When something out of the ordinary happens in our lives, we have the choice of how to react. Sometimes, what has happened really surprises us, but often it doesn’t. Once we are over the initial shock, we can more carefully choose our reaction to the events, decide how we want to think and talk about it.
Part of choosing our reaction to an incident — or something that might become a skeleton in the closet — is deciding whether to increase the drama of the situation or not. I think you know what “increasing the drama” means. It means making the story more exciting, and describing the people in extremes — as villains, idiots, or heroes. Dramatizations are always given in a conspiratorial tone, in hushed, animated voices around the water cooler, so to speak.
What does telling a story with extra drama do? Why is increasing the drama a bad idea? When we add drama to a story, we increase the hardships, make struggles more difficult and problems insurmountable. Injustice reigns in big drama. Without realizing it, we are emphasizing how life is hard, things never go smoothly, and people mistreat each other. There is often a strong, imbalanced morality overlaid on the story. Living in this vibration makes us feel frustrated, critical, angry, and judgmental.
When we choose to downplay the drama as we relive the events, we reduce the struggles and judge people less harshly. Our overall tone is “it wasn’t that bad” or “it was a little mess up” rather than the overexaggerated, dramatized version. We tend to feel that things are looking up, people around us are competent, and problems beatable.
How to do it
So how can you learn to reduce the drama of a situation? Here are some things to think about.
– Stick to the facts. When telling the story of what happened, keep it straight-up boring.
– Become aware of what words you choose when you tell the story of what happened. Think of it as a story that can be told in many different ways.
– Catch yourself before you start to talk in black-and-white.
– Don’t vilify (“villainize”) people. Sure, they made a mistake, but it isn’t about their core character.
– If you enjoy dramatizing, do so with something funny or helpful rather than a bad event. Be a stand-up comedian, not a bad-news reporter.
– There is a balance between doing things in the big-city anonymous way and the small-town gossipy way. Look for that balance.
In a non-judgmental way, watch how other people tell stories. Can you see them getting dramatic and adding to their own frustration? Now see that property in yourself, laugh about it, and curb it before it gets out of hand!