The Drama Queens (and Kings) at your office need to be the center of attention. They’re provocative, emotional and reactive. And they are highly skilled at getting everyone around them worked-up, frazzled and emotional (that’s how they stay at the center of attention).
So you’re going to manage them by doing the opposite (i.e. you’re going to be calm, cool and Factual).
Now, before I can teach you exactly what to say to those Drama Queens/Kings, I need to explain a little more about how to be Factual.
There are basically three lenses through which we see the world: Facts, Interpretations and Reactions. Facts are observable and objective reality (they could be videotaped and measured and transcribed). If you hear a rustling in the bushes outside your window, it’s just a pattern of sound waves that could be recorded. It’s not necessarily a monster coming to eat you or some squirrels running around, it’s just a noise.
But, the human brain doesn’t like to be so dispassionate about that noise; our brains like to “interpret” that factual thing. So an Interpretation is when we take that Fact and give it some extra meaning. If you just watched a horror movie, that rustling in the bushes probably gets interpreted as a scary alien clown coming to eat your brain. If you’re a bird watcher, that rustling could be a red-tailed swallow finch (or whatever).
The final lens is Reaction. This is where we have an emotional response to our Interpretation. If I interpret the noise as a brain-eating clown, my reaction is fear. If it’s a rare bird, I get excited.
So just remember: we observe a Fact, we make an Interpretation about it, and then we have an emotional Reaction.
Now here’s why you need to know all this: Drama Queens/Kings want you to live in the world of Reactions (they love emotions, especially when they’re intense and scary). And they get you worked-up and emotional by distorting your Interpretations. So this means that your solution is going to be focusing on Facts. (And specifically, you’ll be using a tool called Redirection to push them back to Facts).
Here’s an example…
Imagine the Drama Queen/King comes into your office because there was a leak in the roof. So they dramatically say “You know you don’t know what it was like. It was horrible there was a torrent of water and all of a sudden everything was coming through. I thought I was going to die it was unbelievable. We should evacuate the whole building and everybody should know. It should be condemned…”
Now, that’s a lot of Reaction and Interpretation. So we’re going to redirect the conversation an say something like “I hear you feel frightened by this but I need to know what the facts were. Tell me about the facts of what happened.”
They’ll probably resist you and say “Oh it was just awful. I mean you can’t even imagine it was just it was so scary.”
So you repeat yourself and say “Listen, I hear you feel frightened by this, but right now, I need to know what the facts were.” Of course, there is a limit as to how many times you repeat yourself, so you can set a limit like “I’ve only got 5-minutes, so just give me the Facts.”
So your 4 words are very simple: Just the Facts please. If you get sucked into Interpretations and Reactions, you’re sunk. But if you stay with Facts, you’ll find that Drama Queens/Kings start to become a lot less dramatic (because they know they can’t manipulate you).
Mark Murphy is the founder of Leadership IQ, keynote speaker, leadership researcher, and developer of the online “Science of Leadership Academy.” Mark is the author of five books, including the New York Times bestseller “Hundred Percenters: Challenge Your People to Give It Their All and They’ll Give You Even More.” And his prior book, “Hiring for Attitude,” was chosen as a top business book by CNBC.