Outreach: How to Handle Peer Drama


One of the biggest struggles pre-teens and teenagers face in their social lives is peer drama. This drama may start between friends, or gossip and rumors might be created by someone they don’t even know at school. Most of us have been a part of drama at some point in our lives.

Wouldn’t it be great if drama ended when we exit the teenage years? Unfortunately, that is not always the case. The funny thing about human nature is that some people thrive on drama. But, why? Simply put, it makes us feel involved and busy. Oddly enough, one of the quickest ways to build a bond with someone is to mutually talk poorly about someone else. One thing to keep in mind, especially if you find yourself in the middle of peer drama, is that the people causing the drama are doing so because they are unhappy with their own lives.

Carrie*, a high school freshman, came to Outreach Teen and Family Services because she was dealing with a lot of peer drama among her friend group. She grew up being best friends with two other girls around the same age. They lived on the same street and attended the same schools. Carrie noticed that her two friends were spending a lot of time together and excluding her. The next week she heard an untrue rumor going around school about herself. When she discovered that her so-called best friends had started the rumor, her anxiety peaked, and she went to see the school counselor. During her next session with her Outreach counselor, they discussed what was going on at school with her best friends. Carrie expressed that she had no idea why the rumors started, but the peer drama was really affecting her mental health.

Carrie’s counselor reassured her that often rumors and other drama can start without any cause and that it may not be the fault of the person the rumors are about. Carrie learned some ways to cope with her anxiety, such as breathing methods or journaling for when anxiety creeps in. While there may be no way to repair the friendships, Carrie’s counselor discussed ways for her to stop
the gossip/rumors.

When we hear a rumor about ourselves there are five things we can do to stop the rumor:

  1. Ignore it
  2. Use humor to diffuse it
  3. Correct the misinformation
  4. Speak up to the people spreading the rumor
  5. Tell a trusted adult

These tips should put the rumor to rest and end any peer drama that is associated.

If you notice that your friends like to start drama and often talk about other people, the best thing to do is to remain neutral and say things like “Oh, I don’t really have a problem with them.” Depending on how comfortable you feel, you could talk to your friends about why they are starting peer drama or why they feel like they need to talk about someone else. Your friends might just be going through something rough and drama is a way
to escape it.

Remember that if you’re a victim of peer drama, other people’s behaviors are not about you. If you are witnessing drama around you, be an upstander and speak up. You never know who you could be helping.

*name has been changed to protect confidentiality

Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer programs to youth ages 5 to 21, parents and families, in a welcoming, supportive environment. 412-561-5405. This column is partially underwritten by the Mt. Lebanon Police Association.