Four Ways to Stop Family and Friend Drama

March 18, 2010

Complaining and negativity is difficult enough in the workplace, but what do you do when a relative or friend, (Sally, Sam, or Sue) occupies your time with venting, complaining and negativity? It’s difficult to see someone you care about go through hard times but it seems that this is more of a pattern than a particular situation.  Negativity breeds negativity and research shows that venting only makes things worse.

 Here are four choices to stop your drama with your family and friends!

I have a saying: it takes two to play games unless you are playing solitaire. What this means is that in some way you might be participating without recognizing it. When you jump in with advice, or you give sympathy, an argument or agreement this just adds fuel to the fire. Even if Sally walks away feeling better, notice that you walk away feeling drained. Reserve your energy for friends who can give as well as receive. Withdraw your energy by keeping your mouth shut. A good rule of thumb to remember is this: If you feel exhausted after being around a friend or relative, you might be taking on their problems and doing their emotional work for them. If you want to listen, do so without plugging in.

Mentally say to yourself, ‘this is how she feels, not how I feel.’

Set a boundary
When Sue calls you on the phone, tell her up front you only have five minutes, then stick to your five minutes. Don’t make yourself available for unproductive phone conversations about what’s not working. Use this method to set the stage in advance so that you don’t get caught off guard holding the phone waiting for her to come up for a breath while you wait for an opening to bid farewell.

 Ask a question
Your brother Sam comes to you complaining about his bad luck. You can see it’s going to be a rant, but you want to be there for him.  After an initial statement such as, “that must feel awful,” take a breath and wait. Then, ask the question, “So, what are your choices?” If Sam comes up with some choices, you have just empowered him to take responsibility. If however he says, “I have no choices” and he goes back on a rant, do not respond. The challenge for you might be to resist the urge to plug back into the conversation by offering sympathy or advice.  

 Change the subject
Just a simple, “Can we change the subject?” often will let the other person know that you are not interested and not willing to participate in drama. Your challenge will be to hold your tongue and deal with the uncomfortable silence. Don’t apologize. Just recognize that speaking up now will eliminate the risk of you either feeling resentful, lashing out or wasting your time listening to endless negative chatter.

Have an authentic conversation
I saved this for last because for most people this is the most uncomfortable. No one wants to confront someone else and hurt their feelings, but there is a way to do it. The first step is to own the part that you play in the drama. You say something like this, “Sally I have something to admit to you and I want to apologize. I feel that I’ve been a bit negative lately and I think it’s rubbing off.  It seems that when we talk on the phone I end up feeling worse because I just get caught up in what’s not working or what is wrong. I have made a new commitment to be more positive and keep my attitude in check. Would you support me in keeping this commitment? Then the next time Sally comes to you with negative news, you can say, “oops, remember my commitment?

While you are making these changes give up the need for Sally, Sam or Sue to understand or agree with your new way of responding. She may try to manipulate you into the drama because drama is very addictive. He may try to make you feel guilty for not being a good sister. The bottom line is this: you must get honest with yourself and see if you are willing to take a stand to make this important change.  

Want to reclaim your peace and prosperity? Join me March 30th.


Success Starts on the Inside

March 2, 2010

A lot of people who believe that more money or a higher position at work would alleviate the anxiety or worry. This is an example of looking for success in  the wrong place.

Stephen Covey, one of my favorite authors says, “Private victories precede public victories.” You must do your inner work first, then you can enjoy your outer success!

Higher levels of success in the form of more money or a higher leadership position, only magnifies unfinished business. You can’t fool the Universe.

If you aren’t ready for the more money, or more responsibility your weaknesses  will be magnified.

If you haven’t done your “inner work” the extra money, bigger title, or fancy degree won’t fill the  spiritual “hole” you are trying to fill with outward success. 

If you are suffering with a small business, a bigger one will make you suffer more. If you can’t get along with the folks you work with now, chances are you’ll have problems at the next job too.

