"Susie, it's just so stressful!" my friend Marni complained to me at dinner a few weeks ago.
Inwardly, I rolled my eyes. Outwardly, I just took a big-ass sip of my Prosecco and exhaled. Marni was launching a new project and—once again—felt stressed as hell. This was a common pattern with my new friend Marni, I was rapidly starting to notice. Her apartment move was stressful—that's fair enough. Then her relationship with her mother was making her crazy. Then—flustered as usual—she'd send me frantic-sounding texts for my biz input on her various projects.
It's one thing to be stressed out—heck, we all are at one time or another, right? But Marni's stress was constant. So much so that… dare I label it a victim loop? This is a term we refer to in coaching when someone has the same problem over and over and takes no responsibility for it or shows any plans to change it. (The solution is to be accountable for the problem and apply action to solve it.)
Quite frankly, Marni's consistently drama-fueled energy was making me tired. I like her a lot, but her repetitive patterns cause two things to happen:
- She ends up repelling others. Victim loops are never sexy—I bet you can think of a few people in your life with one on repeat right now.
- She's made it difficult for others to believe in or respect the urgent or important nature of her current needs.
Put simply—when everything's urgent, nothing is urgent. It reminds me of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" (found in this sweet collection on page 41).
Here are some other examples:
- An anxious coworker flags every email as important. (Sigh.)
- A friend goes on the same destructive "I'm single, and it's awful," or "My relationship is such a mess" rant. (Ugh—not this topic again.)
- A relative constantly complains about feeling fat or unfit. (Boring, boring, boring.)
- Your spouse hates his or her job and openly yabbers on about it but won't do a thing to change it. (For the millionth time.)
- Not only do these ongoing actions fail to elicit sympathy, they fail to even activate a listening ear.
Here are two key things you can do to silence the wolf cries in your life:
1. Tell the person what they've been doing—if possible. This might not work out if the culprit is your boss, but it can be a great tactic with someone in your personal life. For instance, I once told my best friend—who was in the habit of complaining nonstop about her ex-boyfriend—"Do something about Andrew or stop complaining about him to me." My unwillingness to listen to even one more sob story got her thinking… and she dumped him soon after.
We shape up when someone we love holds a mirror to us. It might feel harsh, but in most cases, this can be incredibly helpful.
2. Give yourself a reality check. We're swift to highlight the faults of others, but I've yet to meet a person—ever—who doesn't cry something a little too often. It might not be wolf, but it could easily be "too busy," "too tired," "too fill in the blank." When I wail to my husband for the 917th time that I'm "stretched too thin" in my business and life, he tells me, "Stop choosing it, then!" Because I sure as heck pile on the fun projects and social commitments at will.
You have way more power to choose your life's actions than you give yourself credit for.
The most important steps toward dialing down the drama: Don't be the boy who cried wolf. Be accountable for your actions. If you don't, the price you pay is that you can't change a thing. Be honest with yourself and responsible for your life—self-awareness not only commands the respect the admiration of others, it's better and easier for everyone.
But most importantly, it's better and easier for you.
Susie Moore is Greatist's life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!