7:35 am: Raj looks at his phone as he waits on the platform and notices that his train is already 5 minutes late. “ Shit! I’m going to be late to the meeting!” he thinks to himself.
7:45 am: He is on the train a stop away from work and hurriedly types in the subject line of an email “ Running late- will be there in five! Go ahead and get started”
7:55 am: Raj walks into the room and the meeting is already underway.
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Megan is presenting her take on the program requirements. He takes his seat, breathing heavily he says “Hey, sorry I’m late”.Megan continues to make her point when Juan interrupts her midway.Megan,in her usual firm but calm way tells Juan that she hasn’t really completed her thought yet and continues presenting.
Raj thinks to himself “Juan always interrupts like that! He needs to stop that right now! He always thinks he knows better and he isn’t even involved in the project- he is just a project manager…what the hell! He always pushes my buttons!”
Suddenly his thoughts are interrupted. Megan is asking Raj for his POV on the new program. Raj tries to pull himself back into the meeting, takes a deep breath and begins talking. A minute in Juan interrupts Raj...and needless to say, Raj simply explodes!
What do you think just happened in this scenario?
Juan pushed Raj’s buttons right?
I’m sure you have had your buttons pushed many many times at work as well. If I asked you to quickly jot down names of the top 3 people who constantly push your buttons, I’m sure you could produce that list in less than 3 minutes! What is Raj’s button in this case?
Let’s take a look!
A button is something that gets you angry or upset, or causes a reaction in you that doesn’t feel very good. So If I say or do something and it makes you feel bad, you have a button and I just pushed it. But here is the most important thing to remember - I DIDN’T CREATE it, I only pushed it. In this case, Juan simply pushed Raj’s button - he didn’t create this button in Raj.
Button pushing then is ALL ABOUT YOU - it’s very personal! It’s very common to think that button pushing is all about the other person and that they are making you feel a certain way. In Raj’s head - Juan always iterrrupts and makes him feel inadequate. Here's the truth my friend-
No one can make you feel anything – what people say and do is about them – and how you react is completely on you.
So how do you manage your reaction?
I hate to break it to you - it’s not possible. It’s like trying to put the paste back into the tube once it’s already out. If you are trying to manage your reaction once your button is already pushed - you are wasting your time, it’s only going to be a band aid. Be proactive instead.
Here’s the secret.
I learned this from the Concept of Energy Leadership. Recognize that -
NO ONE CAN PUSH A BUTTON THAT DOES NOT ALREADY EXIST.
Let’s review Raj’s situation in which Raj’s button is pushed. When Raj explodes at Juan, he is simply reacting to HIS INTERPRETATION of the event (Juan’s interruption), not the actual event itself. The event in and of itself holds no meaning until it’s interpreted to mean something. Juan pressed a button of Raj’s, and Raj reacted. Raj took Juan’s interruptions very personally, based on his past experiences with Juan and what he interpreted Juan’s actions to mean.
Maybe Raj felt that Juan’s interruptions meant that Juan didn’t think Raj’s opinions were of value or that Raj was committed enough to the project since he walked in late to the meeting. If at his core Raj believes that he isn’t committed or worth listening to, then it’s understandable that he would strongly react based on this interpretation. Megan, in contrast, responded objectively because she didn’t take Juan’s interruptions personally. Sure Megan most likely has other buttons that might surface in a different scenario - but this time it was Raj! So, how do you remove your buttons to prevent emotional reactions? Next time you find yourself in a situation- take a deep breath and pause.
Ask yourself these 4 questions:
What is the event?
What is my interpretation of this event?
Why am I taking this so personally / What did I take it to mean (about me)?
What is my button?
Once you know this ask yourself how you might want to handle this situation differently? Bringing your buttons and your interpretations into awareness is a key step in self-management which is one of the key aspects of being more emotionally intelligent!
Instead of blaming another person for pressing your buttons, wouldn’t it be cool to thank them for the opportunity to understand yourself better?