During Stop Your Drama Month I am offering so many free resources for people at all levels. I get that not everyone can afford some of the things I offer, so this is my way of giving back and living on purpose without worrying about who is my client.  Let’s have some fun this March and see what happens when we all stop our drama.

Get Free Resources Here!

What Employees Won’t Tell You

February 19, 2010

I worked for over twenty years on the factory floor doing everything from production work on the lines to sanitation to driving a forklift. I left that world to pursue a professional speaking career. I finished two college degrees and continue to study what I already knew from my 20 plus years on the factory floor. On the factory floor, employee relationships can either make or break productivity, working for you or against you. I learned that bosses either encourage and support productivity or discourage and hamper productivity.

I also learned that one key component in any kind of drama is relationships. The way you view your co-workers, your boss, your employees has everthing to do with your ability to work as a team and to enjoy your work.

March is Stop Your Drama Month. I’m going to be answering all kinds of “drama questions” and giving away free resources to those who manage others.

To get your free resources, just sign up here!

If you are an employee and you have some insights, feel free to leave your post. If you are a manager with suggestions, please do the same.

Decision Making in the Zone Eliminates Mind Drama

February 19, 2010

All drama has a common component: a lack of clarity. If you’ve ever suffered from the monkey mind, you know what I mean. You can’t make a decision.  The cause of the monkey mind is living too far into the past, or too far into the future. The past almost always represents regrets and guilt and the future either equals salvation or anxiety.  Here’s how the monkey mind shows up.

Once you think you’ve made a decision, you remember a past failure and you are afraid to have the same experience. Or you continue to accept destructive patterns in a relationship because “that is the way it’s always been,” instead of making changes for how you want the relationship to be in the future. 

You do what you don’t want to do because you don’t want to rock the boat. You are afraid of the conflict and guilt that comes with saying, “no.”  You fear changing the rules because others won’t understand.

The point is, you make decisions from looking at the past, rather than making decisions that guide you toward a better future.

Your  mind is in conflict and you never feel a sense of peace. You mind works overtime analyzing what you you would like to do versus what you used to  do or what you think you should do.

The other way your mind keeps you in a state of turmoil is worrying about the future: “What if I do ABC and XYZ happens?” Then you toss around all the ideas until you are exhausted.  You either have an unrealistic sense of hope, (the island equals salvation) or an unrealistic sense of anxiety and dread. This split keeps you spinning on indecision and frustration.

Obsessive mind drama results in procrastination that keeps you spinning in a circle  or constant disappointment and lack of trust in yourself.  You didn’t reach the goal.  You should have known better. Reaching the goal didn’t help you feel any better and now you have another past memory of failure.

Do you see the vicious cycle?

The way to eliminate this mind drama of indecision is to make decisions in the zone.

 The zone is best described by visualizing a number line. In the middle of the number line is zero. On the right is 1, 2, 3, and so on to infinity. On the left of zero is negative 1, 2, and 3 and so on.

 Zero represents the present moment, no past and no future.  If you can live your life in the zone between negative 2, and positive 2, you can easily make decisions and let go of the mind drama that keeps you stuck in the past or worried about the future.

The farther you live in  the past, the more regret, guilt and worry you experience. The farther you live into the future the more worry and anxiety you experience. When you live between negative 2 and positive 2 you are learning from the past, only glancing back to apply lessons already received. When you glance ahead to positive 2  you are preparing for the future, but acting in the now.

Eckhart Tolle, one of the top spiritual thought leaders of our time says that suffering cannot survive without time. The past is an identity and the future is an illusion. When you narrow that gap and live in the zone, all suffering ends, and life becomes fulfilling and productive.

Join us for Stop Your Drama Month and get free resources and join the teleseminars and Stop Your Drama Q and A Day!

4 Reasons Others Avoid You

February 7, 2010

Relationships are either a source of renewal or source of drama. If you continue to experience relationship drama it may be an unconscious communication pattern, which makes others feel unsafe around you. Here are four communication mistakes and how to correct them.

