This technique in keeping a victim confused and down is sometimes called ‘bringing out the flying monkeys.’ (Wizard of OZ reference… ) When an abuser can’t put you down themselves, they enlist others to do their bidding.  Or if they can’t win an argument they will bring in a third party person to ‘gang up’ on you.  Of course the third party person heard a version spun to enhance the abuser and make the victim look like the aggressor.

PsychCentral described it this way: “The term is typically used to describe an individual who creates drama or confusion using 3 or more people in a situation.”

The person you email and their reply includes 2 or 3 other people not originally on the post.  Or the situation where another person is pulled in to prove their point.  I consider it the same technique as the school yard bully that has buddies to back up and be audience to their aggressive tactics.  Sometimes we do this unintentionally, trying to garner support for our perspective.  Sometimes it happens in a very deliberate and destructive way like hounding a person on the internet or in emails and enlisting others to do the same.  I still like the Flying monkeys that do the bidding of the witch.  They don’t have minds of their own but only do the bidding of the bully.

How to stop triangulation – in no particular order.

Try to talk to them one-on-one in person.  Online or in a group it is too easy for others to be dragged into the melee.

Learn to recognize triangulation and take steps to avoid being ‘put in the middle.’

Clearly define what the problem is.  Ask for the other person’s perspective without including others.  (Counselors are sometimes trapped into triangulation….a healthy counselor stops this in a hurry.)

If you are a person that someone is venting to, don’t try to rescue them.  Give them suggestions to resolve the issue themselves, if possible.  If intervention is required, listen carefully to both sides of the issue.  I learned to do this when my children were fighting and I didn’t see the event myself.  Some people are very persuasive in making their side look like the only right answer.

Don’t participate in gossip…..Gossip is a lethal weapon used to destroy others.  Sometimes gossip is purposely started to destroy another person.

Set healthy boundaries.

Be prepared to walk away from toxic relationships when the other person insists on triangulation.


8 thoughts on “Triangulation

  1. I am grateful to Lynette Davis for reblogging this post. I knew about triangulation, but this gives the concept added clarity to me.

    “The person you email and their reply includes 2 or 3 other people not originally on the post. Or the situation where another person is pulled in to prove their point. I consider it the same technique as the school yard bully that has buddies to back up and be audience to their aggressive tactics” — when I read that, it suddenly clicked that 5 years ago when my momster sent me a 62 page hate letter, her longest to date — the fact that she also sent copies of her insanely long letter to my siblings and my aunt, THAT was triangulation.

    And yes, it is EXACTLY like the schoolyard bully gathering a gang of friends to back up and witness their soul-killing attacks.

    They only get worse with age, these malignant narcissists. I was 58 and my momster was 76, when she sent me the 62 pager. Her previous record was 50 pages of pure vitriol, sent when I was 30 and she was 48. As far as I know, she did not give copies of her earlier hate letters to anyone else. But she has been verbally bashing me and murdering my reputation with evil, projecting lies since I was a little girl… a schoolyard bully ganging up on her own daughter since the 1950s.

    Thank you for this. I wish no one else ever had to experience this, but it helps knowing I am not alone.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. You are not alone. My counselor recommended I use the three D’s when my monster sent hate filled emails. I asked him what he meant – Delete Delete Delete.

      • Excellent advice! I did not read any of the 62 page letter, because my loving husband, knowing my history with my mother, happened to get the mail that day. I had already given him permission to read any mail that came from her. So he hid the letter, waited until I was asleep, then read the first couple of pages. At that point he became so enraged at what he later told me was “pure hate and jealousy,” that he slipped out of the house and took the letter to the dumpsters 2 blocks away, where he tore the 62 pages to bits.

        Not wanting to hurt me, he didn’t even tell me anything about it. Of course, my husband had no way of knowing that my mother gave copies of her horrible letter to others in the family. Soon I was being bullied and bashed right on my Facebook page by adult siblings who ought to know better, and two nieces who don’t even know me. So, I am no longer on Facebook.

        I am sorry that you have experienced this sort of thing, too. So sorry that anyone does.

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