Drama Sparks: The Unseen Invitations to Distress and Drama

Below are the six almost invisible behaviors that spark negative drama and attention. 

The Perfectionist

This blog would be great if…. Let me just edit it one more time. Maybe I should add a few links for further research. That sentence needs to be reworked again. Wow, this got really long somehow?

If any of those thoughts have ever run through your head....you might be a perfectionist!

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For instance. I was at a meeting recently and we had ten minutes to make a decision. The person in charge started by handing out a four-page handout and he had about twenty slides. There was NO WAY that we could cover all the details he had prepared and it was clear the meeting was going waaaaay over time. Here is what it sounds like...

"Before I clarify the points we are making, um, let me explain some information, that will give you a more exact idea, um, of what is before us."

The irony of their intention is they do this to promote understanding of self and others, but in reality, they end up going over peoples head. Then when people don't get their point, they feel disrespected because their work is unappreciated. 

The best way to approach folks who are trying to be perfect is to gently interrupt them with a question that cut's through the detail to the main point. 

Instead of politely listening to stuff that makes no sense you might say; "I can tell you put a lot of time into this, What is the main point you hope we understand?" 

This will give them a chance to use their natural skills of analyzing and synthesizing information.

If you ARE the perfectionist remember that other people are smart and capable too. One of my favorite mantras, when I'm stuck in a perfectionist loop, is, "Done is better than perfect."

The Judgy McJudgerton

Let me introduce the voice of Judgy McJudgerton.  Read the questions below with a suspicious tone of voice and the facial expression of a judgy cat. 

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"Isn't the name Judgy McJudgerton a little facetious?"

"What, exactly, do you mean by that?"

"How does that, when considering our current trajectory, plus the new initiatives, help our overall commitment to excellence?"

"Should you really compare people to cats?"

There is a common theme to these questions....they aren't really questions! They are actually a tool used by the Judgy McJudgerton to share an opinion. 

For instance. At a recent meeting, I was helping a group discern their core values. Core values are a topic that a Judgy McJudgerton cares deeply about. A suggestion was made to shorten the list of values so they were more easy to memorize. The response from McJudgerton was,

"Is it a good idea to take shortcuts on our core values?" 

The irony of their intention is they do this to promote their commitment to the values, but in reality, they end up sounding harsh and hurt loyalty from those who prize relationships. Trying to answer the question correctly is a trap. There is no adequate answer to these type of questions. They are designed for the answerer to fail. 

The best way to approach questions like this is to answer the question with a question. 

Instead of striving to answer a question you can never get right you might say; "I can tell this is important to you, What do you believe we should do?" 

This will give them a chance to use their natural skills of evaluating and setting the course in a strong moral and values-driven direction. 

If you ARE a Judgy McJudgeton remember that your values will be more respected if you honor the relationship and diversity of belief in the room. One of my favorite mantras for a Judgy McJudgerton, is, "I can give others space and still hold my convictions."

 The Pleaser

Have you ever had a thought, desire, or opinion but you decided to not share it for fear of hurting someone's feelings? If so you might be a pleaser! Pleasers are really awesome at assuming they know how others feel and they usually the think, "These people probably don't like me." So instead of openly naming their desire, they hide it behind qualifiers or statements like "I don't care."

For instance. I hang with pastors quite a bit. Many of them have this desire to please. Getting these folks to pick a restaurant is like pulling teeth! Nobody is willing to stake a claim for what they want because they are afraid they might hurt feelings, leave someone out, or be seen as demanding.  Here is what they say;

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"Well, I'd like mexican....if it's OK with you guys...we don't have to do that....oh nevermind."

The irony of their intention is they do this for the sake of others, but in reality, it pushes people away because their wishy-washy decision making gets them left out. 

The best way to approach folks who are trying to please is to ignore the content (in the example above the content is lunch) and show them that you appreciate them for who they are!

Instead of suggesting another restaurant for them to say, "I don't care" to; you might say; "I care about how you are feeling and my top priority is to be together." 

This will give them a chance to fill their tank and ask for what they want. 

If you ARE the person who desires to please remember that your wants and desires are important too and you are best able to take care of others when you take care of yourself first. A great mantra for pleasers is, "My feelings are valid, even if others don't like them."

The Turtle in a Half Shell

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No, not the ninja kind. These are the kind of turtles who desire to shrink away into their shell anytime there is too many people, too much small talk, or too many options without enough direction. If that is you might be a Turtle in a Half Shell! Turtles can get overwhelmed with too much social interaction and feel the need to be strong for other people. They may not vocalize this externally but internally they say things like, "I seems as if this is uncomfortable. I have no clue what to say or do. I’ll just shake my head until they go away."

