What a Wicked Game You Play: The Toxicity of Codependence

“I feel that you’re manipulating me and only using me until you have everything you need from me, and then I’ll be no good to you”.

Have you ever been accused of this? Have you ever been so focused on faux alliances to feed your own short-sighted and self-serving needs and surrounding yourself with like-minded people? In this environment, there is commiserating, and you’re noticing that people don’t trust you. There is no vulnerability and there is no authentic confidence. There is only transactional, self-serving alliances formed to mask your lack of confidence, lack of vulnerability and/or lack awareness of your needs and how to meet them. This is the world of codependence, and the third corner of the toxic triangle in the People Acuity™ Strategic Interdependence Model®.

Source and copyright: People Acuity

The mindset is “I serve you so you can serve me”. Here, as the Player, you create fake teamwork. You cannot see through the fog of your “me-focused” toxic lens. You’re unaware of what’s causing you to behave this way, and you’re unsure of how to get people to trust you. Overall, the more cautious people are around you, the more you manipulate them and offer more “incentives” and sweet words to keep getting favours from them, the more evident codependent behavior is. This does not only happen in individual relationships, it’s also happens in the corporate world, and is far more widespread than people realize.

How do we recognize this in business? We see “people like me” getting appointed in key positions. Meetings held after meetings, either at the water cooler, in the coffee shop, in somebody’s office or in the smokers’ area, where gossiping takes place or strategies how to let “our strategy or ideas” win over “theirs”, or where “we” (our inner circle) get validated once more are also sure indications of codependence. It’s evident where people get fired for not toeing the “official” line.

Most of the time people don’t realize they’re going to codependence, mainly because codependence is being confused with synergy. The confusion arises from approaching others from a “what’s in it for me?” instead of “what’s in it for us and others?” mindset, where “I” (and sometimes mine) will win. As soon as the “winning” takes place, the others get cast aside, or worked out of the system, or accused of foul play and taken to court, and so on. Mine (or ours) is good, all others’ is bad. Because of this faux synergy, people become weary to trust others, or form authentic partnerships.

In politics, the “winner-takes-all” approach indicates codependence. This is where “horse-trading” takes place under the banner of “compromise”, where lobbying is the order of the day, coercion is rife and appeasement is common practice. This differs from coalitions, where there is more emphasis on including more interests to be served (not only our party and its supporters), where consensus is being sought instead of out-playing and outsmarting the others.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. If you are caught up on the receiving end of codependence, or if you realize now you’re relating from codependence, it can be changed. People Acuity has found through extensive research and experience that synergy, also known as Interdependence, is achievable through a process of gaining confidence through strengths application and embracing weaknesses, thereby opening up opportunities for complementary collaboration. Imagine a world where most relationships are from interdependence (I serve us so we can serve others) instead of codependence.

What would be different for you? Your relationships? Your results?


To learn more about Codependence, the Player and the Strategic Interdependence Model®, we invite you to download the Dealing with People Who Drive You Crazy eBook. We also encourage you to explore these People Acuity™ videos and the online 15-minute mini-courses to deepen your learning (use our discount code – HCBSdiscount).


About the authors:

Brian Kelly is a Strengths Strategy Certified Coach, Certified Strengths Strategies for Optimal Performance (SSOP) Facilitator, a co-thought leader and Faculty Coach at People Acuity, a Strengths Strategy Company. Brian is a strengths-centered human development coach, thought-leader, and strategist committed to developing our current and next generation of diverse, inclusive human leaders. Brian works with leaders and their teams to help them see differently so they can interdependently create better business results through better human results.

Tinus van der Merwe is a Strengths Strategy Certified Coach, Certified Strengths Strategies for Optimal Performance (SSOP) Facilitator and a co-thought leader at People Acuity. He has an infectious passion for coaching and abundance of care for his clients. He has completed over 13,000 hours of coaching and facilitating solutions (over 1,200 hours of coaching alone) with clients from a wide variety of cultures and countries, from Specialists to Top Executives.



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