I grew up in a community where complaining and gossiping about others was a national pastime.  Small town, small school, plethora of churches with small congregations where there was as much daytime drama in real life as there was on TV.  Never a dull moment unless you found petty drama boring…  So one thing I’ve become a bit of an expert at is recognizing the self-propelled grievance story.  It’s the motivating force of the moment for the person I’m talking about, has them wound up and motivated, they are putting most if not all of their emotional and mental energy into ‘dealing with it,’ and they desperately need you to know all about it.  And you are more than likely not the first person who has heard about it nor will you be the last.

The speaker needs to have community support for their ordeal and to weave how they are dealing with it into reality.  They need people to agree with them and to validate them.  The need to hear that they are right and the other party(ies) are wrong.  And so be it.  We’ve all been there at one time or another.  We’ve all been the injured party and needed support to get us through it whether the matter was small or large or seemed large to us. I have no problem supporting people who need to be heard and validated.  I get it.

But after the story is told, after the facts as they feel them have been fleshed out and the emotions have been spent, when the plans for ‘dealing with it’ start coming out, I like to ask one question:  Have you talked to them about it?  Because in all this talking there are usually quite a few statements about the fact that the person or persons ‘just doesn’t realize’ or ‘how can they not know’ or ‘they must be blind not to see what this is doing’ etc, etc, etc.  And it will usually become obvious right away that the speaker has talked to everyone they can find other than the parties at the center of the story.  And at the end of the story the plan to ‘deal with it’ is usually a statement of high moral integrity that includes not notifying or in any way interacting with the parties involved.  Which is explained in detail as the best approach considering….

Over the years I have found that I’m not good at being respectful during that portion of the conversation because I just can’t seem to want to waste the time listening to it.  So I cut past that right to the practical:  Have you talked to them about it?  To which the answer is usually a stunned silence or a startled “no” as if I’ve asked if they walked naked on the highway that day.  Because, contrary to what common sense would lead us to believe, this person doesn’t want a resolution to the issue.  They don’t want to work through things, they want to be able to tell the story.  Either the issue is something they don’t want to actually confront for a variety of reasons, but is emotional enough they are attempting to work it through or the story is the point and if they don’t have this story to tell then they will find another.  Because some people need the drama in their lives; it’s a purpose to them and fulfills a need.  But also have a need.  I need to not support people in prolonged drama.  I’m a spoil sport, sad to say.

So when someone has explained the situation and starts telling me the complexities of how they are going to rearrange their life in order to rise above the situation, thereby making their life all about the situation to the point of making it a focal point, I derail the conversation by asking my question.  I know it’s not what they are wanting from me, but I always hope that they will take this moment to try to do things differently this time. But if nothing else, it provides them with one more drama of the week to tell their friends…