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Conflict Resolution Series: Victim, Villain, Hero - The Conflict Triangle

Conflict brings out three little minions who love to war with one another - the Victim, Villain, and Hero. Each of us tends to lean on one of these minions when we are at odds with someone. They are sort of like a comforting companion when we are stressed. They reinforce our ego, telling us we are misunderstood, picked on, or can rescue others who don’t realize they need our help. The problem with this tricky trio is they are not serving our interests like we think. They are actually using our emotions to get us to keep conflict alive and well. The very thing we do not want!

Here’s how these personas work

The Victim

The victim tells us we aren’t responsible for what happens to us because we are weaker, at a disadvantage, or are being overrun by the people we are in conflict with. The victim waits for someone else to make the situation better. Victims get their energy from being helpless and being rescued. They also get their energy from people’s sympathy, which makes them feel special. The victim won’t stand up to conflict because a victim feels there is no use in trying.

The Villain

The villain believes that the person they are in conflict with deserves their ire because of what they have done. The villain loves the “I told you so” model of resolving conflict. The villain is a gossip who believes it is ok to share confidential information for the good of the order. The villain relies on blame and doesn’t leave room for grace in a conflict. Fighting fair isn’t a goal, winning and proving the other person inferior is the goal. Winning by overpowering the opponent is their only mode.

The Hero

The hero is a co-dependent who doesn’t keep things honest. They rescue and react to conflict by stepping in and saving the day while sometimes denying natural and logical consequences for actions. Sometimes wrong people need to experience the realities of what has happened, and a hero will circumvent this in order to reduce conflict, minimize fall out, and sometimes to look very important.

While each of these characters seem pretty bad, they also have positive traits:

  • Victims tend to be very loyal and easy to manage. A victim who can find their own voice can be a wonderful balance of team player and solution-focused conflict resolutionist.

  • Villains tend to be very smart. A villain who can see past their superiority can become a wonderful advocate for grace when they can feel safe and allow multiple people to win in conflict.

  • Heroes tend to have a lot of compassion. If they can see the benefit to scraping knees in service of bigger pictures, they can be very good at allowing others to fall while they stand alongside, ready to help in supportive and appropriate ways.

Victims, villains, and heroes create the conflict triangle. Identifying your own character and that of others during conflict can help put actions in check and make sure the conflict moves to resolution instead of getting stuck on the triangle.

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