For instance. I have a close friend who I often work on projects with. Starting a project without much built in direction can cause this friend to shrink into their chair. They are in the room, but they might as well not be. Their face goes blank and they stop making suggestions. If they do speak it is in a third person way, as if they have lost touch with their real feelings or emotions, “It occurs to me that….I may be confused…umm…I am…huh.”

The irony of their intention is that they need time and space to access their imaginative character strength, but instead of taking that space they spin their wheels and try to be strong and present to other people.

The best way to approach folks who are trying shrinking into their shell is to give them a moment alone to reflect paired with a time in the future when you can check in to see what they are dreaming up.

Instead of peppering them with questions to clarify a point just direct them to take a moment alone, "Take a moment to reflect on this. I’ll come back in 20 minutes to see what you are imagining." 

This will give them a chance to fill their tank and access their imaginative and reflective side. 

If you ARE the person who desires to shrink into a shell remember that your desire for space and reflection are important too and you are best able to be helpful when you take time for yourself first. A great mantra for Turtle’s in a Half Shell is, "Ask for a moment to reflect. Come back and share later."

The Half-Asser

Let me introduce the voice of the Half-Asser.  The comments below have a flippant tone flavored with a touch of carelessness

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When asked to report on their project: "Oh yeah, I forgot we were supposed to do that"

When the group meets to discuss a report: "I tried looking at the report, but then I saw how small the font was...yikes!"

When you ask about an email you know you sent: "You sent me the email...I'm not sure it went through"

When are trying to start a meeting you planned together: "What's going on today? I accidentally read last weeks agenda."

These quotes are all representative of the Half-Asser. This is the person who feigns effort without fully taking responsibility.  It's easy to slap a "LAZY" label on this person, but that isn't really what's going on here. 

Let's take a closer look. At a recent conference, I was standing with a group of half-assers (you know who you are). It was during a break and right before break out sessions where we would all have to locate rooms for the session we signed up for.  Here is what the conversation sounded like. 

"What's going on next?" 

"I have no idea what I signed up for"

"Huh, what's next?"

"This place is a maze, I have no clue where to go."

Eventually, a Judgy McJudgerton standing nearby said this; "Don't you have schedules and maps in the folders that you are HOLDING IN YOUR HANDS!?!?"

The irony of intention is the half-asser desires to have a good time, but instead of taking responsibility for their experience they "play dumb" until they get reprimanded; which isn't fun at all! The Judgy response in the example above plays into their myth that this is stupid, boring, and others are keeping me from having a good time. 

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Instead of responding to their perceived ignorance, access their ability to be creative, spontaneous and playful by interacting with them in playful ways. If you want to get the whole-ass instead of the half-ass try saying things like, "Seriously, what a bummer." "Dude, it's the worst." And if you are willing the half-asser will really appreciate responses with some swearing...they are suckers for irreverence and boundary-pushing. 

If you ARE a Half-Asser remember that you have the ability to make hard boring stuff fun. Turn it into a game, find a way to laugh often, or give it your own unique spin. A great mantra for the Half-Asser is "Even sucky stuff can be fun."  

The Tough Guy

Let me introduce the voice of the Tough Guy  The comments below have a crass tone and are meant to convey superiority.

When a co-worker is struggling with a project: "You know what you signed up for."

When they perceive someone is moving too slow: "You got to keep up if you're going to make it in this business."

When asked to bond emotionally: "There is no room for that sappy stuff here."

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These quotes are all representative of the Tough Guy. This is the person who prizes self-reliance and in distress begins to expect it of everyone else. They adaptable, charming, and persuasive but when they turn into the tough guy they will leave others behind and make their teammates fend for themselves.

Let's take a closer look. I have a client who has some tough guy tendencies. In a recent phone call, he was lamenting about all these employees who can't keep their personal lives at home.  Here is a paraphrase of what he told me. 

"When you show up at work you have to put that stuff aside and deliver. There isn't time to keep crying stuff that happened over the weekend. It's time to work." 

The irony of intention is the tough guy desires decisive action above all other things, but when most people hear their tough guy tone they lose confidence and become even more wishy-washy and emotional.

Instead of responding to the tough guy respond to the person behind the distress and motivate them to use their strengths to save the day. This gives them leeway to act quickly and sets them up to be the hero; creating positive incidence which the tough guy thrives on. Here is how it might sound.

"Bet you can't motivate the whole team, without hurting anyone's feelings. It's going to take some real charm to pull that off. Get out there and take the lead!" 

If you ARE a Tough Guy remember that emotions are powerful and they help get stuff done. There is probably no one more qualified to motivate your team than you...so do it! Turn it into a challenge, find a way to get things moving without leaving a single person behind. A great mantra for the Tough Guy is "I'm stronger when the team succeeds together."