It can be hard to distinguish between someone using triangulation and someone genuinely seeking a second opinion.
Five signs a person is using triangulation to manipulate you are when they spread rumors or talk behind your back, consistently play the victim card, depend on others to address issues they have with you, avoid having direct conversations with you by involving third parties, and when they try to manipulate your emotions.
In this article, I will explain these signs to help you better understand what triangulation looks like.
1.) They Spread Rumors or Talk Behind Your Back
The first sign someone in your life is using triangulation on you is that they spread rumors of tack behind your back.
This means they are sharing information, often unverified or untrue, about you to others without your knowledge or in your absence.
Here’s an example of this happening:
Let’s say you have made a decision the person in your life who you suspect is using triangulation on you disagrees with.
Instead of working it out with you, they say the following to one of your mutual friends:
“Can you believe the ridiculous decision [your name] made? They clearly don’t think things through.”
In this situation, they are trying to rally people against your decision and portray you as thoughtless without allowing you to provide context or reason.
Now, if they were genuinely looking for a second opinion from your mutual friend, they would have said something like this:
“I was surprised by [your name] ‘s decision. Do you have any insight into why they might have chosen that route?” This shows curiosity without passing judgment.
2.) They Consistently Play the Victim Card
The second sign someone in your life uses triangulation on you is that they consistently play the victim card.
This means portraying oneself as a victim of the situation to gain the sympathy of others or to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
For example, after a minor disagreement, the person in your life who you suspect is using triangulation goes behind your back and tells a mutual contact the following:
“I can’t believe [your name] is always so harsh to me. Why do they always target me?”
Remember, you only had a minor disagreement with this person.
So by saying this, they are twisting the reality of the situation the two of you had to gain allies or support against you, casting you in a negative light.
A genuine approach from a healthy communicator to this situation would be all about clarity and feedback, not aiming to smear your character. Here, take a look:
“I felt hurt by my interaction with [your name]. Can you help me understand if I’m reading the situation right or if I might be overreacting?”
3.) They Avoid Having Direct Conversations by Involving Others
The third sign someone in your life uses triangulation on you is when they avoid having direct conversations with you by involving others.
So, instead of addressing issues, concerns, or disagreements directly with you, they bring in a third party or multiple individuals.
Suggested Reading: 6 Examples of Triangulation In Narcissistic Relationships
For example, imagine after a disagreement with you, the person in your life you suspect is triangulating you immediately approaches a mutual friend and says:
“You know how stubborn [your name] can be. I think they’d listen to you. Can you talk to them and tell them they’re wrong?”
By enlisting this mutual friend as their advocate, they’re undermining your agency in the situation and using the friend as a tool to force their perspective onto you.
If they genuinely wanted help from your mutual friend, they would have said something along the lines of:
“I had a disagreement with [your name]. I want to understand what happened. Can I tell you about it so you can tell me if you think I approached it the wrong way?”
4.) They Depend on Others to Address Issues They Have with You
The fourth sign someone in your life is using triangulation on you is when they overly depend on others to address issues they have with you.
This is similar to the previous sign (they avoid having direct conversations with you by involving others), but there is a slight twist to it that is important to be aware of.
Please take a look at this example:
Imagine that every very minor issue you and the person in your life who you suspect is using triangulation have are never discussed privately.
Instead, this person always needs to bring a third party into the mix. To do this, they might tell you something like, “I just have so much on my plate right now…”
Then turn to a third party and say:
“Once again, [your name] forgot our plans. I can’t handle this anymore. Can you please remind them how important punctuality is? I just can’t tell them again.”
This is an example of being overly dependent on others because this person in your life says they can’t have the conversation with you and then asks others to have it for them.
If they weren’t overly dependent on others to address the issues they have with you, they might try a sincere approach when speaking to a third party like:
“I’ve noticed some patterns with [your name] that concern me, like forgetting plans. Do you think there’s a way I can communicate better to resolve this?”
5.) They Try to Manipulate Your Emotions
The fifth sign someone in your life uses triangulation is when they try to manipulate your emotions.
This means they are trying to use manipulation to provoke a specific emotion (like guilt, fear, sympathy) out of you to manipulate you into doing something they want.
Suggested Reading: 10 Tactics Narcissists Use to Make You Feel Guilty
For example, after you decide to spend a weekend by yourself, the person in your life goes to another room, knowing you can still hear them, and calls a mutual contact:
“After all the times I’ve been there for [your name], they decide to abandon me for a whole weekend. Maybe they just don’t care about me. How could they be so selfish?”
By painting themselves as the supportive one and you as neglectful, they’re manipulating the narrative to make you feel bad about a personal choice.
This indirect method, involving a third party, is designed to make you feel guilty.
If they were genuinely trying to understand your decision without casting guilt, they would have said something like this:
“I was a bit surprised [your name] wanted the weekend to themselves. Is it a normal thing to need space in friendships? I’m trying to understand.”
What Should You Take Away from This Article?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it can be hard to tell the difference between triangulation and a genuine search for a second opinion.
But, during your interactions with others, if you actively search for the five signs I’ve gone over in this article, you’ll have a much better chance of spotting triangulation.
About the Author
Hey, I’m Elijah.
I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years.
I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.
Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.