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Coaching with NLP For Dummies® by Kate Burton

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Avoiding the Drama Triangle

One of the most useful and simple models that I've found in supporting clients in highly charged situations is Stephen Karpman's Drama Triangle, which fits neatly with NLP exercises involving perceptual positions (flip to Chapter 12 for more on perceptual positions.) (My thanks to my colleague Barbara who first shared it with me as the way she undertook some challenging mediation work in law firms.)

When you enter a client's world, or system, you too can be drawn into the client's unconscious psychological games. Indeed, on some level, clients want their coaches to play too.

image Karpman's work builds on the ideas of Eric Berne and his famous Transactional Analysis ideas in the 1950s. Berne talked about the games all people play unconsciously that motivate how they interact with others. A game in this case is an unconscious belief that directs action in a particular way, which in turn runs the script that's going on in your mind.

The Drama Triangle is a game with three playing positions around the dynamics of power, responsibility and vulnerability. Often the game is played out unconsciously between just two people regularly switching positions. Larger numbers of people in family groups, teams and large organisations can also get caught up in the drama games. The Triangle is a good reminder that anyone – coaches included – can get enmeshed in the drama of ...

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