Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Strangulation By Triangulation

Everybody triangulates these days.  Maybe they always have.

If you don't have a clear picture of what triangulation is, here goes:  One person attempts to argue his or her case about a second person in front of a third person, or, similarly, one person attempts to convince a third person to take his or her side against a second person.  You get it, right?  You've been there, right, and on all three side of it, right?

It is democracy at its finest, the chance to build a majority opinion.  Two against one.

Which, of course, doesn't preclude the possibility of quadrangulation, pentrangulation, or, best of all, trial in the court of public opinion of those who happen to be present, like when one of the "student lawyers" (my term for students who argue for a student situation they don't have a personal interest in, except that they gain credibility) keeps pushing a point to get most or all of his or fellow students to disagree with a teacher.  In any case, it's strangulation.

There is also, given the intrusiveness of modern life, the possibility that said third person will willingly insert himself or herself into the mix and take on the issues willingly with all kinds of opinions and challenges and questions of his or her own, either to heighten an embarrassing joke or to push a personal-but-related agenda or, heck, just because he or she likes one side, as in person, better than the other.

So, yeah, triangulation.  As far as I'm concerned, it strangles just about everything--and by everything, I mean a meaningful exchange between persons one and two, as in, him and her, you and me.

I'm not denying my own participation in this, but I am calling it the ultimate in passive-aggressiveness.  It is enlisting someone(s) else to help us fight our battles.  But I probably enough of an introvert to know when I'm doing it and to cringe a little, at least inside.

Two examples in the vaguest of terms.  Right now, I know a boss who is being triangulated between his two bosses, both of whom are triangulating with their boss as well.  Sound messy?  Absolutely.  But it is that situation's way of dealing with the awkwardness of itself, and if the triangulatee(s) can stand it long enough, it may move things along to where they need to go.  And it happened the other at a dinner party I attended.  A wife detailing her husband's flaws or weaknesses in such a way that another couple started to jump on board.  Of course they would, when doing so would deflect from their own circumstances.

But I think that a spouse who comes back to his or her own house after an evening of triangulation is not going to be looking to resolve issues, instead is going to be resentful enough, be bitter enough as to shut down rather than to engage.  Because triangulation leaves scars that may be hard to get rid of.

It is the airing of dirty laundry, it is a private conversation gone public, it is a pecking party, it is an un level playing field, it is a stacked deck, it is unanonymous polling, it is the surprise press conference with you standing in front of the cameras.

Do I sound burned?  Well, no more than anyone else.  Triangulation is simply a form of social interaction that thrives in our gotcha culture where the upper hand is essential and any way to discredit a different perspective is deemed worth it.  But at some point things turn private again and allies have to go home and witty jibes don't mean much and there is a different triangulation that must go on-- the two people and whatever the issue is.

Me, I like to make things hot for people, all in fun, of course, so I'll take that third spot when it is offered or available, but, you know, there can come that point where the only person enjoying your overdeveloped sense of irony is you.  If you are the only one in on the joke, I must confess, then the joke is on you.  Triangulation is strangulation.

No comments: