Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Talk To Me - 2 - Drama

Have you ever accused someone of being a drama queen, or been accused of it?

What it is saying, in effect is that when things aren't going the way you want them, you do not shrug it off, you do not quietly do something about it, you do not state your case in a calm and rational manner. Instead you get excited, shout, maybe swear, perhaps gesticulate wildly, use hyperbole and general emotive language.

It can happen at the mildest provocation. It is never proportionate to the event, that's why it's considered dramatic. I've seen people throw things or "have to sit down" as part of their act.

Is it an act?

Some cultures prefer it. Drama is more likely in people of certain backgrounds, they were taught it as they grew up, it is normal for them.

And culture can exist simply within a family. Children of drama queens are often drama queens. It's how they know to react.

But it can also simply be a personality type.

If you have a combination of two individuals, one who is calm, and one who is dramatic, what are the chances of good communication between them?

And how does culture affect that?

Depending on the dominant culture, the calm one or the dramatic one may have an upper hand if they seek support.

When I give advice about communication I always encourage calmness. Nine times out of ten, drama queens ignore or reject my approach, either because they can't help themselves, or they don't believe it will work. Advice isn't suited to everyone, so they are best seeking it elsewhere. I am never going to suggest or encourage drama.

I suggest trying as hard as possible to avoid it, but if you are accustomed to it, that can be difficult.

Emotional responses are taught, and become habit. Oddly, not everyone is aware of this, but it's been tested repeatedly and conclusively, and the awareness of it actually goes back thousands of years. There is no doubt that if you want to, you can change the way you react to provocation.

Do you want to? Or do you like the drama? Be honest in that question. There have been studies done that suggest it can be addictive. And have you noticed how people seek it on TV? They watch tabloid talk shows and consider them entertainment.

Is this a problem?

I believe it can be. A desire for drama, a tendency to strut and posture can lead to far more than strong words, it can lead to actual aggression.

At the very least, calm people will inevitably look down on excitable people, ignore their exaggerations, and perhaps even judge them as unstable. But perhaps most importantly the end of rational discourse can mean the end of any discourse. Discussion dead in the water. This is not what we want.

If you are trying to discuss something with a drama queen

Sometimes it is possible to keep a drama queen calm by staying ultra calm yourself, regardless of the performance before you. Laughing at them is best avoided. Calling them a drama queen, or telling them to calm down, may or may not have the effect of nipping it in the bud. It could make things worse, so careful judgement is required. A person who is genuinely upset could feel their feelings are being dismissed. So, try to lead by example, make good eye contact, and allow a little extra time before your own responses. Read the previous blog carefully (how NOT to communicate) and double check you aren't falling into any of those traps. If all else fails, walk away and try another time.

If you live or work with a diehard drama queen, double check you aren't enabling them. Also consider that what you may actually be dealing with is the next level up, the emotional vampire:

If you know you are a drama queen

Ask yourself, does it work well for you? Really? Does it help people listen to you, or do they give in to shut you up? Would you rather be respected? You can change how you react, it is a choice. There is much to be said for the old "count to ten". Just taking a deep breath, and thinking about what you really what to convey, consciously moderating your tone and your volume, and avoiding throwing out "lines" can go a long way towards sounding more rational. You will find you get taken seriously if you stay calm, and the results will be better long term.

If you like drama, admit it, know it, and want it, consider the effect you are having on other people. It isn't all about you.


  1. I identify with this: "Calling them a drama queen, or telling them to calm down, may or may not have the effect of nipping it in the bud. It could make things worse, so careful judgement is required. A person who is genuinely upset could feel their feelings are being dismissed."

    I am generally a calm and rational person. My family is kinda nuts and I have always been the odd woman out because of my calmness and tendency towards being rational. That being said, they regularly ignore or dismiss anything I have to say that doesn't fit in with what they want to hear. For example: When my daughter was a child, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. My mother allowed him to continue to drive. I told her that she needed to take his keys because he was a dangerous driver. She said she wouldn't disrespect him like that and believed that if she told him to turn left or right, that he would be a safe driver. I asked her what happened when he forgets the meaning of the words 'left' and 'right'. I then made a rule that my daughter was to NEVER ride in a car if he was driving. They complained about that for years. I stuck to it. She took his keys away the day he nearly killed them because he forgot how to apply the brakes, by the way.

    On a rare occasion, I get so tired of them dismissing my desire to choose the circumstances of my own life that I become a 'drama queen.' It takes a LOT to get me to that point, but once I get there I can't seem to calm myself down and I have felt inclined towards violence on the rare occasion that happens. I have not behaved violently, but I feel it inside me and I know I am capable of it. I am not proud of that. And THAT, without going into the specifics, is why I have been estranged from my sister since 1994.

    1. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure that counts as drama. Anger is sometimes "justified", OK, we know we still shouldn't do it, but everyone has their limits. The critical aspect of being a drama queen is that the emotional behaviour is out of all proportion to the perceived offence. I think you just get pushed too far, there's a difference.

    2. When this rare reaction from me happens, they always tell me I am being a drama queen. On a day to day basis, I am about as drama free as a woman can manage to be.

      Yesterday, I was taken to task by my mother because I don't want contact with my ex-husband. She keeps asking me questions about him and I keep answering that I don't know, don't want to know and if it is important to her that she should ask him directly. She then complains I am being hateful and angry. Some days, my family is crazy making...

    3. Yeah, they sound it. How did you fight that and turn out normal? This always fascinates me, those who, against all odds, break the dysfunction chain.

    4. I didn't fight it. There are a few family members with whom I share temperament (but the others are/were male.) I'm just naturally placid (unless repeatedly provoked.) Since I am the only female like this, the other females constantly try to get an emotional reaction out of me. When they do get it, they accuse me of over-reacting. Living two thousand miles away from them has brought me much (but not complete) peace.

    5. Oh, and if the definition of 'normal' is 'most like the majority of people to whom one is being compared", I am not even a little bit normal.

    6. I feel I should say (in defense of the crazy females in my family) that since most of the placid and logical family members are male, the females think I act too much like a male because I have a placid and logical personality. Sometimes they goad me and ridicule me in a misguided attempt to feminize me. The fact that I mow my own lawn and like to use tools bothers them a lot. My mom tries to shame Ron for not mowing my lawn. He hates mowing and I enjoy it, so I do it. He and I are happy the way we are.

    7. Another word that springs to mind there is busybody. There are other words too but they are not things I say about other people's relatives.

  2. "Crazy making" is well recognized by therapists. They call it Schizophrenic-genic.