What to do When People Try to Put You in the Middle
You’ve been there… Someone asks you for a “favor” and then, before you know it, you’re knee deep in drama you didn’t sign up for…
Friends, family, co-workers, even bosses do it…
Let’s just go there: kids do it to their parents ALL of the time…and, in the therapy world, we have a term for this underhanded messiness: Triangulation.
You know how it worked as a kid: You go to mom and say, “Mom, can I go out and play?” and mom says, “No, do your homework!”
So then you go to dad, who’s sitting in the garage working on something and you say, “Dad, can I go in the backyard and play?” and dad, who’s barely paying attention, replies, “Sure!”
And then… when you get caught by mom, you say, “Well, dad said I could go out and play” and then you dash for your room because you know mom’s about to let dad have it…
What did this child just do? An end-around… Yup and while that kid won’t get off the hook, he’s learned a very sneaky life lesson: you can get people in the middle of something they never wanted to be a part of AND get away with it… for a while.
So what do you do when you find yourself in the middle of a mess that you didn’t create, you didn’t agree to and you have no desire to participate in?
#1- Identify the Originator of the Plot
It’s so easy to get caught up in the drama of “He said/she said/they did/can you fix it?” Before long, you’re knee deep in non-sense and you don’t even know where it came from, who started it, or how it’s ever going to end.
Start by stopping yourself right where you are and asking the question, “Who started all of this?” When you find the Originator of the Plot, you now have the person you need to speak to. Go to the source.
Find out who‘s bright idea it was to get you involved and you have the exact person you need to be speaking to right now…
#2- Detach Yourself from Savior Syndrome
What gets people sucked into other people’s drama is what I call the Savior Syndrome.
A lot of us are “fixers.”
We want to make everything better for as many people as we can (especially the people we love and care about). When someone comes to us crying, upset, and feeling like the world is over, our logic goes out the window, our hearts grow ten times bigger and, all of a sudden, we want to put on a Superman cape and rush in to save the day.
Here’s the problem with that: You’re not saving that person. You’re bailing them out and bailing them out will NEVER teach them one of the most powerful lessons of their lives: they have the power to save themselves.
Don’t rob someone of that major life lesson.
You aren’t anybody’s Savior and you don’t have to be. Resist the temptation that comes with needing to be needed and allow people the room, space, and screw-up time to figure it out for themselves. They will never truly get how powerful they are until they have to climb a mountain they don’t think they can. Do not take that from them…
#3- Respond to any request with four simple words.
I’m not doing that…
They want you to drop everything to come and dog sit for the 50th time in the last 3 months… I’m not doing that.
They want you to co-sign on a house for them because they lost their job two years ago and are tired of paying rent… I’m not doing that.
They want you to write a college essay for them because they “hate” writing… I’m not doing that.
They want you to play private investigator and follow their spouse around because they think the person’s cheating… I’m not doing that.
They want you to watch their kids for the umpteenth time in the last 7 days because they’ve got to go the symphony… I’m not doing that.
Learn how to say those four words with ease and self-respect and you will quickly reduce the amount of unnecessary drama people get you entangled in.
And if you feel too mean saying those four simple words, follow up that sentence with, “I know you’ll figure it out.”
You’ll feel nicer. They’ll still be pissed. Win-win…
#4- Get your focus back on YOUR life.
Tell the truth. You’ve got enough drama all by yourself. Put your attention, time and focus on where it needs to be: YOUR life and, when you do have your entire life figured out, feel free to volunteer yourself to be everyone else’s Superhero.
Until then, keep your mind where it needs to be: in YOUR business…
Getting untangled from other people’s drama (especially if you’re used to getting caught up in it) won’t be easy at first but nothing worth having is…
Just do it.