Episode #66: The Number One Way to Shift You and Your Team Out of Drama
Welcome back to Allowed, I’m your host, Dr. Caneel Joyce. Today, I want to talk to you about a pernicious problem. When I tell you the word that represents this problem, you’ll probably be surprised to find out it’s one that you actually know intimately, and maybe you didn’t even ever know you were doing this. I want to talk to you about this sneaky little drama starter and how easy it is to stop doing it. So this is a major thing that comes up in organizations, families, teams, and even within ourself. This topic has come up also in my group coaching program. As you guys may have heard, we have just launched our brand new revamped membership program that is one that you can get involved in, it’s very low cost. The purpose of it is to be able to share, interactively with you, some learnings. To workshop stuff together, to talk through things that are coming up in your own lives and to get connected with this incredible community of people like you, as well as some of the most top notch coaches and teachers and leadership thought leaders in the world.
So I really want you to check that out. And if this is interesting to you, if you’re curious at all, please go to caneel.com/yes, that is where you can find out more about it and join. And I believe we still have a couple of founding memberships available for you. These are at discounted costs. You’re going to be a direct thought partner with me to help shape this program as it grows and evolves. And boost you up as a leader within this community of people that you are going to find so inspiring and exhilarating, and I’m loving this list of who’s already here. Please go check that out at caneel.com/yes. So one of the topics that often comes up in that group, in the group that we have is this topic of gossip. Hardly ever does anybody describe it as such. Usually, we are not aware when we’re gossiping, so I want to make it really, really clear to you what that is. But first, why does it matter? Can’t wait to tell you about gossip.
So, gossip is a pattern that happens very, very often in cultures, even including your family culture, where there is drama. Gossip is a way that we communicate and there’s also a lot usually of baggage behind gossip. So when I first hear the word gossip, you know what comes to mind for me? It’s like ’80s movies, ’90s movies. I think about clueless, I think about backstabbing, I think about school girl politics, and it sounds really nasty. It sounds like a big conspiracy and oh my gosh, who could be gossiping? I also might think about ladies on the front porch talking about other people in the neighborhood. Now, just take a quick look. If you got a mirror around, go and glance in that mirror. Who’s a gossiper? Maybe not them, maybe you. I want us to get really clear on what this is. It matters because gossip is one of the easiest ways to spread drama in any social setting, in any relationship, in any team, in any company. Gossip is a spreader of drama, gossip sucks drama and holds onto it and makes it hard to break out of.
Gossip also spreads some of these aspects of drama that we might be more familiar with on a personal level. It spreads fear, it spreads a sense of distrust, it spreads paranoia, it spreads shame, it spreads guilt, it spreads hiding behaviors. And none of those things is conducive to us being in our full aliveness, our full creativity. So gossip is simply any time that you are speaking about somebody, saying something that you have not said to them directly in exactly the way that you’re saying it now. That’s a pretty clear cut, far reaching definition. Anytime you’re talking about another person, you’re not talking to them directly and you haven’t shared this with them directly in the way that you’re sharing it now. The vocal tone, the side comments, all of that. So we are actually gossiping when we speak that way. And we’re also participating in gossip when we listen and when we reply and respond to somebody else speaking about gossip.
The appropriate response, in my view, if our goal is to put an end to drama wherever we can, then the appropriate response would be, I don’t want to gossip, I would love for you to participate and go and have a conversation with this person directly. You can ask, have you shared this with them directly? Some of the more common responses to gossip that also helps spread the drama, which is what we’re hoping to put an end to is, we might hero the other person. So we might say, oh no, it’s okay, it’s their fault, you’re fine. We might try to make them feel better, we might try to corroborate, we might think that we’re coaching them by trying to solve a problem for them, whatever problem they’re bringing up that they haven’t about another person.
