“Every time you feel yourself being pulled into other people’s drama, repeat these words… NOT MY CIRCUS, NOT MY MONKEYS.”  Polish Proverb

We all have Drama Queens in our lives – in the family, in the workplace, in the marketplace, and in our social circles. Managing a Drama Queen can be tiring and annoying. Understanding what’s going on in The Queen and having a strategy to deal with her is essential to stay disentangled.

Understanding the Drama Queen

A Drama Queen is doing what she’s been taught to do to get her needs met. Usually she doesn’t know another way of getting attention or of solving a problem. This is probably a result of her history. She was taught how to be a Drama Queen.  Either she was indulged in her dramas or she was ignored as a child. Either way, her needs to feel affirmed, to learn how to deal with reality, and to know how to problem solve were not met. So she’s counting on you to accommodate her and relieve her distress. You will never help a Drama Queen by either indulging or ignoring her. Chances are, she’ll just become more anxious. She’ll then turn up the decibels and/or the heat.

So here are some options:

Be available to listen for the purpose of clarification and support, not to be the problem-solver.

You may choose to be empathetic, but your role is not to rescue the Drama Queen. She needs to learn how to run her own kingdom.

Avoid advising.

Offering advice is simply a set up for a series of, “Yeah, but . . .” exchanges. You may want to ask her some focused, meaningful, problem-solving questions; highlighting and encouraging her to consider the importance of choices and consequences.   Maybe she can learn how to more effectively problem solve using more effective questions. Maybe.

Avoid supporting her position of superiority or martyrdom.

You serve no useful purpose in tolerating her arrogance or her helplessness. She needs to understand that she’s in charge of her own life, that her choices matter, and that she must deal with life as it is, not as she wishes it to be.

Clarify your own limitations.

It’s okay to not have the answer, to say, “I don’t know.”, or “I can’t help you with this.”

Set boundaries.

When the phone rings, the text comes through, or the email arrives, you don’t have to answer immediately. Take a breath, gain some space, and let her have some time to figure out her options.

Encouraging a Drama Queen to be an adult queen and not a child princess by refusing to indulge or ignore her will either help her relax and mature or she will choose to exit.  Either way, you’ve successfully disentangled yourself from the circus and the monkeys.