The Emotional Triangle concept may well be the most meaningful of our several “tools” for maturing leadership. Leaders have told us it changes the game for them. Key reminder: When you’re on the outside position, resist the urge to go inside and “help” or “save” or “command”.
There are seven laws of emotional triangles:
1. The relationship of any two members of an emotional triangle is kept in balance by the way a third party relates to each of them or to their relationship. (If you want to affect change in a relationship between two people you must deal with the third party or issue that is part of the stuckness.)
2. The third member (outside position) of an emotional triangle is unlikely to change a relationship (for more than about a week) between the other two members by focusing directly on the relationship.
3. Attempts to change the relationship of the other two sides (inside positions) of a relationship often leads to the opposite of its intent.
4. The more a third party tries unsuccessfully to change a relationship of the other two, the more likely s/he will wind up with the anxiety of the other two. (All emotional diseases are communicable.)
5. The various triangles in an emotional system interlock to prevent change in any one triangle.
6. One side of an emotional triangle tends to be more conflictual than the other. (Conflict tends to swing around equally around the compass in healthy families.)
7. We can only change a relationship to which we belong.
The most triangled position in any system is always the most vulnerable; when laws of emotional triangles are understood, however, the outside position tends to become the most powerful.