Rule #3: Avoid triangles   4 comments

I promise I’ll get to the point, but first I’m congratulating myself on my patience as I’ve been delayed getting back to my money-saving rules of therapy. Fraudulent charges on one’s credit card plus malware messing up the computer take up some very annoying time. And, by the way, both of those things are examples of fighting someone or something else to regain control of one’s life. Remember Rule #1? The only person you can control is you.

So, how does one regain control? Well, first of all you let the credit card folks know you’ve detected fraud. Then you find other ways to pay your bills until you get the the new card and activate it. (ah-ha! Something I can do myself.) Then you notify all the folks who get automatic payments from your card that you have a new one. Getting control back takes time and at least a little annoyance.

How about getting control back when you have malware on your computer? You talk to the wonderful techies at Apple who patiently stay with you – maybe even join you briefly – to help get rid of it. I’m amazed at how they know where to go to spot the villains. I do admire people who are really good at what they do.

I am glad the malware was removed in time for me to download the materials I needed to join a webinar on “Understanding Neurocognitive Disorders.” Another step in regaining control. I have until May to accumulate the Continuing Education Credits I need to practice legally, a process in which I fell way behind as a result of the April accident. To tell the truth, I’m overjoyed to find webinars that provide the opportunity. I’d much rather sit at my computer for six hours than travel to where they are being presented. I do miss the personal contact though.

Well anyway, I’m back. Ready to give the third bit of free advice. These are not necessarily in an order of importance, by the way. It’s more like a complex interactive loop.

So, I have already offered:

#1: The only person you can control is you.

#2:  Appreciate your shadow.

Today I’m giving you, should you choose to accept it

Rule #3. Avoid triangles

I’m not talking here about love triangles. That’s kind of obvious. But there are so many ways we get caught in triangles that have the potential to cause problems. As one person defined it beautifully in my class: “You are creating a triangle any time you ask someone to take an action for you in relation to a third person.” I’d add, “Anytime you offer to take such an action in relation to a third person.”

Just a few examples. First, a relatively simple, only moderately threatening, one. A friend of mine who comes from a large family and has therefore become inured to loud and repetitive noises was not at all disturbed by the barking dog next door. But her husband was. I mean, the dog just wouldn’t stop barking. So he asked his wife to plead with the neighbor to silence the dog. “If I do it,” he said, “they’ll be angry with me.” Then he and his wife both laughed as they realized he was asking her to take the flack.

When I was in third grade we had a pageant at Thanksgiving time, going from room to room acting our parts. My line was “Speak for yourself John.” As I understand the story, Pocahontas ended up with the man who delivered the message, not John. My history may be off, but you get the point. How many of us did the same kind of thing in Junior High and later — even today?

But triangles can get much more serious when they are built into an organizational structure. The other day I heard of a woman I’ll call Amanda who complained to an administrator that her immediate manager was regularly rude and withholding of help. The administrator felt it was another authority who should handle the issue, so she handed it off. The person who caught the job approached Amanda to question why she was unwilling to carry out her job description.

Remember the “Rumors” game?

Ever been in a similar situation?

Let’s try one more: Remember “West Side Story?” and what happened to Maria’s friend when she agreed to deliver a message to Tony? Rape and death were the results.

I could give you examples from the last few days in my life when the light bulb lit to warn me I was getting involved in a triangle. It’s so easy. I think I’m getting pretty good at catching it in time, though.

Before I leave this topic, I have to admit some triangles may not be dangerous. “if you’re going by Mary’s house, would you be willing to drop this off for me?” Hmm. Think about it.

I’d love to hear your examples.




4 responses to “Rule #3: Avoid triangles

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  1. OMG, Mona! I have been in that sort of triangle many times and not recognized it. There have been a few times when I absolutely refused – like the time my husband told me to tell Jane (fictitious name) she’s getting fat. Can you believe that? Most of the time it involved “friends” who expected me to do their dirty work. Guess I’m an easy target – or used to be. If someone puts me in an uncomfortable position now I most likely will say no. I’m older and wiser, I like to think.

  2. I seem to not be involved in them anylonger. I well remember when I had the role of the family’s “fixer” – and suddenly realized that it was a ROLE and that i could simply say NO. Very scary, but immediate result

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