Is there someone in your life who is always upset, or pouting or disappointed? Or is there someone who is always angry and blaming other people? Are they always the victim and other people are stupid or inferior, or other people are mean and uncaring?

Maybe they don’t act out like that. Maybe they are emotionally clueless or distant. Or maybe they’re always competing with you, taking subtle shots at you. Or maybe they like to complain, but never do anything to fix their problems.

Worst of all, these people bring all of their distress to you and lay it on your doorstep. You’re supposed to listen endlessly, be as upset and angry as they are and make heroic efforts to soothe them or care for them. Don’t you dare suggest that they self-examine! That will not go well.

Even though THEY behave badly, have you noticed that you often feel off-balance yourself? Do you wonder if there’s something wrong with YOU? Do you feel both guilty and angry at the same time? Are you fed up with all of this upset, but you’re still thinking you can help them, that you OUGHT to help them?

If so, I want you to write this on a sticky note and attach it to your mirror: STAY OUT OF THE DRAMA.

The reason you’ve been in the drama is that you love this person. You want the best for him or her. And you are a long-suffering person, a person who believes in kindness and forgiveness. You are a problem-solver, like most people. But some people are all about the drama. Sometimes it’s possible to diagnose a personality disorder such as narcissism or borderline. Sometimes labels are unfair. So, rather than label, let’s problem-solve.

You might think I’m going to suggest that you just walk away from difficult people and focus instead on positive people — people who are motivated, successful and take responsibility. Let’s just stop for a moment and consider that. That is a very good idea. Please consider doing that.

However, if the person isn’t dangerous, you can actually love someone who behaves in these ways. But you must learn to stay out of the drama. It’s up to you to decide if it’s safe and if it’s worth it.

Step one: Recognize drama when you see it. I’ve described some of it above.

Step two: Let the person know you hear what he/she is saying. “So what I hear you saying is ….”

Step three: Respond with a well-known method of communicating with difficult people. It’s called SET – Support, Empathy and Truth. For instance, your support might be, “I can see how upsetting this is…”  or, “What I hear you saying is ….”

Your empathy might be, “If that were happening to me, I would be upset too.”

Then your Truth might be, “However, I see a pattern here, that when you behave this way, things don’t go well for you.” Here are some other possible “truths”: “But if you continue to behave this way, you might go to jail.” “But if you don’t take steps to improve your situation, you will experience this again and again.”

You can even say: “Here’s how I am willing and able to help.” Then you do only what is healthy for you to do.

Now let me tell you another method for communicating with a difficult person. This is often a person who has no idea how his/her actions and statements affect others. Your strategy this time is to make an assertive response.

An assertive response is respectful. You are simply saying to the person, “I feel …” and “I want ….”

If your difficult person insults you in subtle or overt ways, you might say, “When you speak to me that way, I feel hurt. I must ask you to be more respectful.” Or, for the emotional manipulator, “When you speak to me that way, I feel overwhelmed by your emotion. I would appreciate it, if you would trust that I care about you and want to hear what you have to say.”

When you realize that your loved one is always bringing drama, you must be on your guard. You now begin to evaluate what you’re hearing and formulate a response that protects you and possibly helps them.

I suggest that it might help them because it invites them to be self-aware. They are hearing you say how they impact you emotionally. Chances are, they don’t have much awareness of the feelings of others. That isn’t a successful way to be in the world. So they need a “heads up”.

Then again, you could make one final assertive statement: “When I’m with you, I often feel upset and disrespected. So I’ve decided to step away from our relationship.”

For more about narcissism and other personality disorders for professionals, I suggest taking a workshop with Greg Lester PhD.