At ConvergenceCoaching, we strive to help our learners incorporate the concepts from our training into their daily life and patterns of work. One way we help participants accomplish this is to ask them to make one commitment – to choose one action or behavioral change to commit to out of our discussions.
In looking back over the participant commitments made over the last few months of retreats and leadership training sessions, we see a definite trend. Many are committing to make a change in their triangulation behaviors – and we’re over the top excited to see it!
You see, triangulation is an insidious, damaging behavior pattern that pollutes our organizations, our homes, and our society in general. Our past colleague, Krista Remer, called it “Dishing Dirt” and if you turn on most talk shows or news programs you’ll see it there, too.
When a conflict occurs, we as human beings naturally get upset. But instead of addressing our upset directly with the person or people with whom we are in conflict, we instead start talking to others about it. This tendency to communicate with others instead of our conflict partner (the person with which we have conflict) is called triangulation.
When we triangulate, we rationalize it as venting or getting things off our chests. Or sometimes we say that we’re looking for confirmation that we have the right to be upset. But in truth, we often triangulate because we aren’t committed to resolving the conflict – to really doing something about it – so unfortunately all we are doing by discussing it with someone who cannot affect it is gossiping. This gossiping is unprofessional and can be damaging to our professional relationships. It can create a black cloud of complaining and helplessness for us and the people with whom we triangulate. Even worse, triangulation can reduce our faith in our team members and our organization.
To swing this blog back into a more positive, change-oriented mode, let’s go back to the idea of making commitments. Let’s commit to skip the triangle and instead create a straight line back to your conflict partner. Plan to use our Straight Talk Worksheet to “get centered” on your upset before you discuss the conflict. You will generate some hopeful interpretations of why the conflict may have occurred, rather than operating from your easily generated negative interpretations. As a result, there is hope that you and your conflict partner will find a mutually beneficial solution to your conflict.
Some of us also need to commit to quit serving as a triangulation dumping ground – that third leg of the triangle. You may have a regular parade of staff members coming through to share their frustrations and upsets with others, and you provide a kind ear for their troubles. Commit to change this pattern. Instead, encourage your fellow triangulator to address the situation with their conflict partner directly (instead of just complaining about it). Stop validating the ideas brought to you by triangulators. And, consider helping would-be triangulators generate hopeful interpretations – all of which will create a positive path forward to address the conflict.
You have the power to change your own habits, as well as create that ripple of change in your teams and organizations, that will result in more straight talk and successful conflict management across your firm. Those who master these skills will undoubtedly have the most success in business and in life!
We are encouraged by the efforts of many we’ve worked with this spring and summer to eliminate triangulation from your workplaces. Go forward and turn those unhealthy triangles into efficient straight lines!
P.S. For more information on this topic and a proven conflict management strategy you can use to share your feelings and resolve conflicts in your life (at home, too!), download our Straight Talk Your Way to Success e-book or enroll in our self-study course, Managing Difficult Conversations Successfully, at www.convergencelearning.com.