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Our ego fuels the need to be right and we become attached to a specific outcome. At this point, the conflict becomes a power struggle. This uncovers possibilities we might otherwise ignore. From controlling villain to collaborator There is a fine line between the roles of hero and villain, and in conflict we can easily and unconsciously slip into the role of villain.
When we attack another person even in self-defence and attempt to hurt them in some way, we have become the villain. This victimizes the other person anew and perpetuates the attack-defend cycle. Although others may see us as a villain, we can change their perception if we are willing to relinquish our need to control.
When we surrender our need for control, we make room for fresh and creative possibilities to resolve our conflicts and even redefine our relationships. At the same time, we have to give up our need to be right. I never said it would be easy. From Adversaries to Partners When we live on the drama triangle, we see the other person as our adversary—the villain. If only they would change, we reason, things would be fine.
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They stand between us and happiness. Ironically, they are usually thinking the same thing about us. To resolve conflict, we need to relinquish our roles as victim, villain and hero and work with the other person to solve the problem. If we need a villain, let it be the problem, not the person. The diagram below symbolizes this shift—from the drama triangle to the circle of resolution.
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Interestingly, the circle and triangle intersect not at the three corners of the triangle, but in the middle on each side. Similarly, we must meet the other person in the middle. Such communication opens the doorway of understanding through which we can exit the drama triangle and enter into the circle of resolution.
Applications The concept of the drama triangle serves me as a mediator, trainer and in my own conflicts.
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As a mediator, it helps me make sense of wildly divergent perspectives by remembering that each person genuinely sees themselves as the victim in the situation. Identifying the moment when each person began to see the other as the villain the point of wounding allows me to focus discussion on the root conflict. We can examine the intent of each party and the impact of their actions on the other, and clarify the assumptions that fuel ongoing conflict.
As a trainer, I find that workshop participants intuitively identify with drama triangle and its roles.
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This fosters the curiosity necessary for collaboration. And finally, this concept helps me stay conscious in my own conflicts by recognizing when I feel like a victim.
The simple concept of the drama triangle fosters a basic awareness of the dynamics of conflict. This awareness allows us to choose responses that move us beyond the drama triangle of confrontation and uncover the new possibilities that flow from collaboration. Gary is a trainer, writer, speaker and facilitator who recently authored The Joy of Conflict Resolution.