Drama Language: When Does It Work?

How many people do you work with that have a propensity for creating drama? You may not think of yourself as a drama person, but you may be guilty of using dramatic language. Most people do! Is it a bad thing? The correct answer is, “That depends on the context and goal of your communication.” As with most things, if you overuse or abuse it, then you may harm your professional reputation. But, when used sparingly and strategically, drama language can be useful! This is why it is worthwhile to learn the biggest drama language violations and use them with care. The following are some of the most important things you should know about drama language.

“It is worthwhile to learn the biggest drama language violations so you can use them with care.”

Defining Drama Language

Dramatic language is typically made up of vague words and sweeping phrases. It can confuse listeners and elicit an emotional response. You will also find that generalizations are at the heart of the most common drama language patterns. A generalization occurs when a specific experience is generalized to the whole. It is a broad or global conclusion based on limited examples or experience.  

Drama Queen Language

Examples of Generalizations

Here are some examples to help you spot generalizations. Just this week on the news I heard someone say, “All politicians are bad.” The word “all” earns this sentence a high drama language rating. It may be true that some politicians are bad, but to say that all politicians are bad is a generalization. In the workplace you may hear someone say, “Our leaders never listen to us.” “Never” is the key drama word in this statement. This statement also assumes “all” leaders. Again, it may be true that some leaders do not listen, but most likely it is not true of all leaders.

Cleaning Up Generalizations

Generalizations have a place in communications. The problem is that most people are not aware when they overuse them. Most language violations are habits – and habits tend to be out of your awareness. This is why we encourage the use of the buddy system whenever we work with teams to improve their communication skills. A buddy can help increase your awareness of your drama language violations. So remember that generalizations have a place in your communications if you use them sparingly and strategically! 

Effective Drama Language

For example, how could a generalization such as “Our leaders never listen to us,” be useful? 

  • The first option is you could use it as a teaser to grab attention. Then, you could follow it up with some humor, such as, “Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let me say that some of our leaders actually do listen and here is what I propose that we do going forward to ensure our leaders are hearing us and getting our very best ideas and advice.” 
  • A second option is you could use it as an alignment statement – if this were a confirmed belief within a team. In this case you would say, “Many of you say our leaders never listen to us and it is true they should be good listeners.” Then, you would go on to connect this alignment statement to some useful dialogue that would move people toward your communication goal and get them to consider solutions.
Drama queen language examples

Spreading Thought Viruses

The biggest problem with drama language is that it can morph into a thought virus when it is overused and repeated. If you have team members that favor drama language, they can spread damaging thought viruses and contaminate others. Studies show that people tend to believe something to be true if it is repeated enough. Unfortunately, studies also show that negative statements get our attention more than positive words. This is especially detrimental on teams because a thought virus can affect how others think about certain people or ideas. All it takes is one negative team member who excels at drama language to make harmful and negative generalizations stick.

Drama Language Violations

If you want to be a better communicator then you should know about other drama language violations.

  • Distortions – These are words or phrases that twist perception or the truth with conclusions or embedded assumptions. Example: “He just obviously did not know what he was doing.” Do you hear the conclusions and assumptions?
  • Deletions – This refers to words or phrases where much of the meaning is lost because information is omitted, or you leave out a portion of your experience. For example: “Why didn’t you take the key parts of the data and give us a concise summary?” No wonder so much miscommunication occurs in the workplace! Do you see what is omitted in this sentence that could result in miscues and drama?

Miscommunication Costs

Communication skills are continually rated as one of the most desirable soft skills in today’s workplace. Studies show that miscommunication is costly! People with solid skills know how to communicate accurately and use language patterns that are well-formed, motivating and effective. So, it is worthwhile to learn to identify the drama language violations. Then you can avoid them – or use them strategically! With the right focus you can earn the reputation of being a solid communicator and team member!