I admit to having certain hot buttons that, when pushed, really test my ability to keep my cool.
How do you remain calm, focused, and even-handed when someone is triggering yours?
You need three things to stay cool when your buttons are pushed.
Know your hot buttons.
Here is a comprehensive list of hot buttons and explanations that are part of the Conflict Dynamics Profile I use to coach team conflict.
- Unreliable – those who are unreliable, miss deadlines, cannot be counted on
- Overly-analytical – those who are perfectionists, over-analyze things. and focus too much on minor issues
- Unappreciative – those who fail to give credit to others or seldom praise good performance
- Aloof – those who isolate themselves, do not seek input from others, or are hard to approach
- Micro-managing – those who constantly monitor and check up on the work of others
- Self-centered – those who are self-centered or believe they are always correct
- Abrasive – those who are arrogant, sarcastic, and abrasive
- Untrustworthy – those who exploit others, take underserved credit, or cannot be trusted
- Hostile – those who lose their tempers, become angry inappropriately, yell at others
Which of these are your hot buttons?
In order to tame them, you must recognize them first.
Take a moment to ward off flooding.
Emotions rise when we are triggered, and we can experience what is called “flooding.” This is another term for overwhelm, during which the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol flood the nervous system and put us in a state of fight or flight.
The problem with flooding is that it influences our thought patterns and the way we see others. Poor thinking and reactions ensue. Science tells us that it requires around 20 minutes or more for flooding to dissipate – and in some situations, you may not be able to afford such a pause.
How do you get in front of this?
- Sharpen your awareness around early trigger signs before it becomes a problem.
If you recognize one of your hot buttons has just been pushed, take three deep breaths (literally!), relax your shoulders, and pause. Identify the physical sensations you are experiencing as a result of the trigger. Where do you feel tense or weight? Is your heart rate elevating? Name these as you piece them out as a way to separate them from you. Continue slow and easy breathing to calm these sensations down.
- What emotions are you experiencing?
Remind yourself that these are separate from the actual issue at hand. If you are in a “hot state” and you can’t regulate this, you will continue to encourage the flooding process.
- End the conversation if you recognize you are flooded.
Tell the other person you will need to take a break and come back a bit later to continue the conversation. Go for a walk, if possible, and as you piece out and calm down your emotions and physical sensations, refocus to the actual issue at hand. What conversation is needed to resolve the interaction?
Train yourself to redirect natural impulses to react.
In a calm and reflective state in which there is no triggering situation at hand, review your list of hot buttons.
For each, recall how you normally react when it has been activated. Now, imagine how you would like to respond to it in future. Rewrite 1-2 instances where this hot button has been pushed in the past. Now, in the place of the reaction you had to the situation, visualize yourself responding in the ideal way you have envisioned.
Run this through your mind several times to create a brain “memory.” As you do this over time, your brain will begin to recall this as an established pattern and move toward it in situations where you are triggered.
What is the stress from reacting to triggers costing you?
If you are like most, the list can include your ability to make good decisions, enjoy healthy and productive relationships, your ability to lead, and ultimately, your health. I challenge you to learn how manage yourself in a more effective way by mastering your hot buttons.
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Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.