Using and responding to ‘triangled communication’ is a common dysfunctional pattern. It happens when someone else complains to you about some situation or a problem relationship in their life ‘as if’ you should solve it for them . When that happens , you are being triangled. Yes, “we” may be the one who has the pattern to triangle others into situations only we can face.
It is as if they bring their anxiety about some situation or a third party to us and, if we ‘take it on to be helpful,’ they dump it on us and then walk away feeling better but the stress will be transferred to us if we don’t have a strategy to avoid it. If we have committed to “take on their anxiety” (worse yet to solve their problem or talk to the ‘other’ person), they feel relieved and we feel stressed. Even if we just ‘tell them what to do’ and doing that does not turn out perfect for them, guess who gets the blame?
To defend ourselves by simply cutting off communication with them is not always a healthy response. Instead consider these strategies:
- Problem Situation: Listen to them with genuine empathy. When they have finished say something like, “That sounds really challenging. What’s YOUR plan to deal with that?” Then, don’t say anything until they respond and it might take awhile because you are braking a habitual pattern.
- Problem Relationship: After sympathetically listening, say something like, “That sounds like a challenging relationship. When are YOU going to TALK to THEM about that?” Again, don’t speak until they respond.
- If Asked for Suggestions: They may not be in a place to tap into their own inner creativity to come up with any options. If they respond by sincerely asking “What would you suggest?” and you feel like offering options, make at least 3 suggestions and leave it up to them to choose.
People who expect you to triangle with them will not necessarily appreciate you shifting the pattern to set a healthy boundary. Yet, it really is in their and your best interest to avoid triangled communication.
Not every situation where we seek to be heard by supportive friends results in triangled communication. We all need supportive and encouraging friends who help us tap into our creative spirit to co-create with Wisdom of the Trinity.