And all of those things seem “helpful.” However, they’re really hero moves. So if we go back to, what’s this drama triangle all about? And you can learn more about that in episode six, especially. And then we have deep dives into each of the positions on the drama triangle later. So this are the hero, the victim and the villain position. When we’re on that drama triangle, we’re suffering. And drama is so contagious and we’re able to spread drama. That hero position in particular is one that we often will find ourselves doing with the intent of being “helpful.” When we’re hearing, we’re trying to fix, save, solve problems. We are looking for, who can I make to feel better? And often, really the person we’re trying to make feel better is ourself. So the hero is all about finding temporary relief from the suffering that is so part of being in drama. So we typically bounce into that role of heroing.
And gossip sometimes comes from this villainy place that’s more about looking for who’s to blame and who’s to judge. And then often the listener goes into that hero role. So just think about this for yourself. I’m going to guide you through a couple of coaching questions. Can you think of a time, it doesn’t matter when it was or what it’s about, but any time where you talked about somebody in a way that you have not yet spoken to them directly? You shared something about somebody with somebody else and you didn’t share it with that person directly? Can you think of any time where that happened? Now, this content could have been about anything. It could be positive, it could be negative, if those even are things, and it could also be stuff that feels really like, you’re just defending yourself. Super, super common. I’m sure you’ve got an example now.
When you went to that person to have this conversation about somebody else, what were your goals? And here’s where I want you to be really nonjudgmental about yourself. We’re not looking to blame, we’re not looking to judge you. This is a super human thing to do. If you really ask, what was I trying to achieve? Often, we’re not ready or willing to go to the other person because we have a sense already that we are in drama on some level. And being in drama just means we’re in that state of threat where we think that we’re right about something. We might even think that we’re right, that we are wrong, or there’s something wrong with us. But often we have a sense that we’re in drama.
So I’ll give an example here. Let’s say that you work with a colleague and this colleague repeatedly has performed at work in a way that did not produce the results or the impact that you had hoped. And you have attempted to coach them or give them feedback and at this point you’re feeling frustrated. You’re feeling like they are somehow blocking you from getting done what you want to get done, or from having the experience that you want to experience. Maybe you’ve said, it’s hopeless, they’re not going to change, or I can’t figure out how to change them. So I’m being very intentional in how I describe this example, because I’m trying to point to the sources of drama here. So one thing is trying to change them. I’m looking for, how can I change them?
This is me trying to control things out of my control. If I haven’t yet come to grips with the fact that I can do all I can to influence and coach but I cannot control, then I’m going to be really hooked on this drama. It’s also like it’s happening to me. So I’m frustrated by this person because they’re doing this thing to me by not performing in the way that I want them to. But I might have some sense like, okay, something about it doesn’t feel quite like if I go and have a direct conversation it’s going to go well. Often we have an inherent wisdom that we are in drama. And I found that this is so common. This is so commonly the thing that happens right before we choose to start gossiping. Then we’re like, well, I need to figure out what to do.
So we go to a colleague, we go to maybe our spouse, we go to a friend, we go to our boss or even, hopefully not, but even maybe to direct reports on your own team, and we begin to gossip about this other person. And it could sound as simple as this, ugh, this guy, again, turned it in late, underperforming. Ugh, just can’t stand it. Whatever it is. And it could be such a small comment. It could be, well, you know him, can’t count on him. It could be the smallest thing. Either way, it sets a gossipy field around you. It sets a field of drama and threat. But we’re often doing it because we are trying to figure out, what can I do about this situation? So here are some suggestions for what to do when you find yourself in that situation.
One is, just ask yourself, notice, am I in drama? Am I above or below the line right now? And if you find, okay, I am below the line. In my attempt to go and talk about this other person, most likely that’s going to be gossip. So let me just check, would I be willing to have this conversation directly with the person? If the answer to that question is no, then you can say, okay, what am I afraid of? What is it that I’m afraid will happen if I have this conversation directly? Sometimes it’s going to be, it’ll take too much time, or they won’t listen, or I’ve tried before, or they’re going to get all reactive on me and they’re going to flip out, freak out, get angry, resent me, they might go and gossip about me. Or it could just be, I’m afraid I will flip out. I’m afraid because I can tell I am very emotional about this, I feel reactive, not quite in charge of my own self-expression and I’m afraid I’m going to mess it up.
