In this new monthly column, the Healthy Congregation Team will share some best practices for managing conflict and will suggest practical strategies for employing nonviolent communication. We hope these tips will provide you practical solutions for managing any potential conflict in your life, whether it’s conflict with family members, co-workers, friends, or fellow volunteers at church. This month’s topic is triangulation.
Triangulation occurs when someone will not communicate directly with another person about a problem they have with them; instead, they seek to involve a third party to resolve that conflict with the second person. For instance, a few months ago, I was contacted by a fellow board member with my alumni association who did not like what articles another board member was posting on our association’s social media page. They wanted me to talk to this offending board member. I responded that it would be better if they reached out to this person directly and not involve me, especially as I did not find the social media posts problematic. Eventually, they did so and the conflict was resolved.
When at all possible, always try and handle conflicts you have with someone directly. Trying to involve a third party can make them feel uncomfortable being put in the middle of other’s conflicts and feel like they have to choose sides. There may be legitimate times to involve others, such as a counselor, therapist, or trusted friend. In such situations, all three parties involved need to be present to help resolve more serious disputes.
Whenever someone approaches the Healthy Congregation Team about a problem they have with a fellow congregant, our first question will be to ask if they have spoken with the person directly. If they have not, we will suggest they do so. If they do not feel comfortable meeting with the person alone, HCT will agree to be present but will act as an impartial third-party, helping to mediate disagreements.
For more information, view some of these UUA resources for more information about triangulation:
Madeline Sims, Member of the HCT