#7: Conflict, chaos and negative drama & #8: Triangulation

Posted on July 12, 2013



If you want to live a happy and harmonious life, then you’re going to want to be very selective about the people whom you allow into your inner circle. That’s what this whole series is about this summer, isn’t it? Because choosing your relationships wisely, surrounding yourself with the best people, ensures a solid support system in times of need and a wonderful group of companions in times of joy. The more wisely you choose, the happier you, and invariably your life, will be.

One big, red flag I’m always on the look out for when I start a relationship with anyone is the person who thrives on conflict, chaos and negative drama. The person who loves to pit people against each other (also called triangulation) in order to have their own, real-life soap opera that they can watch from the sidelines.

Although I’ve listed these two traits separately on our list of 15, I’ve yet to find someone who displays one without the other. People who thrive on negative drama usually do so by using other people against each other and trying to stir up conflict between them. 

You remember a version of this person in junior high school. She was the two-faced, lying girl who told you that another person said something bad about you. Then, when you got angry with the other person, she found a way to keep the conflict going so that the two of you would never speak again. She was the rumor-spreader who claimed to have all the dirt on everyone. She was the girl who whispered to another person while looking over at you (so you’d think you were being gossiped about). Whenever a negative drama was to be found, if she didn’t start it, she found a way to insert herself into the middle of it. She was the mean girl we all remember, although most of us would rather not. 

Even though junior high is long gone, she still exists. I’ve met more than my share of grown women who still act like they’re 13. In the depth of their insecurity and despair, they aren’t content unless people around them are feuding (and unhappy, just like them). You need to be cautious when you notice someone being a negative drama queen. Someone who feels the need to cause conflict and to pit others against each other will do this to you, too. 

Although I’ve used a female example above, this negative drama and triangulation occurs with men, too. 

My husband and I own several condos in the city of Atlanta. One of our new tenants, a guy, was freaking out when he moved in because the shower rod in the bathroom wasn’t up to his standard of quality. And when I say freaking out, I mean freaking out. Threatened not to pay rent and the whole bit. In fact, even though we were nice and let him move in several days early, each day he called us (with quite a bit of contempt) and had a complete fit over every little thing he found wrong with the condo. He found a hair behind the washing machine! The buttons on the stove weren’t turning fast enough! Two light bulbs had burnt out! Every single day of the first week he moved in, he tried to start a huge negative drama about, essentially, nothing.

In addition, when he would talk with me about the problems in the unit, he would bad mouth my husband. He would make up things that weren’t true (ie: Your husband told me this would be fixed today! He dropped the ball!), in an effort to turn us against each other. We didn’t take the bait, of course, but sometimes it’s not so easy to see these people’s malignant motivations and evil intentions. 

As humans, we all have conflicts with other people in our lives. This is normal. Misunderstandings and miscommunications happen all of the time. Sometimes people act in unsavory ways and we get upset. That’s just life. Conflict is not the red flag. 

The red flag is the person who intentionally starts conflicts. The one who always jumps to the worst possible assumption about others (and has no qualms about telling you that this is the truth), the person who takes small things  that can easily be fixed and makes them complicated and chaotic so they cause huge messes. You can always tell who these people are because they’ve got something nasty to say about someone else. They are always angry about something or someone; in fact they’re not just angry, they’re fuming and raging mad. They seem happy any time there’s an argument and they will go to great lengths to keep people from openly communicating  (because open communication and respect= no fodder for their fire). They are the complete opposite of the peace-keepers in a group. Julia Cameron calls them ‘crazy makers’ and she’s spot on because they love, encourage and create craziness. They also often display some of the other traits we’ve discussed earlier (such as contempt, arrogance and blaming others). 

Be wise, my friends. Don’t let these people into your sacred circle. Don’t even let them into your life, if you can help it. They will be nothing but a source of constant tension and negative drama and you don’t want to waste your life’s energy on that kind of nonsense.