Change your pushable buttons.
March 3, 2012 10:44 PM   Subscribe

Change your pushable buttons. Everyone has triggers, or certain things that really bother then. How do you get over or at least temporarily move passed something that pushes your really big buttons? (when you can't tell the person to %&$@ off, or dissect the situation)

The examples I am thinking of are things that people do when nervous about a speech or something,
Ie. thinking about the crowd naked.
punch a pillow
scream in distant area, return.

I work with people with disabilities, so a lot of my big buttons are pushed by people that know they are pushing a button but do not necessarily understand much beyond that. so talking the issue out with the button pusher is not always an option.
posted by misformiche to Human Relations (14 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
You could just make a mental note to indulge in freaking out/being pissed/upset/frustrated/whatever later.

Like this...

Person: {does something that pushes your button}
You (thinking): Oh my, that sure did push my button. I shall have a nice hearty self indulgent stew over it later. For now tho, the task at hand!

it might help if you do it in a perfect Mark Corrigan voice.
posted by ian1977 at 10:51 PM on March 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

I do taking a deep breath and start counting (in ones, twos, or threes) until I feel my anger/frustration/disbelief at their rudeness pass. It works most of the time, for me at least.
posted by Sucht at 10:59 PM on March 3, 2012

I think of caltrops. The ... landmines of antiquity, useful to shape the battlefield and force the enemy into certain paths and approaches, or ... to slow down the advance of ... human troops. The person who knowingly pushes my buttons is trying to shape the field of discourse, force me into a reactive posture, or slow (what they see as) my advancing on them in some way.

I don't have to beat myself up about reacting if somebody catches me by surprise. And sometimes somone will drop one without realising it, maybe. But if I see the caltrop, I don't have to step on it. I can walk around it, jump over it, go back the way I came, whatever metaphor is appropriate for the way I want to move past the button-pushing. Acknowledge to myself, yep, there's a caltrop, that topic makes me go berserk, now: Why was it deployed against me? Do I need to press on, do I need to try another tack, do I need to back off?
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 11:25 PM on March 3, 2012 [27 favorites]

Stop and listen to your inner logical/rational side. Whenever a touchy situation starts to develop, the natural instinct is to get into an argument (and want to win), or fly off the handle. Think it out, look at things in the long term, ask yourself if it's really worth getting upset over, and what the ultimate repercussions could be if you give into your emotions.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:28 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

As ridiculous as this sounds, I think back to one of the Honeymooner's episodes, the one where Ralph, Jackie Gleason, learns to deal with exactly what you are talking about by saying to himself, "Pins and needles, needles and pins. A happy man is a man that grins." I sort of visualize Ralphie boy with the look in his eyes and can almost see the smoke coming out of his earns as he grits his teeth, smiles and utters those words.

(Don't ask about the Chef of the Future or the song Swanee River though.)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:39 PM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

This first part is also ridiculous, but true.

I (when I remember!) try to come from a place of kindness or "love." When you are in "kindness mode" you're feeling pretty even keeled. Supposedly, everything boils down to Fear (which makes us lash out in self-defense, often making situations worse) or Love. The question I hear sometimes that works is to ask yourself, "What would love do?"

Personally, I have a hair-trigger temper - I'm an Aries, I'm from NYC, and I had a crap childhood. Currently and in the past, nice people have always found me to be lovely, mostly because they make it easy. Rude selfish people (and especially manipulators) found me to be super mean or just plain nuts! Often enough, when generally nice folks had a moment of rudeness with me, at first they are taken aback at my lightening response to their actions, but in the long term they got won over somehow. I dunno how that worked, but it was a thing.

Since I had my first child last year, I am SO MUCH NICER, even when someone is shitty.

So the answer to your question might also be to have a child! Knowing that you are setting an example with every choice you make really curbs that desire to tell someone who deserves it, "Fuck YOU."

At least, this worked for me:))


It also helps to know the difference between "exerting power" and "exerting force." In other words, it is acceptable to push back when pushed, but you want to reserve that for appropriate and actually threatening situations. That said, I find being diplomatic ALWAYS works better, even though I'm no diplomat by nature!

Here is one more idea...


It's been true in my life that I've often played the "Bad Cop" to an ally's "Good Cop."

Mr.jbenben and I do this. A past roommate of mine and I did this when dealing with our management company. And a good friend that I worked with successfully for 7 years also played the "Good Cop" to my "Bad Cop."

In all of these situations, I endeavored to know when to let the "Good Cop" operate and remain in the background. Successful deployment of my "Bad Cop" routine only worked in highly specific situations when dealing with exceptionally dysfunctional types who could not be persuaded to do The Right Thing unless out of fear. And by "Fear" I mean - Fear of Me. It's so rare this is necessary, tho, and if you are super super careful to only populate your interactions with nice people this rarely comes into play.

If you have poor impulse control, the best use of your talents might be to recognize when you are triggered and give yourself permission to WALK AWAY whenever that happens. Then walk away.

