1. Practice mindfulness in your relationships, especially in the early days, weeks, and months.
This means not trying to anticipate what’s next or worrying about what isn’t happening yet. Let the focus be being right here in the present, in reality. If your mind drifts, pull it back. You don’t have to chase every thought, especially ones that take you out of reality or into anxiety.
2. Avoid reacting to the default response of self-blame.
Hold that thought and park it. I know you might want something to be about you. It may convince you that you’re “not good enough” or give you what you think is a legitimate reason to go back for round 2 or even round 50. Unless, though, you’re 100% in control of something, you can’t blame yourself. Own your part. Owning someone else’s is like deleting them from the picture. If you’re itching to blame yourself, brain dump and put it all on paper. Don’t let it rattle around. Putting it on paper makes it real, especially if you challenge and prove the truth of what you write. Unless what you’ve put down is absolutely true, you’re lying to yourself.
3. Hold that ‘bankruptcy’ thought.
If you write yourself off every time something doesn’t go as you’d like, then yeah, you’re going to have a lot of drama in your life. You can’t keep making it the end of the world, simply because it’s not. When you stop writing you off, you stop taking things so personally.
4. Know and stick to your deal-breakers.
Much of the drama in unhealthy relationships comes from hanging around long past the sell-by-date. The most successful and creative people know how to fail fast: recognising when something isn’t working, addressing and moving forward. This is anything but failure and actually paves the way to success. Recognising crucial signs that your relationship is critically unwell can help you differentiate between teething problems and needing to practically transplant another person into the relationship for it to work.
After you’re done being pissed off, challenges are an opportunity to become more discerning and live more authentically.
5. Don’t try to convince, convert, and bargain.
Blending, morphing and adapting, or trying to save, fix and change others creates drama because it crosses boundaries. When we try to change ourselves or others to make things go our way, we’re not able to respect ourselves or them.
You’re not supposed to be liked by everyone. Not every person can be The One, and not every relationship is meant to last. Drama will be a constant companion if you fritter away your life trying to convince someone to value you or want you in the way that you want them. Trying to change them or haggling like a used car salesperson that’s desperate to do a deal at all costs will only cause you to lose your dignity.
6. Listen with your ears, not with your ego or your overactive imagination.
One of the most drama-riddled people I know told me a story recently where most of what they said happened didn’t actually happen the way she said. It’s not necessarily because she was telling porkies; it’s because from the moment she sensed conflict, it reminded her of some previous experiences, and she wasn’t really ‘there’ anymore. Make sure you can distinguish clearly between what was said and done and what you think they think of you or even previous experiences. Differentiate between your baggage and theirs and the past and present by asking yourself: What’s the baggage behind [my reaction/response]? Make sure you’re actually relating to the person in front of you, not people from your past.
7. Learn some more emotional descriptors that extend beyond the word ‘hurt’.
Of course, sometimes you are hurt. Still, if your default emotion when things don’t go your way is hurt, you’re actually causing yourself unnecessary grief by misleading yourself about what you truly feel. You might also be shutting off opportunities. Hurt is about mental pain and distress. If you frequently claim hurt, it’s time to ask yourself, Am I truly experiencing mental pain and distress, and if I am, is it proportionate to what I’ve actually experienced?
Speaking from personal experience and observation, “hurt” as your default emotion is what occurs when you don’t express anger and struggle with conflict and criticism.
Truth is, sometimes you’re seriously pissed off but trying to cover it up by being nice. Sometimes you’re disappointed, irritated, confused, infuriated, vulnerable, scared, jealous, tired, frustrated, unheard, excluded, or whatever. Be descriptive. Dig deeper. It will help you to explore what and why you feel it.
8. Get angry.
Acting like you don’t “do” anger will just repress what you truly feel and work itself out in other ways. Feelings don’t die, and they manifest in your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health. Rather than waiting until you implode with burnout or a breakdown or explode by unleashing a backlog of feelings on someone, allow you to consistently feel your feelings.
Lots of lovely folk like you, who are often people pleasers, perfectionists and overthinkers, quietly seethe with hidden anger. You try to influence people to do what you want, often to rectify previous slights either done by them or others that you’ve kept it zipped about, only to then end up compromising yourself further. This, of course, creates more drama, which makes you feel worse. And lather, rinse, repeat. Exhausting!
You’re human, and this means you’re entitled to get angry because it’s a healthy emotion. If you stop trying to censor your anger, you will find that it passes far quicker but that it also doesn’t catch you off guard or derail your life.
9. Only seek to control you, not others.
Trying to control the uncontrollable is a major route to drama. What can you do about yourself? If you’re thinking about changing someone, what can you do? How can you take command of yourself? If the success of a situation rests on someone else spontaneously combusting into being someone different, you’re rendering you powerless and leaving you at the mercy of external factors. If you’re with someone or participating in a situation where you have little or no power, you shouldn’t be in it.
10. Choose to let it go.
If you think you’re just going to let something go of your own accord, think again. Letting go takes conscious, repeated effort. It’s the choice between grabbing back onto something or reminding yourself that you’re done. A lot of drama comes from tricking ourselves into believing that if it comes into our heads, we obviously are not ready to let go yet. Not.true. It’s you that has to decide and keep deciding to let go. You can’t think about something day in, day out, or associate the thoughts with certain activities and feelings over an extended period and not make that thought process a habit. So, yes, you will have to consciously break that thought pattern because now, for example, you associate getting in the shower with brooding about your ex.
You also don’t have to make the other person think that you’re ‘right’. Nor do you have to keep going back to let them know just one more thing. It’s your ego that wants that, not you.
Work it out with yourself. You need to be on your own side and get your own head straight.
If someone gets on my wick, my brain can go into overdrive having conversations or thinking about what to do “next time”. Reaching a conclusion, getting behind my decision, and refocusing every time I try to choose not to let it go, helps me to let it go. The more I say “Let it go” and even physically push my arms out from me, the more it dissipates.
Sometimes I ask, “What’s changed?” Because really, what’s the point in grabbing onto it again if all that’s changed is that your ego is having an off day and you’re scared of change? Nine times out of ten, nothing material has changed, it’s just that I felt like revisiting it and self-flagellating.
Drama is very much governed by choice. When you curb your own drama tendencies, you will find that drama in your life will reduce dramatically. You will be calm and rational enough to have the perspective not to make yourself responsible for other people’s behaviour and won’t invest energy in changing others. In turn, you set yourself free because you know your boundaries.
Are you ready to stop silencing and hiding yourself in an attempt to “please” or protect yourself from others? My new book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (HarperCollins/Harper Horizon), is out now.