Manipulation Tactics: 2 Triangulating Tactics Controllers Use

Photo Credit: francisco_osorio

Have you ever heard of the term “triangulation” or “triangulate?”

Triangulation is a term that refers to the act of confusing a situation in such a way that 3 or more people are fighting against each other.

A classic example of this is when your son or daughter runs to dad to ask for something that the mother has already told the child she/he could not have.

This article and video will give you a more in-depth view of this topic.

Triangulation occurs in many interpersonal relationships. Some people engage in triangulation to control others or achieve a specific purpose. Some people are unaware of the fact that they are actually doing it. In other cases, it might appear as if a person is triangulating when they are simply trying to get support.

I’m sure we can all relate to the person who goes to a trusted friend or family member for advice. Although this may include getting multiple people involved, it isn’t triangulation.

Triangulation occurs when someone is creating a “rescuer,” “victim,” and “persecutor” in a situation. It occurs when confusion arises and creates more problems than intended. There is almost always a persecutor or a “bad guy.”


Understanding two forms of triangulation

I’ve been in many situations where triangulation was occurring (intentionally and unintentionally) and I’ve also been in situations where it wasn’t happening at all but someone termed the interaction “triangulation.” There are 2 ways to conceptualize the term triangulation:

  1. Intentional triangulation: Intentional triangulation is when someone intends to create confusion by sharing information that is limited, confusing, or angering. The intention of someone using this tactic is to cause confusion or get others on their side. An example of this would be a mother telling her ex-husband that her boyfriend beat her up. The ex-husband, still having feelings for his ex-wife, meets her boyfriend after work and beats him up. In this scenario, the ex-wife knew her ex-husband’s feelings for her would trigger this reaction. This was her way of punishing her boyfriend for what he did to her.
  2. Un-intentional triangulation: Unintentional triangulation is when someone doesn’t intend to create confusion or misunderstanding about an incident but does out of an inability to think before acting. An example of this would be a teenager telling her previously estranged father that her mother isn’t buying her things she wants. Triangulation occurs when her father, after years of not being in her life, decides to purchase her what she wants and mails it to her house. Her mother receives the delivery and questions her father about it. Although his intention was only to continue building his relationship with his daughter by sending the gift, his ex-wife now feels undermined and hurt. The daughter begins to feel she betrayed both parents.

[bctt tweet=”People who triangulate also engage in lying. To read my blog post about pathological lying, click here:” username=”therapisttee”]

Watch the video below for further information:


What you always want to keep in mind about triangulation is that there is often a victim, a rescuer, and a persecutor. These individuals create a triangle that isn’t always easy to get out of.

To see how others describe and discuss triangulation, watch this brief interesting clip: