Have you ever noticed the correlation between being unhappy and how much we participate in gossip? Do you know people who thrive in creating drama and conflict? Are they happy people in general? Or is there something under the surface that they can’t bear to face?
Gossip is a defense mechanism.
It feels good to ‘prove’ another human is inferior. It creates a temporary and partial amnesia of our own shortcomings and insecurities. Instead of dealing with our own inner ugliness we create an ugly picture of others to make ourselves feel better.
Ick. Sounds absolutely awful when we put it like that. But it’s pretty accurate, isn’t it?
Why do we engage in these behaviours? How do we protect ourselves from the toxic actions of others?
It’s not easy but it starts with awareness. From awareness we can develop compassion for ourselves and for our fellow drama kings and queens.
It feels good to ‘prove’ another human is inferior. Instead of dealing with our own inner ugliness we create an ugly picture of others.
Workplaces that run rampant with gossip and drama are toxic environments. I draw upon my own experience as well as my education in psychological health & safety in the workplace for this observation.
When employees feel undervalued, unappreciated, disrespected, they go into defense mode and turn to gossip as a means of compensating for what they’re feeling. I’ve been in absolutely ruthless workplaces where everyone was trying to tear everyone down. I hate to admit it, but I was just as guilty as the next person when it came to gossip. I knew it was my own insecurities I was compensating for, but to my shame I did it anyway.
What about people that constantly create drama? I recently read this quote and it made a lot sense to me:
“Addiction to drama allows someone to validate the part of the personality that was formed to handle the childhood trauma. The brain tries to cope by creating a second personality but the chemical wiring of the brain is still affected. Chemically speaking, the brain gets a dopamine hit from the external validation of reliving the traumatic event.”
That sparked feelings of compassion within me. Anything that brings my awareness to realize that someone is dealing with childhood trauma, I instantly become more understanding.
How Should We Respond to Other People’s Drama?
The key is to “respond” as opposed to “react”.
Responding is an essential part of practicing mindfulness, which has been my superpower in handling other people’s drama. Before I even fully understood what mindfulness was, I realize now I was practicing it in the workplace when dealing with upset customers. People get almost irrationally upset about the most seemingly irrelevant things.
Because they don’t feel valued. They feel misunderstood. There are likely external events going on in their lives that have absolutely nothing to do with what they are raging about but have contributed to the conflict unfolding.
Applying the same technique in day to day life and in your relationships is very effective. How someone is conducting themselves has absolutely nothing to do with you. When you recognize that, you’re able to drop the need to be defensive and simply be an observer. It’s helpful at times to imagine yourself holding up a mirror to this person. It’s a reflection of themselves.
And there are times when the mirror needs to be held the other way, which is far more uncomfortable. Fortunately, it’s actually quite easy to make it less uncomfortable. How?
Always strive to be the reflection you wish to see.