Susan Dunlop: Lead Believe Create

About the 3 Vital Questions® and TED*®

In 2021, I joined the global team of 3 Vital Questions certified facilitators with The Center for The Empowerment Dynamic.

The Center was co-founded by David Emerald, best-selling author and creator of The Power of TED* and The 3 Vital Questions: Transforming Workplace Drama, and master coach Donna Zajonc. I am pleased to facilitate this work with clients and organisations globally.

“Creating and Innovating in the Midst of Constant Change”

Most people fear change, the “unknown”.  That fear creates “drama” and “meaning making”. Workplace “drama” drains our energy, reduces innovation and depletes our passion for our work. That drama escalates when we are unable to connect across differences and keeps us “stuck”.  It can even cause us to shrink and withdraw, which directly impacts our engagement. It is easy to feel like a “victim” where we feel that “things are happening to me”.  The truth is that “the choice is always yours” to shift into a place of creating meaningful collaborative and authentic relationships that promote inclusion to enable innovation. The key is to ask three vital questions.  

David Emerald: Author of the Power of TED* and 3 Vital Questions: Transforming Workplace Drama
The 3 Vital Questions are:
1 Where is the focus of your time and attention? 

Are you focusing on problems and what you don’t like, or are you focusing on outcomes and what you are committed to achieving?

What you focus on has a great deal to do with what shows up in your life. It sets the stage for the way you relate to others, your experience and yourself.

2 What is your intention in how you are relating – to others, your experience and yourself? 

Are you producing or perpetuating drama or empowering others and yourself to be more resourceful, resilient and innovative?

There is a direct link and flow between the 1st and 2nd Vital Questions.  Your Orientation, or mindset, fosters and perpetuates the way you relate to others, and yourself, as you move through your day-to-day life experiences.

3 What actions are you taking to achieve the outcomes you are committed to creating? 

Are you merely reacting to the problems of the moment, or are you taking creative action (including the solving of problems) in service to outcomes?

Having a process or structure to support the change you want to make will help reduce your tendency to revert to old habits that can work against you. If you don’t have a method or structure for taking action, your good intentions may fall flat. What you are committed to create may become another drama-filled episode.

How I came upon David’s 3 Vital Questions and TED* was circuitous. I knew of the Karpman Drama Triangle, having heard of it in 2005. I put it aside to come back to when I was less busy! At the time, I was growing a company and had three teenage daughters. There were things to be done. It took 15 years before I came across the drama triangle again.

In the late 1960’s, Dr. Stephen Karpman first formulated what became the Karpman Drama Triangle, with its roles of Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer.  In the TED* work, we have come to call it the Dreaded Drama Triangle, or DDT, because of the toxic nature of the relationship roles and dynamics it describes.

The Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)

The Victim Orientation, which is focused on problems, anxiety-based and reactive in nature, is the mindset that results in drama-centred ways of relating.

Karpman’s triangle focused on dynamics between people, whereas the DDT offers a broader perspective.
  • The central role of the DDT is that of Victim. While a Victim may be an individual, it could also be a group (eg. a team, ethnic or religious group, family, organisation, etc.). You, or the group, are in the Victim role any time you find yourself complaining or feeling powerless or hopeless.
  • To be a Victim, you must have a Persecutor, which could be a person (or persons), a condition (such as a health challenge) or some other situation (such as a natural disaster). The Persecutor dominates the time, attention and energy of the Victim.
  • The role that completes the DDT is the Rescuer. A Rescuer need not be a person. It can be any behaviour or activity (eg. addiction, shopping, scrolling etc.) that helps a Victim “numb out” from their powerless/hopeless feelings. The Rescuer can show up in several ways: it may be sought out or “hoped for” by the Victim, or the Rescuer may impose themselves into the system.

For decades, those who wrote about the Karpman Drama Triangle had little to offer as an alternative way of relating in life and work, other than to say, “Now that you know about it, don’t do it anymore!”

That is until David Emerald created TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic).

TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)®

By adopting a Creator Orientation, in which you are outcome-focused, passion-powered and taking “Baby Step” actions, you are operating in ways that pave the way for a much more empowered, resourceful and fulfilling way of relating to others and to life… which is TED*.

The Empowerment Triangle is a highly original and effective escape from the Drama Triangle.

Stephen Karpman, MD, originator of the Karpman Drama Triangle.

The TED* roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach serve as the antidotes to the corresponding toxic DDT roles.

  • The central role of TED* is that of Creator – the antidote to Victim.  As a Creator, you develop your capacity to envision and create outcomes and, just as importantly, choose your response to life’s opportunities and challenges.
  • The antidote – or opposite – of the Persecutor is that of Challenger.  Whether a person, condition or situation, Challengers call forth learning and growth.  When you serve as a Challenger to others, it is imperative that you treat them as Creators and to challenge from a “learning intent.”
  • The helping role in TED* is that of Coach – the antidote to the Rescuer.  As a Coach, you support the other as a Creator who is ultimately capable and responsible for the outcomes they create and choices they make.  You support them primarily by asking questions that help them clarify outcomes, assess their current reality, and identify and commit to Baby Steps.

As you grow and more consistently move through life from a Creator Orientation, you will develop your ability to move between all three roles as a Co-Creator with others in work and life.

Making “Shifts Happen”

You have the capacity to consciously choose to shift from the DDT to TED* roles.  Adopting the TED* roles and making shifts happen is “simple, but not easy.”

Escape from the traps of victimhood and enablement. Applying what you read will help you become truly proactive as you develop high trust in yourself and healthy relationships with others. Enjoy it and make the shift that creates true effectiveness!

Stephen M.R. Covey is the best-selling author of The Speed of Trust and co-founder of Franklin Covey’s Trust Practice.

Here is a simple scenario:  You are called to an unplanned meeting with your boss.  The way you will relate to your boss and the situation will be significantly different if you assumed a Victim versus a Creator stance.

The first would position your boss as Persecutor and/or Rescuer.  Meeting your boss as a Co-Creator and inviting him/her to be a Challenger and Coach could lead to all kinds of empowered, resourceful and fulfilling outcomes!  

Once you’ve read this article, let’s talk!

This button will give you access to my scheduler. Select a time and we can work through the TED* exercise together.

Shared under licence as a 3 Vital Questions Certified Facilitator.
3 Vital Questions Certified Trainer Badge 2024

𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘊𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘰𝘳 𝘔𝘪𝘯𝘥𝘴𝘦𝘵, 𝘛𝘌𝘋* (*𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘌𝘮𝘱𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘋𝘺𝘯𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘤), 𝘋𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘦𝘥 𝘋𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘢 𝘛𝘳𝘪𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘭𝘦 (𝘋𝘋𝘛) 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘝𝘪𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘮 𝘔𝘪𝘯𝘥𝘴𝘦𝘵 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘦𝘮𝘢𝘳𝘬 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘵𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘧 𝘋𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘥 𝘌𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘭𝘥, 𝘣𝘦𝘴𝘵-𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘶𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘳 𝘰𝘧 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘗𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳 𝘰𝘧 𝘛𝘌𝘋*.

Best wishes,

Susan Dunlop

Professional Coach ICF NLP

3 Vital Questions® and TED*™ Certified Facilitator

Member ICF and ABH


  • Workplace Empowerment
  • Self-Leadership Coaching
  • Personal Empowerment Workshops
  • Survivor Advocacy
  • Live and Virtual 1-to-1 and Teams

Social Media: Follow me @susandunlopleadbelievecreate

Podcast: Coffee & Contemplation with Susan Dunlop

Website: www.susandunlop.com.au

Book a Chat: You can choose a time that suits you here

Stay Empowered and Informed!

Join our newsletter community to receive exclusive insights, tips, and personal and workplace empowerment updates. Get the latest strategies for a drama-free and fulfilling life delivered directly to your inbox.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Skip to content