The phrase getting your buttons pushed, “…originated in 1920s America, when domestic electricity was being installed on a massive scale. The ability to push a button to turn something on had a big impact on lifestyle, and the metaphor spilled over into other things which have an immediate effect — like being able to trigger a specific emotion". Google search
"I got my buttons pushed" or "he/she triggers me" are two comments that lead to really interesting coaching conversations. We all know that hair-trigger reaction: angry, hurt, offended, shamed etc.
How Mary got triggered and lost control
A colleague said something during a meeting that Mary took very personally. Her immediate internal reaction was that "was so unfair and uncalled for".
Without any self-awareness or self-control, Mary feels a surge of tremendous anger and verbally counter attacks. Her heart rate and blood pressure are high. Her body language shows just how upset she is. She is immediately embarrassed and is wondering if her reaction was out of proportion to the comment. The meeting continues but Mary is replaying what was said. Her mind is racing with negative thoughts. She goes back to her office after the meeting is over and isn’t able to concentrate. She doesn’t sleep well at all. The next day, there is tension between Mary and her colleague. Her boss schedules a meeting to discuss what happened.
We are emotional creatures and it is pretty much impossible to control our feelings. What and who triggers us and the intensity of our emotions varies hugely between people. What might irk me, wouldn’t bother you and vice versa. Factors such as personality and temperament, how intensely you feel about particular issues, the amount of un-managed stress , fatigue levels, your childhood history and how secure you are in your views and beliefs all play a role in how you FEEL emotions.
Sometimes we are totally justified to be angry or offended. There are offensive people out there who are prone to personal attacks, who shift blame on to others, and who say and do things that are hurtful. They are natural button pushers, and any counter attack with this kind of person will only serve to escalate the situation.
Even though we can't always control who we interact with, or how we feel about what they say and do, we do want to avoid acting out of control or being dominated by strong negative feelings to the detriment of our health or our relationships.
In order to control your reactions and responses however, you need emotional intelligence; self-awareness and self-management skills.
When we have a big reaction and irrationally explode inside without knowing why, this is a clue that whatever the trigger is; old insecurities, unresolved hurts or childhood wounds, it is probably well below the surface of our awareness. Becoming aware of what makes you flip out and activates the big emotions is really worthy of examination. Why? Because it is good for you!
Self-awareness is being able to perceive your own emotions in the moment and make sense of them. It offers clarity and insight into what triggers and gets a rise out of you, and allows you to tolerate a certain degree of negativity without imploding. It allows you to handle the discomfort that being triggered makes you feel. It also means you have control over your reactions so that you don’t say inappropriate things, escalate the conflict and damage relationships.
While self-awareness affords you the opportunity to understand yourself and feel self-compassion and, compassion for others when you feel triggered, self-management allows you to control your behavior and generate more positive interactions.
The next time a button-pusher hits your button, try to identify why you are angry or offended. Often, the work to figure it out and make peace with ‘it’, falls to you and you alone. Other times, without blaming or attacking, communicate what you feel or need to the button-pusher.
I should note that in spite of your best efforts to communicate and discuss, there are people who lack skill for dealing with conflict, don’t share responsibility for solving problems and are not interested in you and what you feel. Do not engage with them.
There are many books to read on how to develop self-awareness so that you can more effectively manage how to respond to being triggered. You can also work with me!
Don't be trigger-happy
Other Getting Your Buttons Pushed blogs:
When your professional and personal lives are in transition or at an impasse, Coach Minda provides the support, direction and feedback you need to make changes for the better. Minda helps procrastinators, perfectionists, self-doubters and decision-dodgers experience quick wins, work through roadblocks and stay motivated.
My family, relationships, movement, nature, flexibility of mind, exploration of alternative perspectives & openness are central to my life.