Or it could be, I don’t think I have a right to share what I think. This is not my job, this is somebody else’s job, or maybe it’s nobody’s job to notice this. Or this is just the way it is here, which would be a heroey, temporary relief thing to say. So many things that we might find as our reason for why we are not willing to go and have the conversation directly. Okay, great. So you’ve unpacked why you’re not willing to have the conversation directly. If you check in on any of these reasons, you’ll find that very close to the surface of them is some kind of a story. So there’s a difference between what’s true and what’s a prediction or a story or mind reading. All of it is a story. If it’s not a fact and I can’t directly observe it, it’s a story. So I’m usually making up a story about what will happen or what the other person will think or how I’m going to be.
Okay, so I’ve got some stories. Can I see that on some level there’s a little bit of fear here in me, or there’s a little bit of sadness that I haven’t really dealt with, which is, I can’t make this person change. And this pattern is going to happen or it’s going to not happen, but I’m not in charge of it. And the sadness of, I’m going to need to let go of the fact that I’m not in control of this and I’m going to need to now get responsible for doing what is in my power to control. There’s often a lot of sadness that goes with that. There’s often, sometimes also anger. Anger is really commonly associated with drama. So we might not yet have been willing to feel those feelings of anger, and none of them is wrong. It’s just emotion, but we’re not willing to feel them right now. Okay, so here I am, I’m about to gossip, I have some stories about this person or what will happen or I’ve got stories about me and there’s emotion here that I haven’t dealt with yet.
Would I be willing to just feel those feelings and notice my stories? And then can I check, are my stories actually true? Can I know without a shadow of a doubt it’s true. And hint, hint, the answer is always no, because it’s a story. The opposite of any story could be at least as true as the story itself, because it’s just a story. All right. So now I’m going to ask myself, what is it that I actually want? This is the turning point. This is the way to begin creating the experience that you want to have and not just complaining about the one that you don’t want to have. What is it that I actually want? Sometimes when we find out the answer to that question, which could be, I don’t want to be in relationship with this person anymore, or I don’t want to work with this person, we find ourselves feeling really, but that’s hopeless, what can I do about that? And then we have to ask, why? Why can’t I pursue what I want?
Hopefully, it’s something simple that you could just ask this person directly, this is what I would like from now on. And maybe they’ll do it, maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll say yes, maybe they’ll say no. Maybe they won’t even know the answer to the question or they’ll think they know and they won’t. Out of your control. But hopefully you’re willing to ask. If you’re not willing to ask, then often it’s because we are trying to have it both ways. We’re not willing to deal with the consequences. So if I’m really honest with myself and I find I am not willing to be in relationship with this person at work anymore, I have a number of choices about what I can do with that. I can choose to ask for a rearrangement. I can say, actually, if I check in with myself, it’s not worth it for me to leave this job or ask for anything different. There’s nothing I really could ask for that I can think of that would help.
In that case, am I willing to see that I am making the choice to continue working with this person? We always want to get down to that place where we find out, oh yes, I remember, I am the chooser. I am the one choosing to be in relationship. What can I take responsibility for? That’s the power question. It’s always, what choices have I made? What choices will I make? Is how we step forward. But the whole key here is, do I know what I want? And sometimes all we’re looking for, all we want is, I want some reassurance that I’m okay. I want some reassurance that I’m not doing it wrong. Would I be willing to give that reassurance to myself so that I’m not gossiping? Maybe I can’t. Maybe I feel really guilty. In that case, I can go to another person for support. Whatever that support is that I need, I can go and seek it out. But at that point, it’s about me, it’s not about them.
