We all know what a love triangle is (who hasn’t read a good romance book?) There are other types of triangles that human beings can get caught up in. I’ve been aware that I’ve been caught up in a few of them myself recently.
Triangulation in one definition, occurs when two people are using a third party to communicate instead of speaking directly to each other. You may see this among family members, particularly siblings. It can also happen between in-laws, parents and children, and a host of other complex human interactions.
But why does it have to be so complex? Why can’t the two parties who need to communicate do so? They might be trying to diminish the level of conflict through the use of a “middle man”. One way to force more direct communication is for the “middle man” to recognize what is going on and to inform the other two sides of the triangle that they no longer want to be the person in the middle. This may worsen the interaction between the other two parties and escalate whatever conflict is happening and this might be what they were afraid of in the first place. However, it is hardly fair to loop in someone else into a conflict even though the two sides that are arguing might not have the communication skills or willingness to apologize/forgive. And in some instances, certain people enjoy drama and it’s creation.
Kids will triangulate themselves into a parents’ argument to stop their parents from arguing and yelling. You may see kids act up and misbehave for just this purpose. Kids are a barometer for tension a family.
Another aspect of triangulation is when you see kids playing together. Two kids on a play date or at recess will usually play with each other quite nicely. Add a third, and watch what happens. Inevitably, someone gets left out or has their feelings hurt. It’s much better to have play dates in even numbers.
So, as I become aware of the triangles I’ve been caught up in, I thought this blog idea might help other people to recognize when triangulation is happening in their own interactions. We tend to get triangulated when we are trying to help. When caught in a triangle, ask yourself which two sides of the triangle own the problem, and then allow them the practice of solving it themselves.