That's probably the best advice here that I can give, overall.

Most of the time, honestly, it just isn't worth it. When you flip out, you feel crappy afterwards. There's no antidote for that.
posted by jbenben at 12:39 AM on March 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

I am a trigger-happy person at times in my social and personal life but when I have to deal with teenagers - button pressing genii - I have my 'warm, responsive adult' persona as armour. I don't give them the power of an emotionally unguarded response - all is mediated through a business-as-usual mentality.

My mantra is "that's just what this person is doing right now. It's nothing to do with me in the moment, just his unresolved bullshit." Knowing that you have the advantage of adulthood and the privileges of reason helps to deal with those who are 'weaker.'
posted by honey-barbara at 2:35 AM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I focus and take deep breaths when it is happening. I also have sort of a mantra like honey-barbara. Deep breaths and just saying "This is the other person's stuff. It is not me."

Later I try to deconstruct it. I write down what happened and then ask questions. What was my reaction? Why did I have such a reaction? What part of me is reacting to that? What does that say about me? What can I do about it next time?
posted by kanata at 3:50 AM on March 4, 2012

I also work with teenagers and yes, they have perfected the art of being irritating in a few cases. What weirdly helped for me was having another teacher in the room who reacts much worse than I do. So when she is yelling, getting upset and saying irrational things back to them, I can see how ineffective and unpleasant and how frankly embarassing overreacting can be.

Also I go to acupuncture and also trying to silently talk/feel myself out of getting upset. (Like if I can start to feel my blood boil I try to take a second to chill out).

But I live in NYC and did say something back to some annoying woman on the street the other day who said something first, so for some of us, it's always a work in progress trying to control our words/actions.
posted by bquarters at 5:31 AM on March 4, 2012

The things that bother me the most are things about myself that I need to confront. When I am at peace with myself with regards to a particular "button," it goes away. I tend to look at moments where I get angry and defensive as opportunities for personal growth. It's not easy at all, and some things are harder than others to work through, but I promise it's a long term solution and will make you a better person!
posted by katypickle at 9:06 AM on March 4, 2012

I teach, and I constantly remind myself that I'm the only one who is there by choice. In your situation, you might meditate a bit on how much better your life is than those of the people you work with.

Also, Healing Anger by the Dalai Lama is an awesome read.

But going back to my experience as a teacher, I've found there are a lot of things I can do to stop problems from popping up in the first place. Things like being nice, being vulnerable, offering choices, offering rewards, and making expectations clear, phrased in the most positive way, before people have a chance to violate them, getting troublemakers on my side by doing things to raise their self-esteem.

I also distance myself (like hell) from people who complain about kids and their jobs.
posted by alphanerd at 10:12 AM on March 4, 2012

I have recently dealt with a button pushing situation at work.

What has helped me is first recognizing that I am responsible for my own reactions and second accepting the person as they are, basically giving them the benefit of the doubt- assume it is benign rather than malicious.

This allows me to avoid feeling as though Joe is 'making' me feel a certain way, ie pushing my buttons, by orienting myself to the situation before I'm even interacting with Joe which takes the surprise element out of it.

I know you said you don't want to dissect it, but it really does help if you know why these buttons are so hot for you- it allows distance and reaction delay.

I know why I overreact to Joe, it is really quite silly and more importantly has nothing to do with Joe. It's like going around punching people in the face just cause they stepped on your toes.

Ah well, I guess you can just visualize the button pusher as a small child.
posted by abirdinthehand at 11:31 AM on March 4, 2012

With children or people with delayed development, stop and think about whether the person knows they'll get attention from their behavior. They're letting you know they need attention. "Chris, would you like attention? Do you need something to drink, a bathroom break, a hug, somebody to talk to?"

Give yourself a breather. "Pat, I don't like it when you poke me." and walk away. Read up on behavior modification, and reinforce good behavior, and ignore annoying behavior. So, later, "Pat, thank you for asking me to hold your hand. I like it when you use your words."

Annoyance may be a sign that you need a day off to be by yourself. Working with the developmentally delayed can be exhausting, emotionally and physically.
posted by theora55 at 11:55 AM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

No cure-all solution, but anyway:

I find that two strategies are the most helpful, when leaving the button-pusher isn't an option:

"subtexting" akin to what ian1977 suggested:
"Wow, I'm sure getting angry/sad/hurt now. I'll have to take a time out later to work this out, etc. etc."
The idea is to describe my feelings in order to not totally identify with them while realizing that they are temporary.

Intellectualizing / rationalizing: "Hmm, this person probably say these horrible things in an attempt to control [his own fear]/[me]/[whatever]. He's probably really [scared]/[angry]. I wonder how much empathy he's capable of on a good day? Does he even realize how hurtful his statements are? How does that fit in with my knowledge of this persons known difficulties?"

Works some of the time.

I work in a psychiatric hospital, FWIW.
posted by Thug at 3:11 PM on March 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

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