state to them “remember the interrupting ground rule”? You can say “I need to finish my sentence first.” Most people would honor this. If you face those who violate these rules and they push back, you simply halt the conversation. Tell them you can resume the conversation when the person can respect the rules in a calm and respectful manner.

Preventing any drama requires us to practice firm boundaries and open, honest communication, otherwise, it can get out of control. Try following the above four major suggestions, leading you to a healthier relationships and a drama-free life.