The second type of potentially difficult person we will explore together is the Drama Magnet (DM).
Something is always wrong. Always. And, of course, once a problem is in the past, another one emerges. When discussing their drama, the drama magnet is full of energy and can be initially compelling. However, they only want your sympathy and support – often not your advice!
You may find this encounter somewhat less threatening compared to the more aggressive toxic personalities, but it is often deeply frustrating and confusing if you haven’t realised who you are dealing with.
Luckily a few of them will announce themselves as they walk into your surgery. This is good news, as this is an ‘open drama magnet’. It’s akin to spotting a bright orange frog in a rain forest…you know it’s bad news, as it wears its colours so brightly. This type of drama magnet is aposematic and will tell you they are trouble.
They don’t actually know they are a drama magnet who will render you emotionally drained when they leave, but at least they wear the label loud. At least you can be warned if they walk in greeting you with:
BIG SIGH, “Oh hello, crikey here’s trouble…!”
“Oh dear, it’s always me these things happen to.”
“I hope you’re ready for all of this….”
However, for many, the powerful drag of the drama magnet’s vacuum may be concealed.
It can be deeply hidden from you. A stealth DM!
We are conditioned and duty-bound to pay attention to our patients, which means the DM has a captive audience for the unfolding display of their drama.
Most stealth DMs are also unaware of what they are. Only a tiny few actually make plans to drain the life out of their fellow humans when they speak to them. Most actually think they are being interesting. These people do NOT usually want to cause you any harm they can just exhaust you rather quickly.
The stealth drama magnet is like the Death Star’s gravity field. You may only realise what is happening when you are fully committed and embroiled in the drama and getting confused as you are trying to help. Your efforts will be both exhausting and futile. So, what’s happening?
Why are they interrupting you when you start to address their dental problems?
Why, when they are telling you about their main complaint and you start to make a little progress in understanding and exploring it with them, they quickly move on to another complaint? With every good intent, you follow their train of thought and focus on this next issue, and the very same thing happens, again and again. Every time you try to solve a problem you are blocked with a new drama – by the person apparently asking for help!
Why are they being this way? Why muddy the waters and why move the goal posts? Why deliberately avoid engaging in conversation headed towards a possible solution?
…Because you might actually solve a problem, and, have no doubt, the drama magnet OFTEN DOES NOT WANT THAT.
Their fuel is drama.
No problems, then no drama = no fuel
Your sympathy and attention is all they crave, and they only know one way to get attention. To create and/or be a drama.
Oftentimes this is done by being a victim. A victim of circumstance or luck or maybe just life. Being a victim firstly means they are not responsible for their own shortcomings, general health, caries or periodontitis. These things occurred to them like a loose tile falling from a roof hitting their head. They hate every aspect of treatment. The 3 in 1 is ‘awful’, impressions are ‘disgusting’ let alone palatal injections!
The caries and pain… well, they have just occurred as an act of pure ill fortune. It’s rarely their fault and certainly now their victimhood means they are in the middle of a drama and everyone is looking at them asking how they are and if they are ok and saying ‘poor you’ and ‘crikey you are so brave and special’ and ‘you deserve all the attention in the world from everyone’. To them, it also means they are deserving of extra special care and attention from their dentist. Now, clearly you are going to want to help them, and therein lies our problem.
Ethical, legal moral and professional reasons mean you have to help. You’re a kind, helpful dentist who has spent your life making a career out of solving problems for your patients. So you are brimming with energy and want to offer to help and find solutions….
But the drama magnet cannot allow that (unless you meet them on the rare occasion when there is a real painful or socially crippling reason for their drama like pulpits or an avulsion). So they dodge and swerve, evade your objective reasoning, use up your time and, worst of all, your emotional energy.
As long as you are pouring fuel on the fire of their drama they will sit happily in your chair, and book in as many follow-ups as you will allow.
This challenging personality type is relatively benign when compared to many others – a deep narcissist, for example, who may purposefully try to harm you if it suits their need. Drama magnets don’t have the intention to cause harm.
They are not without risk however.
For the dentist the risks are really two.
The first relates to emotional energy exchange.
In every single human interaction there is a largely subconscious emotional subtext. This subtext is an exchange of emotional energy. Emotional energy is a finite resource just like physical power and stamina. Think of people who have burnt-out or had a breakdown. But also think of someone who you always look forward to seeing and when you leave them you feel uplifted and energised.
Negative exchange or positive exchange?
When two people meet they have an exchange, and one may leave feeling exhausted whilst the other feels great. Or they may both be exhausted or they may both feel great. In exchanges where there is a net two-way positive exchange of energy, you become close and want to see each other. Couple that with physical attraction and romance may ensue. It’s your energy mixing with someone else’s, with you both leaving with either more, the same, or less. All combinations are possible depending on how you ‘get on’.
Drama magnets may occasionally offer you a little positive energy, but they will take all you have to offer. They are emotional energy vampires who are never sated.
Imagine a day of patients like this. How would you feel? Chances are, exhausted. Tomorrow had better not be the same!
Understand: their greatest need is to grab your attention and sympathy by any means possible. They will embroil you in their drama to the point at which you will feel guilty for disengaging. It is best to recognise them as early as possible before you become enmeshed and dragged down. You can still treat them but keep your emotional energy reserves safe.
The second risk is if you become a source of drama. Let’s say something bad happens like you snap off a tooth you were extracting. Or separate a rotary end file within their root canal.
They thrive on this and want to maximise its yield. You caused it; now watch the drama magnet revel in the storyline you have authored, with them as the protagonist. The story will be as explosive, emotional and longwinded as possible. It will be told across the land in lavish detail…maybe they can sell their story to a newspaper.
For the emotional energy drain risk, it’s an easy dodge if you spot them. The technique of ‘affectionate detachment’ is proven and completely effective. We teach the methods and techniques along with role-play on our emotional intelligence course – see the link at the end.
To avoid being a source of drama…well, a two-pronged strategy here. Firstly make the drama magnet like you. Use your social intelligence to make them feel you are truly sympathetic and have made every effort to treat them with their particular nuance in mind. Patients don’t go after dentists they like. It feels emotionally wrong to attack. Then get as good at dentistry as you possibly can. Skill and expertise, coupled with experience, is a layer of clinical insurance so valuable, someone who has it would never ever give it up.
If someone is a beacon for adversity, watch out, you might one day become part of the drama.
Click here to sign up for our Emotional Intelligence Training where all of this and so much more is covered, and we hope to see you soon!