Triangulation is a Narcissistic Abuse tactic practiced by many narcissistic thinkers. By definition, it’s typically a verbal abuse tactic used to foster contention, fear, or mistrust between two parties that the conversation controller hopes to estrange permanently from one another.
One does not have to have a personality disorder to be guilty of manufacturing a triangulation between parties. All it takes is telling one person one thing about another, followed by going to the party first discussed and reporting a different variation of the story.
The social dynamic pits the conversation controller — let’s call that person “A” (short for Abuser) — against no one, while their conversation TARGETS… who we will call “B” and “C” respectively… against one another.
In a manufactured triangulation, an abusive personality type taking advantage fo the faith and good will of their listener positions himself or herself as a supportive confidant. Once a level of trust and faked confidentiality is established, the master manipulator then (typically) starts the con.
Party B is told in an offhand or casual way that Party C is somehow out to get party B, does not like Party B, or is out to get Party B in some way.
As confidence in the relationship between B and C starts to erode in the mind of Party B, Party C is typically told nothing about it… leaving them intellectually and emotionally out in the cold, lost, confused, and unable to defend themselves.
When and if the discord between Party B and Party C gets discussed, magically Party A always seems to be hovering (or hoovering) somewhere nearby.
If they can make themselves the confidant for BOTH parties, then Party A has reached the next Machiavellian gaming level, having breached the circle of trust of both targets. Party A, if Dark Triad, will do all they can to ensure B and C never talk, make up, clear the air, or start to compare notes.
Party A’s goal is oftentimes to keep themselves in power by keeping B and C feeling mutually distrustful and disrespected by one another.
The problem is if C never targeted or in any way showed initial disrespect for B, yet B targets C for social abuse or shaming isolation and withdrawal of public and private support opportunities based on lies or partial truth claims spun by Party A, then both B and C lose the social and emotional confidence and support in one another.
While reacting with shock to the loss, they are likely to pick apart the dynamic in an attempt to find a logical reason why the other personality would betray or have issue.
Unfortunately, the human mind typically looks for clues, and may eventually grasp straws handed to them by Party A when and if they are able to drop a hint, plant a seed of doubt, or they flat out lie to start a war between their targets.
Triangulation can be manufactured overtly by Party A — such as when a step-parent demands their romantic interest not have anything to do with a past partner whom they share a child with, by an in-law who does something horrible like telling their adult child if they remain in a relationship with their romantic partner or spouse that they will be exiled from their nuclear family unit or cut off financially, or a parent using a child as a bartering chip to retain power over the other co-parent (i.e. threatening to deny or ruin visitation). It can be done covertly, such as when A is the middle man between B and C and they misrepresent both B and C to one another.
It can be a mix of the two tactics, such as when a toxic parent strives to manufacture a sibling rivalry by telling one child they are the favorite (or preferred Golden Child), then comparing that child to a sibling in such a way that insults one while bolstering the grandiosity of the other. It can happen at home, in the workplace, between friends, or peer groups.
Most people who are nurtured vertical thinkers actively engage in the behavior without even realizing that they are doing it. Note people who strive to incite wars between people of different races, nationality, cultures, sexual orientation, and or gender and realize when they start saying things to foster or nurture a sense of rivalry, division, or fear of “other” that they are using an abuse tactic designed to be socially destructive for pleasure.
Triangulation on a grand scale looks like one religion claiming that unless you follow their teachings and you pledge your life to them, you are likely to burn in hell or will be exiled from heaven. It also happens daily between political parties, socio-economic classes, genders, various generations (as age group representatives), and between romantic partners.
A father can be triangulated against a mother by a child who asks one parent for permission to do something; when the parent refuses and the child runs to the other parent and gets permission without telling the second parent asked that the first said no, the parents have successfully been triangulated against each other.
Triangulation tactics are oftentimes used by Cluster B thinkers who seek to estrange their personal love interests from potential romantic or attention-seeking rivals.
For instance, a controlling and abusive partner may tell their love interest not to trust friends, co-workers, or beloved family members while gaslighting their listener into believing those people are somehow dangerous to trust socially or that they — meaning loving people — have a covert agenda to break up the partnership.
In the case of EXTREME Malignant Narcissism or Sociopathy, a narcissistic predator may do things like manufacture evidence against their self-perceived Narcissistic Rivals. They may lie about things their abuse targets or preferred scapegoats have said or done to ensure the person they seek to capture and convert to pledging allegiance or fidelity to them after believing lies and misrepresentations of various truths does not get wise to their nature and abandon them.« Back to Glossary Index