According to the Urban Dictionary, button-pushing means to deliberately irritate, to intentionally provoke another without reason, and to wear away at the patience of someone until that person wants to slap you. While that last part is pretty funny, button-pushing doesn’t feel like a laughing matter. It’s frustrating and annoying. What’s worse, it feels like people do it on purpose to anger or upset us.
Here’s the thing, your buttons are yours. They have everything to do with you and nothing whatsoever with the button pusher. These instant triggers are based on emotional wounds, past experiences, and even self-doubt. They are emotionally charged, sensitive places within us causing a reaction that is often out of proportion to the offense.
So, what can you do when someone pushes your buttons? The solution lies within you!
Figure out what are you making it mean. When someone pushes your buttons there is always an underlying story that you are creating in your head. Brene Brown calls this “the story I am telling myself” and it is the meaning you are assigning to the other person’s actions. The story often goes something like this, “He just asked me for the fifth time if I will get the project done on time because he thinks I’m not capable of meeting deadlines. I don’t know why he continues to give me these types of assignments if he’s not willing to trust me to get it done. I am sick and tired of his continual micro-managing everything I do. If he doesn’t think I’m capable he should just fire me.”
Think about what else could be happening. The story you are making up is rarely right. It is created through your unique life lenses. Lenses that were formed as early as childhood. In the example above, the manager might be following up because he has issues with meeting deadlines or perhaps, he has issues delegating. Maybe his parents told him if you want something done you need to do it yourself and he’s carried that false message into his adult life. In short, his repeatedly questioning your work has everything to do with him, and little to do with you.
What is your reaction costing you? Stress, anger, frustration, dissatisfaction, ruminating thoughts – these are all byproducts of our buttons. You are creating this for yourself by allowing your buttons to be pushed (in fact, by even having the button in the first place). Although it may not feel like it, you are choosing this, and you can choose to change it. You created your buttons and you have the power to dismantle them.
Change the thought pattern in your head and you will change your reaction. If you want to change your reaction to these situations you need to change what you are thinking about them (the story). As an example, a huge button for me was people telling me what to do. I’ve always valued autonomy and have a strong work ethic. In the past, I struggled with authoritarian supervisors. I told myself that they didn’t trust me to get the job done or they didn’t value my work (that they thought I wasn’t good enough). My button was pushed every time I felt I was being “told” what to do and I was making myself miserable. Once I realized that the irritation came from my button and more importantly, from what I was making it mean, I was able to think about what else might be going on. I could see that their style of management had nothing to do with me. They treated everyone the same way, regardless of work performance. Simply realizing this changed my perspective. Now when someone “tells” me what to do, I feel bad for them because I know how much more effective they could be as a leader if they changed their style.
“Don’t push my buttons without reading the manual.” - Gadgetmobile, Inspector Gadget
We all know how difficult it can be to change others and to get them to act how we would like. The good news is, you don’t need to be a victim of your emotional hot buttons. You can reset them and take away their power over you!