RL Practice of the Month

A Triangle Goes Toxic! Reposition Yourself


Fact:Triangles are the smallest stable unit in an emotional system. They are nature’s way of dealing with anxiety. They instinctively form in our social systems in order to establish more emotional safety when stress arises. We all have been there when a triangle “lights up”, often in unexpected ways and with unanticipated intensity. And it can happen in a split second.

  • A colleague at work comes out of the boss’s office fuming and makes a beeline to your desk. “You won’t believe what just happened...”.

Action:How we respond in this situation will either increase or reduce your ability to help calm down the triangle between yourself, the boss, and your colleague. Being resilient in this situation calls you to quickly see the increased reactivity in the triangle, recognize the part you can play to calm things down in the triangle, and take appropriate steps without taking sides.

Some suggestions are:

  1. Avoid feeling sorry for someone, blaming someone or offering solutions.
  2. Listen without judgement and then help your colleague clarify their thinking about what happened in the boss’s office.
  3. Avoid the “togetherness position” which means avoid commiserating or feeling responsible to help your colleague figure out how to patch things up with the boss.
  4. Work to keep communications open between your colleague and the boss.

Try It: This month be on the lookout for triangles around you which would really benefit from a reduction in tension. Think about actions you could take to lower the anxiety in these triangles and decide to take an “anxiety reducing” action. Look for signs of improvement as you practice: Staying Calm, Staying Connected and Staying the Course.

For more insight, please enjoy the videos below!

For more information, watch this video of Jim Burns on transforming triangles!