The Drama Triangle is a model developed by Stephen Karpman. It helps us understand the dynamics of dysfunctional sequences of miscommunication.
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In a short article, Karpman analyzed three familiar fairy tales, and identified the three roles we need to analyze the emotional structure of complex series interactions that he called dramas:
Dramas start with two or more people, each occupying a corner of the triangle. Players compete to switch position:
Since none of the positions feels comfortable, players get a psychological payoff – a short-term sense of relief – by switching corners.
Dramas are seductive because there is a pay-off; we either shed responsibility or feel good about our superiority.
There is no ‘right position’ to take, on the Drama Triangle. The only stable and resourceful position is to get off the triangle. If you realize you are seeing these patterns, disengage, and invite the other person to.
Stay alert to what is going on and don’t get drawn back in. If you do find yourself in a drama, declaring ‘this feels familiar’ is the best way to break the cycle and return to a rational and resourceful state.
If the other person refuses to acknowledge the cycle, then step right away.
However, if you try to either
Then you will just perpetuate the long-term misery!
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Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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