Do you avoid conflict at all costs?
Did you know the biggest change agents in history from Mother Theresa to Martin Luther King, Jr. were masters at practicing compassion while still engaging in conflict?
Many people avoid conflict. I’m not one of them. I’ve never been uncomfortable talking about issues directly. In fact, I am most uncomfortable when an issue is hidden and unresolved. That makes my already difficult sleep nearly impossible. I’d rather say what needs to be said, and try to move forward.
But I have long noted how most organizations, and most people, avoid conflict at almost all costs. And how to deal with conflict is something that I’m very interested in mastering.
That’s why I couldn’t wait to read clinical psychologist Dr. Nate Regier’s new book Conflict without Casualties: A Field Guide for Leading with Compassionate Accountability. He explains why we avoid conflict, the common pitfalls we fall into, and how to engage in constructive dialogue. I found myself immediately applying his lessons the very next day after reading the book. I’m sure you will find our conversation interesting, and the book immensely helpful.
Know the Model: Persecutor, Victim, Rescuer
To those not familiar with the internal drama triangle, would you briefly share the model?
The Drama Triangle was developed by Dr. Stephen Karpman, a psychiatrist who spent a lot of time working with dysfunctional relationships. He was also an avid basketball fan. In fact, he was the first person to identify the triangle offense.
In drama, people play one or more of three predictable roles: Persecutor, Victim, or Rescuer. The Persecutor adopts the attitude that, “I’m OK, you are not OK,” therefore it’s OK to attack, blame, or intimidate to get what I want. The Victim adopts the attitude, “I’m not OK, you are OK” so therefore it’s OK for others to mistreat me. Victims give in and become passive in order to avoid conflict. Rescuers adopt the attitude, “I’m OK, you would be OK if you accepted and appreciated my help.” Rescuers make a living solving everyone else’s problems except their own. They practice what we call non-consensual helping, creating dependence to boost their own ego.
Do most people recognize where they usually operate?
Surprisingly, no. Many people play these roles habitually, influenced by past experience, upbringing, certain relationships and personality structure. We define drama as what happens when people misuse the energy of conflict, with or without awareness, to feel justified about their negative behavior. Since justification is the modus operandi in drama, avoiding self-awareness is key. Plus, there are some powerful myths about conflict that derail people from using that energy productively. The good news is that people can learn to recognize their drama roles and chose different behaviors, more healthy ways to deal with conflict.
You point out that there are strengths behind each of these and that they aren’t all negative. Would you share one and explain?
Yes. For example, behind the rescuer is the healthy counterpart – Resourceful. While Rescuing gives people fish, Resourcefulness teaches people how to fish. Both are problem-solvers, but Resourcefulness goes about it with the intent of struggling with others toward mutual benefit, helping raise the overall confidence and competence of the other person in a spirit of dignity.
Develop Compassionate Accountability