‘Drama Queens’ and their male counterparts may look like they’re responding quickly – rallying the troops, taking charge and solving problems. But they cause more chaos at work and create more fallout than the problems they’re reacting to. Don’t be fooled by their high energy and don’t promote them. Drama Queens come in many forms. For example:
To learn to recognize and stop them, read more.
Our language has many expressions for the perspective necessary for judicious action: ‘Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill; don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater; don’t try to kill mosquitoes with a bazooka; don’t jump to conclusions; don’t promote a Drama Queen.’
In his article in the New York Times, Erik Eckholm, points out that, “Alarmed by evidence that gay and lesbian students are common victims of schoolyard bullies, many school districts are bolstering their antiharassment rules with early lessons in tolerance.”
The article continues, “Rick DeMato, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, [who] opposes the curriculum changes in the school district in Helena, Mont. [has led] angry parents and religious critics…[to] charge that liberals and gay rights groups are using the antibullying banner to pursue a hidden ‘homosexual agenda,’ implicitly endorsing, for example, same sex marriage.”
Stealth bullies win when they can change the subject to fit their agendas; when they can distract you from your subject and make the focus of discussion be something they want to discuss and over which they think they can win.
For example, suppose you complain about your date or spouse’s public or private sarcasm, put-downs and nasty, mocking humor. If he’s a stealthy, manipulative bully, he might change the subject by saying that you’re hypersensitive and you over-react, or that you hurt his feelings by complaining. If he can get you to focus on whether you’re hypersensitive or have no sense of humor or on making him feel better, then he wins and you lose. You’ll never get him to stop making those remarks.
Or suppose you’re angry that he hit you. If he’s a stealthy predator, he might complain that you didn’t communicate that in a supportive way or that you over-reacted or that you started it and you provoked him or that he felt put-down by your anger, which reminded him of his childhood. And that’s the only thing he wants to talk about. If he can get you to focus on your poor communication or his hurt feelings and past trauma, he wins and you lose. He’ll never have to talk about your pain when he hit you and, since he has a good excuse for hitting you (his past trauma), he doesn’t have to change.
Therefore, you must take charge of the agenda. Make him focus first on his sarcastic put-downs or on his hitting you. And you have to be satisfied by the result before you’ll discuss his agenda. If he doesn’t satisfy you, don’t go on to his agenda. Go as far away as you can.
What does this have to do with the anti-bullying policies and programs we started with?
The initial agenda in those schools is stopping harassment, bullying and abuse of kids or adults. The reason given by the bullies to justify their verbal, emotional and physical attacks was that their targets were gay or lesbian. I pay more attention to the actions than to the excuses and justifications. The agenda is stopping the bullying and violence. The agenda is stopping the negativity, pain, anxiety and depression bullying causes. The agenda is stopping the targets’ loss of self-confidence and self-esteem, and the increasing number of bullying-caused suicides.
Some people want to make the agenda be a torturous and emotionally-charged discussion of whether schools can be allowed to promote a pro-gay and pro-lesbian agenda. And whether parents or educators control what’s taught in schools.
If those stealthy bullies can get you into those discussions, you’ll never stop school bullying. They won’t have to stop their children from bullying and abusing other kids. They feel that bullying and violence should be condoned or at least tolerated because the bullies have good reasons to torment their targets. Since, they think, being gay or lesbian is a sin, if one of the targets becomes a victim and commits suicide, the world is a better place.
So keep the focus where it should be: anti-bullying programs that stop bullies. When I’m called in to help schools develop effective programs, I always challenge dissenters to come up with a better program to stop bullies before we talk about areas that would distract us from the main agenda.
Some bullies use their strong emotions to become the center of attention, take control and coerce or manipulate other people to give in and do what the emotional bully wants.
Children throwing fits are practicing and learning if that tactic works. Adult masters of emotional bullying are effective with spouses, partners, friends, extended families and at work. Some bullies are especially effective in places where other people’s politeness keeps them from stopping the bullying – like at parent groups, reading clubs and parent-teacher meetings.
These “Drama Queens” and their male counterparts have strong emotions and over-the-top reactions. They come in many forms.
No matter how trivial the problem at school, Claire’s daughter was never at fault. If Claire’s child didn’t get the special treatment she wanted, or if her child was marked down for not completing an assignment or for misbehaving, or if her child wasn’t the first or the most successful, Claire threw a fit. In public, she yelled at other children or at teachers and the principal. She threatened law suits. Pretty soon, teachers allowed her spoiled, bratty child to bully other children.
James had three young children, but he was always the center of attention. If he didn’t get waited on instantly or was asked to do something that interfered with his personal plans or comfort, his constant irritation blew up into outrage and anger. He yelled at his wife and the kids. He blamed them for disturbing him and punished them in nasty ways for days. Usually he was allowed to do anything he wanted and was rarely asked to help. His wife said, behind his back, that it was like having a giant kid in the house.
In the workplace, Tracy ranted in her office, but never followed through with her threats or promises. She moved on to turn the next problem she saw into a catastrophe. But once she’d blown up at you, no amount of good performance would get you out off her “bad” list. She’d sabotage you without telling you why. Pretty soon, everyone did exactly what she wanted. They didn’t want scenes and they didn’t want Tracy to stab them in the back.
Charlie was a lousy friend, but everyone was afraid to tell him. He was always late, took up the whole time talking about himself and needed everyone to help him do what he said he “needed” to do. He borrowed but never returned, he never had money to cover his share of activities and all the fun had to wait until he arrived. If anyone wouldn’t wait or tried to stop his narcissistic speeches or wouldn’t give him what he wanted, his feelings were hurt. He was crushed, incensed and ranted for hours; he never let go of a perceived slight. Of course, it was just easier to give and go along rather than to offend him.
Although they come in many forms, Drama Queens share some common traits. They:
Are hypersensitive, highly emotional and easily hurt. They’re super-intense, angry, hostile and emotional. They over-react as if everything is a matter of life and death.
They misunderstand, jump to conclusions and blow up and demand apologies.
Drama Queens increase everyone’s anxiety, stress and depression. Most people mistakenly accept the blame for triggering the Drama Queen. They also create chaos. Their hyperactive, panicky, adrenaline-rush is addictive and contagious. Soon, everyone is on edge and ready to blow up at the slightest provocation.
Logic and kindness won’t change them. And you won’t cure them. Their tactics have made them successful since childhood. Only a devastating comeuppance or years of intensive therapy or coaching have a chance of changing that style.
When possible, vote Drama Queens off your island. You’ll need carefully planned tactics if they’re in your extended family or live on your block and their kids are friends with yours. At work, try to document activities that destroy teamwork or are clearly illegal. You won’t get anywhere if you want the big bosses to act because the Drama Queen hurt your feelings.
If the Drama Queen or King is your spouse, I’m sorry. You’ll have to demand behavioral change while you prepare to move on. Usually, they won’t grow up and learn a new style unless they have to. They’d even rather get a divorce and blame you than change their style. Drama Queens are addicted to their habit – knowing that they’re the center of the universe – and need repeated fixes.