How to Stop Arguing

Linda has been saying nasty, untrue things about you behind your back. You find out. You phone and confront her. She is clearly in the wrong and you want her to acknowledge this and perhaps apologise. But the call goes very differently than you imagined. Somehow, she is the “victim” and the more you try to get your point across, the more guilty you begin to feel. You end the call feeling like the “baddie”. “How on earth did this happen?” you wonder.

Can you think of a time this has happened to you? Maybe you have a “Linda” in your life who does this repeatedly.

The chances are that Linda has unwittingly lulled you into playing an elaborate game. She has taken on the role of “victim” despite the reality and you have been forced to respond to her victimhood. You are confused because you know this is fundamentally wrong.

Let me explain what is happening here. Once you understand this, you can choose not to play the game anymore. You were on “The Drama Triangle”. It has three positions; “victim”, “rescuer” and “persecutor”. By far the most powerful is “victim”, a position Linda has grabbed. This leaves two roles for you. You can be “persecutor”. You get more and more frustrated with her not acknowledging the wrong she has done so you get angrier with her and begin to shout. When Linda cries; “you’re always attacking me like this” you begin to launch into her, “persecuting” her even more.

You have another role you can take; “rescuer”. You respond by ignoring your own feelings of hurt and instead work on her unjustified ones. “I’m sorry Linda, I don’t want to upset you”. Either way, this has become about Linda’s victimhood. As “persecutor”, you make her more of a victim and as “rescuer” you try to make her less of one. Both fail to address your justified anger at what she has done.

Now you know what’s happening you can choose to get off of the triangle. It takes two people to play so only one person needs to stop playing. The next time you are in a heated argument, try to stop and ask, “where am I on the triangle and where is the other person?” This awareness can help free you from playing the “Drama Triangle Game”.

So, what could you say to Linda? Firstly, recognise and own your emotions. Assertively describe her behaviour (do not attack her personally) and say how you feel about it. Then state what you want. (e.g. acknowledgement and apology). If Linda still wants to play victim here, that is her choice. You do not have to play, particularly as the only two positions left will get you nowhere.


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