How to Avoid the Drama Triangle

Here's an amazing coincidence. I am writing this tip on my iPad, musing on how people deal with frustration and disappointment, an important topic for franchisees and franchisors. My wife Ann is carefully driving us down a winding mountain road as there are major road works and obstructions.

In front of us two motorcyclists have been fooling around trying to impress each other. Suddenly one wobbles out of control, bumping the other, and they both crash over. We stop and I jump out to help. Fortunately they are okay, although pride and bikes are dented. As petrol gushes out of a damaged tank on one rider's bike, a stream of unrepeatable abuse also gushes out of his mouth. He is cursing the idiot road workers who have caused him all this grief! I think it best not to comment on their erratic riding or the dangerous road conditions, and keep my trap shut.

The Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor

Back in the late 60's a psychiatrist, Stephen Karpman, observed there are three stereotypes people fall into when dealing with frustration or disappointment. He called this the Drama Triangle of Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor. You might want to consider whether you fall into one or more of these in your dealings with your franchise partners or your other situations in life.

The Victim ruminates on how badly they have been done by, moaning "Why me?" or "It's not fair". And by leaning on others for sympathy and attention they disempower themselves. This anger turned inwards can lead to despondency and even depression.

The Rescuer deals with their emotional discomfort by immersing themselves in doing good deeds. They smooth over conflict, give advice and try to fix things for everyone else. The problem is they can make others dependent on them and burn themselves out.

The Persecutor deals with their frustration by blaming others. "This is all your fault" they curse and grumble, just like our friend who fell off his motorbike. Their focus is to find and punish who caused their problem.

5 simple strategies to help avoid the drama

1. Mentally step back or detach from the situation. Remind yourself that becoming emotional clouds your thinking and your ability to find a way forward.

2. Take some responsibility for your many decisions and actions which led you to being in this situation.

3. Make a decision that you will not allow external events to define who you are and how you behave.

4. Practice sitting with your own or other's discomfort. Encourage others to find their own solutions.

5. Focus on what is going well, even if this seems insignificant. (After all the motorcyclist could have been badly injured and doubtlessly has learned a valuable lesson).

Here is a quote attributed to another psychologist, William James, who lived over 100 years ago. "The secret of being wise is knowing what to pay attention to." I really like this.

Two free opportunities to learn franchising best practice

I have been presenting a series of free early morning best practice Webinars for USA franchisors. We have been getting great feedback and you are welcome to join in. The next one on Friday 17th June at 6.30am will be on "Using the Franchise E-Factor to Reduce the Cost of Conflict".

Finally, there are still opportunities for franchisors to sign up for our 2011 Franchisee Success Study, the biggest research project ever conducted into identifying the predictors of franchisee performance and satisfaction. I encourage you to check this out if your brand is not already on board.

Until next time,

Greg Nathan

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