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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Escape to Freedom: A Way out of the Drama Triangle

13-10-29 A Simple Way out of the Drama TriangleUn-Game Principle: All of us have more choices than we believe. The challenge is accessibility and practice.

Have you ever had repeated, unsatisfying interactions with a co-worker or family member which had you stumped? Have you experienced helplessness in your ability to get these important relationships on a positive track? I have. For me it’s like imagining myself lost in the expansive, fog-drenched  Alaskan wilderness, seeing no path out, knowing the futility of moving, probably in circles, deeper and deeper into the endless expanse. Could you envision what it would be like for you if you suddenly saw a path?  A path must lead somewhere. Hope and extreme excitement. Your life may be saved!

In unsatisfying interactions, until we see a clear path before us, we are also doomed to move in circles, repeating the same thing over and over again, hoping but really not expecting different results. Misery, isn’t it?

You may have heard about the Drama Triangle first identified as such in the 1960’s by Stephen Karpman. It’s a brilliant visual for those unsatisfying interactions that lead nowhere. Populating the drama triangle are three roles: the VICTIM, the PERSECUTOR, and the RESCUER. In any given interaction you may predominantly play one role, let’s say VICTIM, but you may shift to another role in the same interaction. The VICTIM needs a PERSECUTOR  or a RESCUER to stay in the triangle. Again, one of the two players, if there are only two, can shift and become the RESCUER for the given interaction. Here’s an example:

Mary didn’t finish her report on time. She’s done it before. Her boss is fuming.

Boss: “You’re always late. Why can’t you get this stuff to me on time? Everyone else gets it to me on time. This is your last time for this nonsense.” (He’s said that before)

Mary: “I’m so sorry. I had to take my mother to the emergency room, and I had to….”

Boss: “I’m sorry about your mother. But you always have an excuse. That’s just not going to cut it.”

Mary: “OK, I’ll do better with the next deadline.”

Boss: “Fine.” (It’s not. Fine stands for Feelings Inside Not Expressed.)

On first sight it appears that the boss is the PERSECUTOR. His threat and the false accusation put you on notice that a lie is about to be told! (NO one is always late. The word always is a red flag.) Again on first sight, Mary seems to be the VICTIM of her boss’ diatribe. However, consider that the boss actually experiences himself as the VICTIM. He doesn’t follow through with his promise (This is the last time). He eventually even plays the RESCUER by accepting her statement “I’ll do better…” Better how? Not as many hours late? Mary just looks like a VICTIM. She is more like the PERSECUTOR.

The above scenario will repeat itself unless one of the players

a. is willing to get out and

b. realizes that being  in this so-called Drama Triangle is a choice.

Knowing it’s so is a first step to getting out of the dense fog. You start to observe painful interactions that go nowhere. You start to observe the roles people play (yes, you too). The Drama Triangle becomes familiar in a new way. You now have choices you didn’t have before.

What choices? And how do you access them?

The alternative choice to the no-win Drama Triangle can be described as another triangle populated by three different roles. It might be called the Empowerment Triangle. Knowing this provides the initial access to it. If you can make that shift and practice these new three roles, everything changes. The Drama Triangle as a prison will be history for you.

The roles people play in the Empowerment Triangle are CREATOR, CHALLENGER, and COACH. These are largely unfamiliar-to-us roles. So we need to learn and practice them. But they guarantee the way out of those miserable, repetitive interactions that drag us all down and leave us stranded in the Drama Triangle.

The CREATOR, for example, knows s/he can choose to be willing to bring clarity, focus, courage, compassion, truthfulness (and many more qualities of contribution) to any interaction. They know they have feelings. They don’t let feelings have them. They know to be careful to not believe everything they think!

The CHALLENGER, for example, doesn’t go into collusion with the other. They challenge the other’s thinking by helping to clarify it and by showing the paradoxes and the distortions in the other’s thinking. They speak truthfully about the impact of the other’s behavior on them and others, if appropriate. They challenge their own thinking and inquire into what they could do differently.

The COACH, for example, keeps the space of the interaction open and safe. They are not hooked by bad behaviors. They ask questions for the other to reflect on. They help bring anyone in the Drama Triangle into the Empowerment Triangle by modeling the clarity that gets people who are “out of their minds” (in the Drama Triangle) back into their minds (the Empowerment Triangle).

Accessing choice becomes easier when you ‘re clear you are not your feelings (You have feelings. Big difference.).

Assume that prior to the conversation the boss has chosen to be willing to demonstrate being truthful, courageous, compassionate, clear, and focused. By so doing, he’s chosen to be CREATOR, not a reactor (All roles in the Drama Triangle are reactive.). He knows he can’t guarantee he will demonstrate those qualities. However, he can guarantee that he’s willing to. Big difference again.

Ready to practice?

Here’s the same conversation between Mary and her boss from inside the Empowerment Triangle.

Boss: “Mary, this is now the 5th time your report is late. This is a problem, and we have to solve it.” He’s being CHALLENGER. He’s simply telling what’s true (The “always” is absent, for example).

