Darn Unpredictable People! Triangles-2

Darn Unpredictable People!  Triangles-2  acorn logo

In the last blog, I wrote about being trapped in a triangle. Did I leave you with the impression that all triangles are harmful?

Relational triangles are a natural human response when tension rises. They occur at work and home, among friends and more. Most people automatically reach for a third person when any type of emotion erupts. It’s wise for every leader to understand the nature of triangles–or they may find themselves perplexed and discouraged by the seemingly unpredictable behavior of humans!

One of the great ways a triangle can help is if you feel stuck or scared in a relational situation, and you JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.

When do we become that desperate? Usually once we’ve tried every tactic we know to fix a problem. At that point it can become tremendously helpful to bring in a third party, if they’re committed to helping you find a solution.

The triangle can be HARMFUL if the third person:

1- Takes sides (not staying neutral).
“I can’t believe this has happened to you.”

2- Joins you in condemning or vilifying the other party.
“What a jerk they are!”

3- Helps you reduce the emotional pressure so much that you don’t
address the issue with the other party.
“Wow, I feel better, now I don’t even need to talk to the problem person.”

4- Decides to take over and fix the problem for you.
“This is too complex, I’ll fix it for you.”

The triangle can be HELPFUL if the third person:

1- Stays neutral with both parties.
“This is not my issue. My job is to monitor my own anxiety about the

2- Listens and asks questions without adding judgments.
“Tell me more about that…”

3- Helps you identify your role in the conflict since it takes two to tango.
“I know this is a hard question, but is it possible you’ve contributed to this
problem by something you’ve said or done?”

4- Assists you in coming up with a positive course of action.
“Let’s keep focused on finding positive outcomes. What do you think you
could do to address this?”

5- Holds you accountable to confront the third person.
“I believe you both are mature and responsible enough to work this out. And I believe you’ll learn a lot about yourself and the other person through it…”

Give yourself a quick self-assessment:

How quickly do I jump into a triangle when tension rises?

How effective am I as the third person?

Next blog: When should a third person become involved, and what tools can they use to help resolve a conflict?

© Riling Leadership Resources LLC 2013

Donald G. Riling
Riling Leadership Resources
585.203.7385 Don@RilingResources.com

Don Riling has facilitated leadership development nationally and internationally for over 30 years.  As Projects Director for an international agency, he mobilized 14,000 workers to 22 nations. He has conducted a dual career, coaching top leaders in business, academia, and politics around the world, while working as a CEO in the not-for-profit sector.

Currently, Don is CEO of Riling Leadership Resources, specializing in executive coaching and team dynamics for high performance productivity.

Don has a six-year education in theology and leadership development. In the last several years he has been trained and certified by LeadersInspire, Inc, and certified to teach the Uncommon Leadership Course, (based on Bowen Systems) by Frank Staropoli Consulting.

Call or email today for a free initial consultation.

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