Triangulating happens when two people have a conversation about a third person where they represent the beliefs, feelings or behaviors of the third person. There are typically several unfavorable outcomes. The first being that the 3rd person’s voice is stolen. That person does not have an opportunity to represent him or herself. The second consequence is that one or both of the folks in the conversation may be hurt by what is said about the third person. For example, Mary tells Sue that Barbara is angry at her and not sure if she wants to continue a relationship with her. Sue is taken hostage by the information, especially, if Mary tells Sue not to reveal their conversation to Barbara. Of course, if Sue goes to Barbara with the information, Barbara may deny what Mary relayed or now, have an issue with Sue for representing or misrepresenting her.
Under ideal circumstances, once triangulating occurs, all three people will come together to address what was said and how it impacted each person. There are several important benefits to addressing triangulating in this way. 1) Address any hurt that members of the triangle may have experienced, 2) Strengthen the rapport amongst the three by telling the truth, holding compassion for anyone hurt and apologizing where appropriate, 3) Possibly address the resurrection of an old triangle which may have been quite harmful. This third alternative reflects the inevitability of having been hurt by a childhood triangle where we felt forgotten, hurt, or excluded. Addressing the current triangle, which will feel a lot like the old one, allows us the opportunity to bring safety, honesty, compassion and a renewed sense of healing.
Have you ever been in a triangle? What did it feel like? How did you deal with it? How do you feel about becoming a bit more creative with addressing triangulating?