1. Discounting

2. Giving advice too soon

3. Judging

4. Betraying trust


Rolling your eyes when you disagree; saying “don’t make such a big deal out of it,” or forgetting to keep a small promise are some of the various ways you might be discounting others. You may even say, “it’s no big deal,” which is yet another way to minimize what you have done so you can avoid looking at your own patterns.

Solution: Show respect. Stop rolling your eyes, and simply express your disagreement.  What is a big deal to one person is small beans to another. Never tell anyone their issue isn’t important.

Giving Advice Too Soon

How do you know if you gave advice too soon?  You will trigger a “drama response” in the form of anger, defensiveness, or pouting.  Most of us, even when it seems that we are asking for advice, usually want something else. Right or wrong, we want to be heard, we want agreement, or we want to vent.

Solution: Your goal is to make sure they feel understood. The way to accomplish this is to listen-acknowledge, instead of jumping in with an instant solution. Before offering solutions, acknowledge how the other person feels without rescuing, agreeing or making her wrong. For example, “It sounds like you were really angry,” then wait for her response. Once she calms down she may be open to your advice or opinion. A good rule of thumb to remember is this: the solution is always secondary to feeling understood.


Your spouse or partner will avoid you like the plague if when they are around you they feel judged. Calling someone “stupid,” or saying things like, “I would never do that,” or telling your loved one what he should have done, is a sure-fire way to make him avoid you. As I mentioned before, giving advice too early can also be seen as a form of judgment.

Solution: Accept your partner and be open. The best way to avoid judgment is to listen and become curious instead of jumping to conclusions.

Betraying trust

Besides leaking a secret, teasing is another way of betraying trust. When you know someone has a sore spot and you bring it up in public you represent yourself as one who is not safe to share sensitive information with.

Solution: Consider your loved one’s feelings and avoid the temptation to tease them about their weaknesses.  They are not good at numbers? They can’t balance a checkbook? They are directionally challenged? It’s fine if they want to be the one sharing this information in a humorous way but it’s not OK for you to.

A good rule of thumb: Don’t tease anyone unless it puts them in a positive light and honors them.

7 Ways to Stop Workplace Drama

February 5, 2010

Negativity is the number one productivity problem in the workplace. Signs of negativity include backstabbing, gossiping, power struggles and lack of teamwork. The end result is absenteeism, low morale and turnover.  Here are seven tips for improving workplace relationships and reducing negativity.

1. Facilitate Regular Staff Meetings

When done properly, regular meetings provide a forum for listening, problem-solving and honoring peak performance. Meeting mistakes include lecturing instead of engaging the team, inconsistent meeting times, no agenda, and no fun.

2. Institute a DRAMA-Free Workplace

Make relationships a priority and support the relationships with a standard operating procedure and employee manual.  Review at least once a year and let the rules be the “bad guy” when it comes to discipline.

3. Eliminate the Open Door Policy

The door should only be open during specific hours and preferably by appointment. This prevents casual visits to vent or tattle.

4. Stop Office Gossip

Sally comes to you and says, “Don’t tell Donna, I said this, but Donna is unhappy with…”  Discourage hearsay with a calm question, “Why are you coming to me with Donna’s problem?” Send the message you do not tolerate “rescuing” behavior.

5. Teach Problem-Solving

When an employee comes to you with a complaint, acknowledge the complaint, then schedule the employee to come back with all the facts, and an idea or potential solution.

6. Require Rejuvenation

No rest and recovery equals irritability, impatience, rude behavior and more mistakes. Managing energy is crucial to peak performance and productivity. Make regular breaks mandatory at least every two hours if possible.

7. Be the Change You Wish To See

Master your communication and relationship skills. Set the example: Master your emotions, be fair, listen, have integrity, show respect and have fun. Remember the words of William Penn: “No man is fit to command another who cannot command himself.”

Go to to get a more in depth discussion of the 7 Ways to Stop Workplace Drama.

