Living a Drama-Free Life

I watched the movie Bridesmaids over the Thanksgiving break, and I couldn’t help noticing that if the main character had been emotionally stable, the story would have had no plot. I suppose the same can be said of Crime and Punishment, but either should serve as a reminder that being laid-back isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

This is understandable. We all have bad days; most relationships have low points. How can you chill out when your significant other may be flirting behind your back, when your roommates are growing distant, or when it seems that your friends don’t actually like you?

The first step is to give others some space and to give yourself some time. If in a burst of anger, your classmate tells you that she has no respect for you and can’t stand your vanity, explain politely that you aren’t interested in having that conversation and walk away. If it’s in a group setting, change the topic to last week’s problem set or something equally innocuous. Continuing the argument will upset everyone involved.

Don’t dwell on the outburst after you exit. Rather than explaining to everyone within earshot how immature your friend is, concentrate on your classwork or on having a good lunch. Trying to line people up on your side of the argument makes a bigger deal out of it than it deserves and reflects poorly on you.

Once you’ve had a chance to go for a run and clear your mind, come back to the incident and see if it still bothers you. If it does, take a step back and look at the situation from the girl’s perspective. What set her off? Did she misinterpret something you said? Perhaps she had a legitimate complaint but only verbalized it because she was having a bad day. See if there’s some truth to her words and use it to improve; otherwise, move on.

Be it criticism or condescension or snark, try not to take it personally. It’s natural to encounter something potentially offensive and interpret it in the worst possible light. But when that aggressive-looking guy bumps into you on the sidewalk, is he really aiming to faze you in front of your date? Doubtful. Is the driver who just cut you off being malicious? Probably just careless.

Giving people the benefit of the doubt is less a favor to others than it is a way to remain sane. Understand that this is not an invitation to be naive. If you sense that your friends are drifting, seek new friends. If you worry that your date may flake out on you, be prepared to do something else. Be generous when ascribing motives to others, but make backup plans.

Acquiring this mentality is tough. It takes a lot of self-control to calm down and to abandon an argument. Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is hard even if you’re the same size. But like many things in life, these are habits that can be learned, and they become natural with practice. The reward is a drama-free life.

-Ren and Robert