6 steps to free yourself from the drama
Psychiatrists say that drama queen behavior is wired into the brain, due to a varying combo of genetics, trauma, or other environmental factors. This person may even have a clinical personality disorder; so, short of training in cognitive psychology, there’s not much we can do to change them.
Instead, change your behavior so you can maintain your positive outlook and energy. Follow these six steps to keep yourself from being drained by a person who asks a lot without contributing back. The sixth step is optional, to be used as a last resort.
Step 1. Confront your own fascination with drama. If multiple people in your life leave you feeling harried and hounded, consider this: The common denominator is you. Ask yourself: Does a drama queen’s neediness make you feel important? Does being the sanest one in your crew ease your own sense of insecurity? Do you feel an unnecessary sense of responsibility for these people? Taking stock of your own contribution can help you shift away from them. After all, you can always get the same thrills from reality TV.
Step 2. Decode their language. You rush to the aid of your drama queen friend again and again, only to find there’s nothing wrong. When you interpret what they are really saying, you’re less likely to go over the edge with them. Download our printable tip card Decoding a drama queen’s language as a handy primer.
Hyperbole: “My boss hates me! I’m totally getting fired!” = They’re spinning into a vortex of negative thought because they didn’t get the positive reinforcement they crave.
Accusation: “You never believed in me anyway!” = They’re aggressively deflecting blame for a screw-up.
Limelighting: “He told me not to tell anyone, but I can tell you…” = Nothing is sacred. They’ll risk a relationship for the attention they seek.
Step 3. Set boundaries. Create some guardrails and don’t let them step over them. For example, if the person treats you as their personal 911 hotline, no matter the hour, lay out a strict schedule of your availability.
Step 4. Don’t reward their behavior. When they act out, don’t give them more attention. When they break something, don’t replace it. If they hurtle insults and threats and kick up commotion, don’t respond in kind. Take a deep breath, count your many blessings, and stay calm.
Step 5. Replenish yourself. To recharge after an encounter with a drama queen, go for a walk or meditate or put on your headphones and blast your favorite tunes. Don’t dwell on the drama because it will only keep you in the negative zone. Here’s more on self-care.
Step 6. When all else fails, distance yourself. If you’ve tried steps 1–5, and you’re still at the end of your rope, you might have to cut ties. Tell them that you need time alone to focus on you right now. Likely, their antics won’t end, so steel yourself to stop answering their demands. Yes, you’ll have to fight off guilt — especially if it’s a close relationship — but ultimately, if things are going to change, we can only change ourselves.