The Drama Triangle is a simple, but powerful tool that can help you and your team members and colleagues to look at conflict and drama in the workplace in a constructive way and to understand how to move forward.
The Drama Triangle
According to the Karpman Drama Triangle there are three roles that most of us slip into when there is a conflict ‘situation’ at in the work place. Karpman argues that these roles create interactions that are not particularly healthy nor productive. By taking a few moments to identify which of the roles you are most likely to slip into you can change the way you interact with others and therefore to prevent the unproductive drama.
According to Karman, the three roles are: Persecutor, Victim and Rescuer.
The triangle is usually perceived to be triggered by the Persecutor. This is the person disrupting the equilibrium, being aggressive and forcing their point of view on others. In turn this ‘creates’ a Victim – someone who feels attacked, powerless and thwarted. The Victim blames the Persecutor for their situation.
Next, in comes the Rescuer who attempts to intervene to protect and support the Victim from the Persecutor and to solve the problem for them. However, in this situation the Rescuer simply reinforces the Victim’s helplessness, the Persecutor has even less respect for the Victim and the cycle continues. To change this cycle, it is necessary to change the status quo, and to generate a positive response from each person where they re-evaluate their intention and their perspective.
It is helpful to recognise that what we need in drama and conflict situations are in fact ‘Challengers’ rather than Persecutors. Challengers provoke action in others by encouraging people to create or to learn something new or to make a difficult decision. They do not simply blame and intimidate like the Persecutors. By adopting this approach, ‘Challengers’ are able to help a potential Victims to recognise their ability to create and to solve their own problems and challenges. As a ‘Creator’ rather than a victim, they stop focussing on the problem and their own anxiety and instead look for solutions.
Even without a change in the Persecutor, however, a change in the Victim’s perspective can turn them into a Creator. It involves objectively evaluating the situation and working out the steps towards a solution.
But it does also require a change in the perspective of the Rescuer who also needs to see the Creator rather than the Victim. They should show this by supporting them, encouraging them and asking questions to help clarify ideas and solutions rather than solving the problem or ‘saving’ the Victim. In this way, the Rescuer becomes a Coach.
Over the next week, make a conscious effort to observe how you and others cope with challenging and conflicts in the workplace. Reflect on your observations and then over the next week, aim to be aware of the drama triable roles and ‘take out the drama’. Notice when you slip into the role of the Persecutor or Rescuer (or even Victim) and change your perception. Look out for opportunities to help develop Challengers, Creators and Coaches and notice the difference to relationships and performance.
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