Mary: “I’m so sorry. I had to take my mother to the emergency room, and I had to….”

Boss: “I’m sorry about your mother. I hope she’s OK. Let’s talk later about how I could support you about your mom. Right now we need to solve this problem of your lateness. Let’s let this be our last conversation about this. What would ongoing lateness mean to our project? (He’s demonstrating being focused, clear, compassionate). He’s being CHALLENGER and COACH.

Mary: “I know it’s not good. OK, I’ll do better with the next deadline.”

Boss:  “I‘ll do better’ worries me.” He’s being CHALLENGER (How do you define better?). He’s being COACH.

Mary: “Well, I’ll get it in on time.”

Boss: “What will you do differently  the next time so that meeting the deadline actually happens? Do you see needing some support you now don’t have that will assure you keep your promise to me and the team?” He’s being COACH.

Mary: “Well, the last two times I’ve had trouble getting the info I need from Frank. I probably just have to be more insistent.”

Boss: “Tell you what, Mary. Could you envision making clear requests of Frank in the future? Might you benefit from teaming up with Mark to support you with this? Do you agree he’s very clear in his requests of the team? He may be a good accountability buddy.” He’s being COACH.

Mary: “That will help. Thanks. I know this has been a problem, and I want to solve it too. I haven’t been proactive in asking for support when I need it. I’ll do that.” She’s being CREATOR!

The interaction, led by the boss has brought Mary out of the Drama Triangle. At least in this interaction. Fancy that! With practice we can make progress. Wouldn’t it be great if the Empowerment Triangle became just as familiar to us as the dreaded Drama Triangle? The choice is ours. Shall we practice?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The UnGame , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Isn’t It High Time to Love Complaints?

13-10-22 Isnt it high time to love complaints blogUn-Game Principle: Few communications are as they seem. We must separate the wheat from the chaff.

What? Surely you jest. True, complaints are part of life, but so are mosquitos and people under the influence of road rage.

Not so fast. There’s a secret gift in every complaint, and if you’re a manager, leader, parent, teacher (as I said, a manager), you will want to reconsider and not wish the complaint away. Trust me on that one.

OK, so why not? They’re such a pain in the butt, aren’t they?   Yes and no. Yes, if you see complaints the way most people do, and No, if you want to interact with others as a Creator rather than a Reactor. If you long to be an effective manager and/or an effective communicator, then it’s high time to love complaints.

My mentor, Harvard’s Bob Kegan, makes this statement: “Behind every complaint lies a commitment.” Wow. That’s huge! And most of us have just seen the complainer as a whiner who’s never integrated the explicit or implicit feedback that s/he’s a victim. But of course. One wouldn’t complain if one didn’t feel victimized. But feeling victimized is not the same thing as taking on the identity of a perpetual victim. It can be a temporary state of mind. And what it reveals is that there’s  something the complainer cares about as well. In short, if they didn’t care, they wouldn’t complain.

It could be said that someone who feels victimized is someone who has a longing, dream, or commitment that has been denied, thwarted, or compromised. As a manager, knowing this is important, because you can help the person reconnect with the longing, dream, or commitment. If you don’t know that

a. the longing, dream, or commitment is in the background of the complaint; and

b. surfacing the same is the first step to creating a meaningful interaction that builds relationship and competence

then you’re missing a golden opportunity to be the catalyst for developing  your people , that is, moving them from being a reactor to being a creator.

And being a catalyst is a large part of your job.

So for example, if a tech support person complains that a client keeps on calling over and over about the same thing and doesn’t implement recommendations, you might first acknowledge their commitment to solving clients’ problems. Then by shifting the focus to what they care about, you could explore together how to assure the client and the support person have the same understanding of next steps by the end of the interaction.

At home, if a teenager complains about their friends having things they wish they had but don’t, you could acknowledge how important community is and their desire to be part of a community. Perhaps then you could explore not only the privileges of being in community but the responsibilities. Along the way you could explore how your teen might earn one of the things s/he longs for.

As creators,  we focus on what we want, rather than on what we don’t want. The complaint on the other hand always focuses on what we don’t want and keeps us in a negative, unproductive space.

As if knowing that behind every complaint is a commitment,  is not benefit enough for the manager who longs to be effective, there’s a huge personal benefit that accrues to managers  who are willing to develop their people. The benefit I’m talking about is personal empowerment and therefore personal freedom.

If you can routinely spot the commitment that’s behind a complaint…and if you can surface it and redirect it, you will decrease more and more the likelihood of YOU getting hooked into the drama of the victim. I suspect that one of the reasons most of us hate complaints and dislike complainers is because we don’t like how we deal with them. Our options seem limited and dissatisfying.

