𝐓𝐰𝐨 𝐢𝐬 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐧𝐲. 𝐓𝐡𝐫𝐞𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐜𝐫𝐨𝐰𝐝. When they were little, my twin daughters would often want a single friend over to come over to play with the two of them. Yikes. Instant triangle.
Sometimes it worked. Certain friends were naturally adept at including everyone’s ideas and making each of my daughters feel valued and respected.
Sometimes it was rough. The friend would connect more easily with one sister, and those two would run off excitedly to play together, leaving my other daughter wondering what had happened.
𝐓𝐫𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐥𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐧’𝐭 𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝐬𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥 𝐜𝐫𝐨𝐰𝐝. They happen all the time to adults as well.
In business partnerships, triangles happen suddenly and without warning. The partnership is in sync, working well together and making decisions easily. Then a third person (a new employee, a family member, a key stakeholder) joins the conversation and shifts the balance. The new person aligns easily with one partner, but not the other. Suddenly the first partner has additional support for ideas and decisions, so begins to include the new person in issues that were formerly only talked about within the partnership. The second partner feels sidelined and angry but isn’t even sure what happened.
What exactly is triangulation? In the context of family therapy, the APA Dictionary of Psychology defines it as “a situation in which two members of family in conflict each attempt to draw another member to their side.” In business partnerships, I see it happen most often when the partners have been avoiding dealing with conflict directly. While usually unintentional, one partner tries to draw a new person in to give weight to their opinions.
If it happens one time, it might be happenstance. If it becomes a pattern, trust between the partners may start to erode. If it goes unaddressed for a long period of time, the partnership may struggle to deliver good business outcomes.
💡 𝐈𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐟𝐭 𝐢𝐧 𝐚 𝐤𝐞𝐲 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐩, 𝐳𝐨𝐨𝐦 𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐚𝐬𝐤 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟:
If you notice a pattern that regularly leaves one partner sidelined, it’s time to have a direct conversation. If you’ve been avoiding this conversation for a while, reach me here to schedule a partnership strategy call.