Communication, both verbal and nonverbal, is powerful. It is the primary tool used to build and sustain relationships. The Scriptures indicate how powerful communication can be and how deeply we are impacted by healthy and unhealthy uses of it in James 3.
The way in which we grow and learn to relate to others is directly impacted by our environment and the way we experienced communication throughout our development.
How were we viewed? Were we allowed to have our own opinions? Were we the centerfold of real or perceived problems, or an invisible force in the midst of the inevitable chaos called life?
Sometimes the chaos is beautiful – sometimes it is painful. But it is in this process – from moment to moment – that our ways of learning to communicate are developed.
Rarely, as adults, do we slow down to consider how our development impacts our way of being and relating to other people. Nonetheless, despite how we learned to relate to people, embedded in the soul of men and women is the desire to be in harmony with one another and our surroundings. And, for many of us, we need to do some unlearning in order to discover the harmony for which our souls long.
The topic I hope to address here is what therapists call triangulation.
Triangulation is a fancy way to say “involving a third wheel unnecessarily in an effort to avoid discomfort.” It is an unhealthy form of stress management – and one that so many people engage in unknowingly. Simply because that is how he or she has learned to maintain peace.
Triangulation occurs when a third party is brought into a tense situation to reduce anxiety and stabilize a dyad relationship.
A classic example of triangulation can be observed in a middle school cafeteria. Sally and Dustin are boyfriend and girlfriend but Sally is mad at Dustin so she sends her friend Caroline to talk to him about his offense.
Another example could be a two-parent household where alcoholism is present among a parent. If the sober parent begins to discuss the issue with one of their children, the child will inevitably take at least one of two actions. He or she will either step into the role of the parent who is entangled in alcoholism, or the child will confront the alcoholic parent about the behavior based on their conversation with the sober parent. This type of communication style often leads to enmeshment and co-dependency, particularly when the elected third party is a child.
God created us for better connections.
His desire is to diffuse existing anxiety and stabilize our relationships by helping us connect our hearts directly with other individuals.
Involving third wheels leaves a great deal of destruction and ultimately hurts more than helps. Let’s pause to consider places in our lives where we have invited irrelevant people into our problems and prepare ourselves to act differently moving forward.
Let’s not stir up additional strife. We are called to be peace makers.
5 Ways to Avoid Triangulation
1. If they aren’t part of the problem, they aren’t part of the solution. There is no reason to involve someone in a disagreement or problem if he or she has not contributed to it in some way. The only exception would be if someone is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else.
2. Define the true problem and Pray about it. Ask God to help you identify who needs to be addressed and how to address that individual.
3. Talk as little as possible. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Do not gossip in the name of processing. If you need to discuss the issue and get wisdom, choose one person who is far from the problem and who knows God intimately and invite them to provide advice. But do not expect them to become involved personally in the matter.
4.Consider the alternative. What is the problem? And what would your ideal solution look like? Who is involved in both the problem and the solution? (It is important to begin with individuals involved in the problem before you involve people who could be involved in the solution).
5. If you are experiencing an adult problem, speak to an adult. Do not involve your children. It is not only unfair, but can be incredibly confusing to them.
Consider the following scriptures…
“Here are six things God hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: eyes that are arrogant, a tongue that lies, hands that murder the innocent, a heart that hatches evil plots, feet that race down a wicked track, a mouth that lies under oath, and a trouble maker in the family” Proverbs 6:16-23 (MSG)
“For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:10-12
“And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11