The Drama Triangle vs. the Empowerment Triangle

You may have heard of the “Drama Triangle.” It was initially introduced by a psychiatrist named Stephen Karpman in the 1960’s as a “social model of human interaction” to demonstrate unproductive patterns of relating when conflicts arise. Each point of the inverted triangle represents one of three “faces of drama”:  The persecutor (constantly finding fault and placing blame), the victim (loads of self-pity, complaining with a feeling of no control over circumstances), and the rescuer (boosts ego by trying to save people even without being asked).  Each of these roles is dysfunctional when it comes to eliminating drama and solving conflict, but they also provide some measure of short-term gratification, which is why many people find themselves either stuck in a role or oscillating between them. It’s a toxic dynamic as each role feeds on the other.

If you recognize yourself or your teammates in any of these roles, then you likely have experienced the seemingly endless loop of drama, gossip, blaming, complaining, negativity, and generally unhealthy relationships that are the result.  The good news is there is a way out. It’s called the Empowerment Triangle.

In the Empowerment Triangle, the toxic roles are replaced by more positive ones.  The persecutor is replaced by the challenger, the victim is replaced by the creator, and the rescuer is replaced by the coach. The challenger uses empowering language to uplift, challenge, and encourage others to adopt a growth mindset and to grow even in challenging circumstances instead of blaming others and using control tactics. The creator recognizes their ability to choose their response to life’s challenges and create their own reality instead of letting life happen to them. The coach provides real support for the creator by listening and inquiring to help them reach their own solutions versus enabling them to remain in the victim role.

In the work we do as growth-minded coaches here at LionSpeak, we see a lot of drama triangles, and we celebrate those moments when they shift into the empowerment triangle—a healthier, more optimistic place within which to have important, strategic, and courageous conversations. You can have this for yourself and your team. All it takes is one person to step out of the drama triangle first and step into the empowered one, inviting the others to follow.

This week, consider the roles you and your teammates play and ask yourself if you can do better, if you deserve better. What if you were the one to go first and boldly step into the empowered triangle, taking everyone else with you into a better future?

We can help you learn how at LionSpeak. Just raise your hand and we’ll meet you there, solidly within that empowered triangle.

“Conflict is drama, and how people deal with conflict shows you the kind of people they are.”

~ Stephen Moyer

Leave a Comment