Conscious Communication and Truth Telling: Painful or Freeing?

January 20, 2010

“The truth is, red is not your color.  No, of course I’m not trying to hurt your feelings. You want me to be honest don’t you?”

When you are recipient of this kind of honesty you have to ask some questions:  Is this person having a bad day? Is this just an instance of poor social skills or low self-esteem?

Several emotions and behaviors come disguised as honesty: Anger, revenge, justification, judgment, and low self-esteem.  When someone justifies his or her honesty there is probably some conflicting intention behind it. Here are some of the red flag phrases.

Well, to be honest…

The “Well, to be honest” phrase appears every day in business and is the nemesis of all salespeople. On a follow up call you hear; “Well to be honest…” (The writing is on the wall when a prospect begins a sentence with that phrase.) Decision makers pretend they are interested in a product or service that they have no intention of buying, yet instead of speaking the truth up front, they pass out false hope and waste the time of the persistent sales person.

“Well to be honest,” translated means this:  “I have pretended to be interested in your product or service, and even though I am the decision maker, I didn’t have the backbone to say bug-off.  It seemed easier to lead you on, than to admit that I wasn’t interested. I thought that my procrastination would wear you down, however your persistence forced me to be honest.” Persistence facilitates truth telling. The same can be said for personal relationships.

I just HAVE to be honest…

“I just HAVE to be honest,” is a red flag phrase that you have just been deceived. It happens in personal relationships when the intentions are contradictory.   For example, “I just have to be honest, I never really cared for opera in the first place.”  In the ears of the recipient, the translation is:  “I have lied to you, led you on and pretended to enjoy opera in order to please you and win your approval, but now that you are hooked, I’m ready to get real.”

Until we are aware of these conflicting intentions we create patterns of discord. Gary Zukov, author of Seat of the Soul says that we are unable choose our intentions consciously until we are conscious of each of the different aspects of ourselves. “If you are not conscious of each part of yourself you will have the experience of wanting to say, or to intend, one thing, and find yourself saying or intending something else.  You will desire to release a painful pattern from your experience, and see it reappear yet again.”

Few people are self aware enough to be honest.  Honesty is uncomfortable. It means honoring feelings and examining intentions. Anger is often cloaked in honesty with the hidden intention of revenge, which ends in the justification “Well it’s the truth.”

Well it’s the truth!

“I don’t enjoy going to the opera with you anyway.  You don’t know how to dress, your manners are boorish, and it’s obvious you are outclassed.  Well…it’s the truth!”

Have you ever noticed that “well, it’s the truth,” is always said after delivering a slam?

Anger disguised as honesty reveals hidden judgments or resentments or the unconscious need for revenge, i.e. you have hurt my feelings and now I want to hurt yours. No wonder we all believe the old adage, “the truth hurts.”

Neil Donald Walsh, in his book Conversations With God, says, “Feelings are neither negative nor destructive. They are simply truths.  How you express your truth is what matters.”

Harriet Learner, in her book The Dance of Deception, says, “Much of what we call telling the truth, involves an unproductive effort to change, convince or convert another person rather than an attempt to clarify our own selves.” This tells me that truth is about representing ourselves and not placing demands and judgments on others.

If you have come to the conclusion that honesty is not only a heart breaker but also a time-waster, the only way to see through the deception is to become more honest yourself.

If you want your communication to be more competent and more conscious, ow is the moment to ask some life-changing questions:

  • “Do I lead people on because it’s easier than being honest?
  • “Do I use honesty as an excuse to express anger?
  • “Do I understand my intentions when I express my honesty?
  • “What other truths are unspoken in my honesty?

Depok Chopra says, “pain isn’t the truth, it’s what mortals go through to find the truth.

If we honor our feelings and examine our intentions before expressing our truth, our honesty will be softer, kinder and will be the kind of truth that sets us free.

Want to build more conscious communication in your workplace?
Check out Attitude Builders.