If we get reeled into the complaint without being able to surface the commitment, we get entangled in a role that doesn’t work toward becoming a creator. We become reactors ourselves. There are three roles in the reactor mode. They are Victim, Persecutor/ Oppressor, and Rescuer.  You can see from their description why none of these roles supports problem-solving  or building solid relationships. This is the dreaded Drama Triangle. Dr. Stephen Karpman first articulated it in the 1960’s. It depicts the toxic interplay of the three distinct roles (victim/persecutor/rescuer). We may talk about this another time, but you can see that when you see the secret gift within a “victim’s” complaint, you are NOT in the Drama Triangle.

Isn’t it high time to love complaints?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The UnGame , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

High Tech High Touch: You Need Both

Un-Game Principle:  Don’t just do something. Sit there. There’s power in good observation.

13-10-01 High Tech High TouchBusiness as Unusual? Well, it’s becoming usual. Or, at least in words, if not always in action. Companies are very well aware that the business environment has changed dramatically. Just think. Prior to the appearance of the i-phone, Blackberry was king, and now it’s fighting for its life.

Companies for the most part are quite good at the technical expertise of their particular industry.  Let’s call that high tech. What might be referred to as high touch…for example having people skills,  foresight, being nimble, being responsive, creative… may however be missing or in shorter supply.

It’s not that companies don’t think about high touch. But there’s a huge blind spot for many companies even if they have a corporate culture that is aware of the prerequisite for developing high touch attitudes and skills. This prerequisite is a growth mind-set rather than a fixed mind-set (Growth here is not limited to growing revenue). People who have a  growth mind-set demonstrate very different behaviors than those who have a fixed mind-set. Without going into a lot of detail, a fixed mind-set is rule-dominated, bases behaviors on those rules and on “We already know,”  and/or “There are only right or wrong answers,” and/or “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” The growth mind-set on the other hand is process-oriented and depends on accountable conversations, “We don’t already know”, and “We believe that continuous improvement is possible and desirable.”

So what does that have to do with high tech and high touch? It means that a company (or an individual because you can apply this to your own life) will recognize that they can’t get where they want to go with technical learning only. What they need is also high touch. High touch as referred to here means that the companies care about maintenance of the physical, emotional, intellectual well-being of their teams, their individual producers, everybody associated with the company including suppliers, regulatory entities, etc. In terms of education and training it means that companies recognize that they need to supply training in the non-technical kind of learning, also known as adaptive learning (learning which leads to changes in how people act).  In order to not just talk, people need to demonstrate the high touch in their every day life. And this takes daily practice.

Be very mindful. You may think it’s happening when in fact it is not, at least not enough for the message  “both high tech and high touch are equally important” to get through.

I belong to an organization that thinks it’s high touch. However,  I haven’t experienced this organization as high touch. Just one brief example. Contributions that team members have made frequently remain unacknowledged. Research confirms that recognition energizes. High touch/maintenance is not happening in this example. Task is king.

This post is not about giving you ideas of “how to” be more high touch. I bet you already know. This post is about alerting people as to how come this persists, even in organizations that depend on high touch (Let’s say a sales or a coaching organization). So here goes.

There is an underlying  standard narrative in our culture that says “We’re action-oriented. To produce action we must focus on task. Task is king. Maintenance is not as important. Besides, we don’t have time. We gotta get this done. Maintenance takes too long. Suck it up. This, after all, is work.”

The narrative could be languaged differently, but you get the picture. This narrative is powerful because it’s unacknowledged as a narrative at all. We experience it as true, and therefore it can’t be subject to change. However, if we are to change anything of substance, we must position ourselves to interrupt this standard narrative that has such power over us. We can’t empower a new narrative without first being aware of the narrative that has us ( Make no mistake. We don’t have it. It has us by the throat until we become conscious of it!). It’s like a force field into which we get dragged.  So, to really do business as Unusual, we first have to recognize this narrative (this story we tell ourselves without examining it) and then consciously decide to empower a different narrative.  Difficult? You bet. Necessary? Absolutely. So here’s what you can specifically do to learn to disempower a narrative that has you.

Don’t just do something. Sit there! Observe. In this way, it becomes possible for the narrative to no longer have you. You have it. And that’s a huge difference.

Yes. Observe. Observation may prove to be curative. Go slow. Challenge the “We don’t have time” part of the power narrative. In meetings or any other interactions, notice how much emphasis is given to Task (high tech) and how much to Maintenance (high touch). High touch may be where

  • people build on another’s ideas
  • team members draw in a quiet person
  • someone takes the timer to rephrase someone’s contribution to check their understanding of what another person said
  • you notice ideas followed up on or dropped without acknowledgment. And you say something about it to make others aware.
  • you look in the literature about companies that demonstrate both high tech and high touch behaviors, and you see what you might learn from them.

The list is endless. You get the picture. Once you notice that you are way more task than maintenance oriented, try to include more maintenance type interactions on your own part. Others may follow eventually. Someone has to lead the charge on the new narrative.

The bottom line is this. Change needs to happen not only in words but in deeds. Be the change you want to see. Someone has to take the first step. Why not you?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The UnGame , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.