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I can’t believe that the first quarter of 2024 has flashed past already! Did I blink! Well, I hope that you were able to lay a good foundation for the year in these three fleeting months and that you are on the way to a wonderfully successful, not to mention fun, year.

For years, Karpman’s Drama Triangle (the image below summarises it nicely) has been somewhat of an enigma for me. Firstly, it is ubiquitous in that it seems to pop up everywhere. Either books I read mention it, or I regularly witness the drama and the triangle being relayed to me in my coaching or supervision sessions. I notice some of my clients being the Victim of their boss’ lack of understanding, or Persecuting members of their team for lack of effort, and I witness (especially but not only) coaches being seduced into Rescue mode

(To be honest, I also notice how I am tempted to move into the same Rescue mode from time to time). Often, I notice how the Victim becomes the Persecutor (“…but it’s his fault!”) or the Rescuer (“He can’t help it, so I’ll just keep doing it”), how the Rescuer might become the Victim (“Oh, well, if you don’t want my help…”) or the Persecutor (“If you aren’t going to take my help, then you need to understand your role in all this”), and so on. Okay, so I have dramatized the thoughts behind, or words used, a bit – but I hope you get the picture if you are not familiar with the Drama Triangle.

For me, my observations answered the question “What?” – as in what is going on? However, it didn’t answer “So what?” or “What now

A little later, I came across the Winner’s Triangle and the Empowerment Triangle which seem to mirror each other in many respects. What I like about these is that they answer both questions; that is, how we might in practical terms help our clients or supervisees to transition from their role/s on the Drama Triangle to more positive roles, as set out in the image below

Let’s see if we can walk through some fictional examples by way of explanation:

  • A senior manager calls you to ask you to coach one of his team members who is “just not making it and has an awful attitude. I don’t know what to do. He just won’t listen to anything I say”. He wants you to coach the team member. He’s playing the Victim, right! If you take the assignment, you are probably in Rescue role – although, I guess if you need the revenue, you might be rescuing yourself! 😀

  • The scenario is the same as above. You recognise the senior manager playing a role as Victim (or you don’t), and you respond: “George, this is not likely to be the last time you are faced with this kind of challenge. How can I help you deal with this in a way that will enable you to deal with future challenges of this kind?” (You become the Coach and you are helping the manager move into Creator mode, if he responds positively.)

  • The same scenario as above except instead of saying “I don’t know what to do. He just won’t listen to anything I say”, he says “As a result, the team is falling behind in its targets. I haven’t spoken to him yet, but this is last chance saloon stuff”. Once again, if you take the assignment, you may well be rescuing him. Instead, you might move into Challenger mode: “George, I am wondering why you haven’t spoken to him yet if his impact on results is so huge?” “Ah,” George responds. “I am no good at that soft stuff – anyway, it never gets us anywhere, and we don’t have the time…” George, now perhaps the Victim. You stay in Challenger mode. “What if, “ you respond, “you and I work together on a way to deal with this that helps you assert yourself in a discussion with him that is actually effective – so that he realises he needs to shape up or it’s the highway for him? What if we help you get real power back?” If he agrees, he has moved from Persecutor to Creator role.

And so on. I hope these are helpful.

There are three lessons I have taken from my still-limited knowledge of the triangles, and especially how the Winner’s / Empowerment Triangle helps us in situations where the Drama Triangle appears – it’s all about:

  1. Raising the other’s awareness;

  2. Helping them to take at least 50% responsibility back (and not pass it on to you or someone else); and

  3. Moving them from the past to the future.

I hope this gives us all an opportunity to explore and experiment with the triangles in a powerful and effective way. I would love to hear about your past experiences and what you have experimented with.

Hope to hear from you.

I have a couple of seats vacant in my Coach Supervision Group commencing monthly from 9 April. If you like learning in small groups and want to really increase your coaching effectivenessclick here to set up a no-obligation exploratory chat with me to learn more.

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