Archive for the ‘triangles’ Tag

BACK TO THE SEMINAR   8 comments

Forgive me for the long delay. I’ve been busy preparing and giving an in-person presentation on reconciliation at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior, Minnesota, on Wednesday, February 13. You might be interested to know an answer I gave there to the question “Why?”

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go: first be reconciled to your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift.” Mathew 5: 23-24

It’s the biblical way of saying you can’t enjoy the blessing of internal peace if you are harboring anger over a damaged relationship. It’s another way of emphasizing the importance of removing the impediment from your own eye before trying to straighten someone else out.

The point is, reconciliation requires coming together in one way or another with the other person(s). It’s a two-way street. Except when the other person refuses to engage. Then the reconciliation requires engaging oneself internally in working through the hurt and anger.

For now, though, I’d like to talk about initiating the connection. It’s important to know the outcome you hope for …  and how likely it is that you’ll get what you’re looking for. Do you want a response? What might it be? An offer to meet and talk? An agreement to follow through on the direct action you’ve requested? Or even for the person to realize there’s a problem in the first place? Are you creating more pain and anger for yourself by imagining an unlikely response, the absence of which will leave you disappointed (and even angrier?)

Or what if you just want to express your anger. If you do that and stop there, it’s guaranteed you’ll accomplish two things – hurt the other person, and encourage defensiveness, denial, and/or retaliation.

But if hurting the other person is what you want, here are the rules for doing it.

  • Create a triangle. Try to get a third person to deliver your message for you. Or maybe bring in someone else as in, “And Mary Jane agrees with me, too.”
  • Don’t respond if the person reaches out to you
  • Send a letter – snail mail or e-mail – with no opportunity for the recipient to respond. End it with something like, “I just had to tell you how I feel.”
  • Make sure you blame the person.
  • Make sure you imply that you are blameless.
  • Maybe offer a diagnosis to explain the other person’s misdeed, as, for example, “You always were good at being passive aggressive” or “I have to understand that you can’t help being like that, given what I know about your upbringing.”
  • Avoid the Jennie rule. Jennie, my mother, one of those people who qualifies as a natural confident – one whom other people felt comforted by – recommended “Always put the best construction on all your neighbor’s actions.” That doesn’t mean making excuses or accepting abuse. It means there’s always another side. Finding it is the essence of love. It’s also the best route to understanding and potentially resolving a painful issue. Or maybe realizing that it’s time to give up. So, if what you want is to hurt the other person, then don’t invoke the Jennie rule.
  • Finally, and above all, if you want to avoid reconciliation, don’t communicate directly with the other person.

Maybe you can tell from reading this that I’d rather be talking with you in person, watching your reaction, coming up with spontaneous stories to illustrate my point. But I hope these thoughts are of some help.

And, to tell the truth, I hope you won’t apply any of the rules I’ve given above.

I’ll be back soon with the more positive side of the story, but maybe you can guess what will go into the next section: “What to do if you want to reconcile.”

I’d love to hear your reactions to this.



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.




%d bloggers like this: