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Relationships, Life Changes, Therapy, and Personality: Dramatic Style

Who has a streak or main aspect of Dramatic?

That friend, coworker, partner, or relation of yours who runs on emotion, is expressive, affectionate, and changeable? They function best when everyone is watching. They ensure their appearance will be known and often charm others. They respond with easy enthusiasm to new things and ideas, trust (sometimes too much), and can become quickly involved. They are predominantly Dramatic.

This is the second post in a series on ‘personality styles’ described in The New Personality Self-Portrait by Oldham & Morris. For more detail about the source, please see my credits and comments at the end.

Please note: people can have a mixture of more than one major style, which I think is realistic and useful.

Stressors for Dramatic style…

You may have heard extreme versions of the Dramatic style described as ‘Histrionic’, a personality that more rigidly pulls for attention, shows fuzzy / flexible logic, needs others to deal with chores, and craves provocative experiences. Oldham & Morris describe several sources of (very public) emotional reactivity for predominantly Dramatic people. In my summary:

  • A close friend or partner becomes jealous due to Dramatic ‘charm’ that edges close to the line
  • A close friend, family member, or, especially, partner cannot weather intensity or provide enough attention
  • A forced increase in routines or activities the Dramatic consider boring
  • Being suddenly without admirers / observers–a major one
  • Being unavoidably confronted with ‘just plain bad’ situations–another big one

Relationships and Work:

When bored or subjected to tedious requirements, mainly Dramatic people are likely to keep making connections (or sometimes more), plan exciting things, and stay busy–all to persistently see only the bright side. More rule-following or practical styles can see this as ‘head in the sand’. If you value the health and presence of your ‘colorful comrade’ at work, in friendship, or at home, pay attention to them by appreciating their vibrancy. Notice how they help keep you involved, and are good at ‘selling it’. Do not allow things to get too boring. Try not to lose your cool at what you think is impractical, oblivious, or negligent.

Good matches for mainly Dramatic people, per Oldham & Morris, are rule-followers (Conscientious, with  admixture of other styles). Those who soldier on (Serious style) may be too pessimistic without other streaks. Devoted is good, but they can worry about faithfulness. The same applies to Vigilant types. Any style or mixture of styles that is strongly needy, self-focused, socially awkward, jealous, or dominant may not work well, long-term.

People watching the mainly Dramatic person doing their thing… :

Dramatic people, yes, love to be noticed. However, what is not always obvious is they seek self-confirmation and self-definition through being noticed, as Oldham & Morris note. Sometimes even getting a negative reaction is enough. If you realize this and use it in a nice way, you will be consistent friends. Given such security, the mainly Dramatic may even be able to tone it down a little and let others take stage. As is true for many styles, if you mock or strongly critique how they get through life (in their case, through expressiveness and image), they will be offended.

Predominantly Dramatic people in therapy (therapists, read in ‘reverse’…):

Your constant focus on what others will see, and your strong emotional nature, may, occasionally, lead to a wish that you could be calmer with a more internal center of gravity. Still it could be hard for you to realize that, in your case, the therapist is trying to foster your sense of self-appraisal and self-appreciation, rather than loudly applauding or unintentionally stepping into exciting conflicts.

That said, if you need breaks, talk about what you intended to get across. That may open a tolerable ‘growth door’. Even if it feels boring, look for traditional therapists with impeccable boundaries, who still ‘get’ and value your vividness. This is to make sure they provide only the framework for you to develop a more centralized ‘you’.

Dramatic self-help (and for therapy):

Your social orientation, charm, emotional availability, openness to experience, and optimism are infectious. You are good at raising spirits, trying things, and various forms of creativity and imaginative work. Your concern about being ignored? Fears of acknowledging bad times? They won’t actually crush you. You will have to confront the feelings linked to such anxieties before realizing that you can stand from inside, in addition to being held up from outside.

Concerned that being without frequent and admirable performances, you will wither away? Not a chance. And, the more you discover internal knowledge and strength, this will become even less likely. When you learn this well enough, the times when you feel ‘unsteady because unseen’ will be bearable…perhaps even, for a short while, refreshing.


*I give full credit for the content to Oldham & Morris (1995). Any elaboration and exploration is my doing. If you want significantly more detail on each personality style, please go get the book. Also, take the test: it is here. I have no business relationship with the authors or the test-makers. Please see the intro post on this topic for other info.

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