It’s not about the person I’m gossiping about, it’s, I keep noticing I’m really making myself unhappy because of all of these thoughts I’ve got. And I’m wondering if you would challenge me on some of these thoughts and help me think through how the opposite of the story is true and help me sort out, what is it that I really want? What could I ask for? But the focus stays on me. I’ve just covered a lot of ground, so I want to summarize this. The reason that it’s so important to notice gossip and to put an end to it, wherever you can, is because it’s one of the fastest, easiest ways to dramatically cut down on drama. And if we don’t stop it, it’s one of the fastest ways to spread drama, to spread fear, to spread a sense of threat. And it’s not productive, we’re not creating the thing we actually want. That’s why it’s important.
Gossip is anytime I’m having a conversation about somebody else and that person is not there. I’m not speaking to them directly and I haven’t yet shared this with them in a way that really represents what I’m saying to you right now. That’s very much the same way of talking about it. That’s gossip, so it’s very broad. What do I do about it? I ask, what are my stories? What is it that I think will happen? Why am I afraid of talking about this directly? Would I be willing to? If no, what are the feelings that I haven’t yet really dealt with? What are the feelings that are underneath my resistance to having a direct conversation? And what are the stories that I’m making up that are associated with those feelings, that are creating those feelings? And then, okay, would I feel them? Am I willing to feel them? Yeah.
Okay. I’ve got a story, I’m feeling my feelings. Now, what is it that I actually want? And would I be willing to ask for it directly? And if I’m not, that’s on me. So what is it that is more important that I’m really trying to protect or preserve by not having this direct conversation? But if I keep having those thoughts again and again, I don’t get to just skip the step of going and having the direct conversation. And this is the scary part. And it’s okay to mess it up, it’s okay for it to get messy and ugly. But going in and saying, this is what happened and here’s what I want to be different, and can we come to some sort of a clear agreement? That’s the key. So I really encourage you to just identify, when are you going into gossip? When have you? Would you be willing to go directly?
And then if you’re in an environment where gossip is happening often, you can ask yourself, how have I participated in this? Have I been willing to ask people to go and have the conversation directly or not? Once we have these direct conversations, whoosh, whoa, things start moving fast. So we can really begin cleaning things up and creating the experience we want and change will start happening with so much ease. And it also creates a general sense of trust and clarity and accountability. It doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Because once we stop gossiping, we start asking for what we want, now we’re in an opportunity to grow and to get challenged and to be challenged. So really, really different outcomes that come with that. And that’s where you’re going to find very exciting days full of aliveness and creativity, accountability, change, action, totally worth it. But give it a try yourself.
Any questions you have about this topic, I would love to unpack it with you. Often, the devil’s in the details here. We have situations in our lives where we feel like, I just cannot seem to resolve this and I don’t know how to get myself clear enough to have the direct conversation without doing something that seems like it probably is gossip, so can you help me out here? Let’s talk through it. This is exactly the kind of conversation that we’re having in our group coaching program, it’s called Allowed Academy. It’s interactive, live format where you’re going to get to meet up with me directly, as well as the members of this community. And you’ll be getting a lot deeper training as well as special access to a lot of our podcast guests who are going to be coming and delivering live coaching to you as well.
So it’s a really big bang for your buck. Please go and check that out at caneel.com/yes. If you are even curious about it all, trust it, follow it. I find that curiosity is one of our deepest sources of wisdom. That’s a topic for another episode. In the meantime, just go to caneel.com/yes and sign up now. Talk to you soon, thank you for showing up today. You investing in your own growth, these precious minutes of podcast time, is a huge move toward you really reaching your full aliveness. However you choose to invest in your own personal growth, it is a move that is supportive of everyone around you. It is a selfless act to be willing to look at yourself in the mirror and ask the question, what am I really about? What do I really, really want? And would I be willing to go and get it? I’ll see you next week. Bye, bye.