Through the course of my life, I have come to realize that the noise of drama can be deafening to productivity and happiness. It is a common source of negativity and mental anguish in all areas of life, including business. Keeping our minds in a positive emotional state is one of the 5 pillars of happiness, and plays a huge role in our success and happiness in all areas of our life.

Learning how to diminish the drama in life has been a very important area of analysis and change for me, especially over the last 3 years. As I took a more visible leadership role in changing a business culture, the number of critics and harsh communication became challenging.

Although it was the toughest 3 years of my business life, the opinions and criticism of others (fueled by self-agendas, lies and maliciousness) never bothered me that much. I learned a long-time ago that focusing on what we cannot control is nothing more than a path to suffering. I will always rise above it and use it as a path to personal growth.

Honestly, my passion to make a difference was so much greater than the drama anyone tried to bring into my life. There is never greatness for anyone if they let the negativity and agendas of others define who they are and limit the potential of their lives. It is sad to see people stopped in their tracks and suffering in life because they cannot rise above the challenges and opinions of others. For these people, I want to share with you what I have learned and how it has transformed my life to one defined by harmony, unity, inner peace and productivity.

A couple years ago I was returning from a trip to Europe and watching a Ted Talk on the plane. The Ted Talk was from Julian Treasure and was entitled “How to speak so that people want to listen”

Watching his talk was one of the best 10 minute investments I’ve ever made. It made me realize that drama is really a result of the wrong type of communication. He talked in this training about the “7 Deadly Sins of Communication”. Below is a short description of those sins.

(1) Gossip
Yes, we all do it from time to time. But there are some problems with it. For example, says Julian, “we know perfectly well the person gossiping five minutes later will be gossiping about us.” This reminds me of that Eleanor Roosevelt observation: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

(2) Judging
“It’s very hard to listen to somebody if you know that you’re being judged and found wanting at the same time,” Julian says. Judging, of course, is human nature and is not necessarily a bad thing. Context is important. But when judging gets in the way of honest dialog, then we have a problem. Judging can be a great barrier to the receiver actually hearing what is really being said.

(3) Negativity
It’s very hard to listen to someone who is seemingly always negative or has a great habit of looking on the bad side of things. When one’s default reply or approach is to focus on the negative, it becomes hard to take their words seriously. Negativity, of course, is not to be confused with critical thinking or even skepticism. Negativity keeps us from seeing the possible in the seemingly impossible.

(4) Complaining
This one is very close to negativity. We all hate “the complainers” even though we may find ourselves in this role without knowing it. We must be mindful that we do not enter into a kind of downward spiral of negativity and complaining. Complaining is different from venting feelings or frustrations with a trusted friend. This can be quite healthy for getting things off our chest. Complaining refers to an approach to daily living which is always “glass half empty.” Chronic negativity and complaining does not help anyone. Most importantly, it does not help you.

(5) Excuses
“Some people have a blamethrower,” Julian says. “They just pass [blame] on to everybody else and don’t take responsibility for their actions, and again, hard to listen to somebody who is being like that.” It is a natural thing to want to make excuses for our failings. After all, no one knows our inner struggles or our external antagonists better than we do. But deep down we know better: We must take full responsibility for our mistakes and our failures. Far from being a kind of acquiescence, it takes courage to admit failure and to apologize without making even a single excuse.

(6) Exaggeration
Embroidery and exaggeration, says Julian, demeans our language. For example, he says, “if I see something that really is awesome, what do I call it?” Exaggeration can become out and out lying, and we don’t want to listen to people we know are lying to us.” A lot of this depends on which culture we find ourselves in, however. Julian called this bad habit lying, but I have listed it as exaggeration. We obviously know lying is wrong, but we should be careful when our enthusiasm results in the kind of exaggeration that distorts facts.

(7) Dogmatism
Julian refers to dogmatism as “the confusion of facts with opinions.” And he says, “When those two things get conflated, you’re listening into the wind. You know, somebody is bombarding you with their opinions as if they were true. It’s difficult to listen to that.” I would add to this deliberate obfuscation. For example, when an individual will not answer a simple question clearly—one that everyone knows the answer to—because they fear not adhering to a predetermined narrative.

The Lessons:

Lesson #1 – Look in the mirror. This is where I started. I asked myself a question – if I am engaged in drama, are these 7 Deadly Sins part of how I communicate with others? As I began to study that question by analyzing my communication, I was shocked how much of my communication contained one or more of those deadly communication skills. Change starts with ourselves. So I began to make a conscious effort to change my communication patterns to fix this problem. My goal was to create better communication habits so that I did not fuel the drama in my life. This has been a tough change but an amazing journey of growth. Today, I have never had so much inner peace in my life. I can find the good in anything and anyone. Most important, I have very little drama in my life.

Lesson #2 – I am not willing to accept your drama. After I finished looking in the mirror and working on my own self improvement with my communication, I began to look at others who offered too much communication to me that contained those 7 Deadly Sins. Let me tell you there was no shortage of people that fit into that category. For people that offered this type of communication to me, I simply disengaged from it. It is hard to have drama if you don’t participate in it or have people in your life that seem to be a source of it. I did not cut the drama people out of my life, I simply disengaged from their noise by restructuring relationships with people. I recognized quickly that by turning a deaf ear to their drama, they would find another target for it. The most amazing result from this change was that mix of relationships in my life changed. All of a sudden, my relationships in life were with positive, caring, and empowering people. These people helped me grow and brought passion and value to my life. Building better relationships is one of the other pillars of happiness. Disengaging from the drama of others was such an amazing way to accomplish that goal.

In the end, how drama impacts your life is 100% in your control. As the saying goes: Happy Me = Drama Free! I hope this blog, my experience and my lessons will help you move away from drama and toward more productive communication.

Gordon Hester

Author Gordon Hester

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