Pick Your Triangle

May 29, 2020


We play roles on a stage called "Workplace". What's your starring role? Are you enabling? Empowering? Pick a Triangle and start practicing your lines!

I love a good science-fiction movie! I would choose that or a thrilling mystery over a drama. And though we may not agree on the best film genre, we probably could agree that mystery and drama belong on the Silver Screen rather than in the workplace. I’m sure you’ve either observed or been caught up in the theatre of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT). Dr. Stephen Karpman described DDT as the interaction of three characters: Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer. Each individual responding to other actors and scenes— in a live performance!

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts…
     ~ William Shakespeare, As You Like It

As much as we want to avoid it, we are all playing our role on a stage called Work Teams, Client Interaction, or Vendor Partnership. Have you read scripts from the characters listed below? (Note: depending on the stage, you may have more than one role.)

Roles of the Drama Triangle

  • Victim: Perceived as blameless for the unfortunate circumstance and powerless to affect change or improvement, usually emboldened by a sense of entitlement.
  • Persecutor: Assigned blame for the dilemma and appears in the form of an external influence (like low resources) or an individual seeking to control the situation.
  • Rescuer: Responsible for fixing or removing what’s broken, uncomfortable, or obstructing the victim’s success, seeks to please and reduce conflict.

Thankfully, we can all choose to recast ourselves into more productive roles. David Emerald describes a more functional triangle in his book The Power of TED. TED or The Empowerment Dynamic outlines three new roles that shift power and ownership to the Creator role.

Roles of the Empowerment Triangle

  • Creator: Formally the Victim, now takes an active responsibility designing and constructing the new reality, focuses on outcomes rather than problems.
  • Challenger: Formally the Persecutor, persists as person or situation offering momentum building choices and opportunities while focusing on learning and growth.
  • Coach: Formally the Rescuer, assumes individuals are creative, resourceful and whole, clarifies the Creator’s vision through powerful questions, and insists that power remain with the Creator.

Now, pick a Triangle and the best role for your relationship or situation. Practice, practice, practice! …And the part of _____ will now be played by   YOU  !

Additional Resources: How to Escape the Dreaded Drama Triangle, Forbes; 20 Traits of Coaches, International Coach Federation

by Michelle Sugerman • Leading Synergies, LLC • © All Rights Reserved

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