This is the time of year when many of us find ourselves stressed and dealing with people who push our buttons whether on purpose or by accident.
Buttons are those areas that when touched on by someone in the course of communication, make us react. Some are bigger buttons than others but everyone has them and we all need tools for handling the communication when those buttons are approached or pushed.
I have come up with 10 Super Simple Tools you can use at a moment’s notice that will put you in control of these situations when they occur. Take these tools and practice with them. Then put them into your communication tool belt and go have some fun!
1. Understand that your buttons are your buttons.
Buttons are the things (ideas or subjects) that make you react in a certain way. We all have areas of sensitivity and I am pretty sure we know what they are.
There are buttons that are yours alone and there are universal buttons. I will go over the universal buttons a bit later in this article but as for your own personal buttons, understand what they are and look at why they are there.
Perhaps you were made fun of as a kid for some personal characteristic or perhaps the person you are talking to has been hurtful in the past. Try to remain in the present rather than re-experiencing all of the old pain. Take each individual communication as something totally new. Try to understand the point of what the person is saying to you instead of simply reacting.
2. Learn to steer the conversation away from sensitive subjects or areas.
When you are in a situation where someone is heading into the danger zone for you, the smart thing to do is to steer the conversation away from the area of your sensitivity. This is a skill that you can learn and it will give you power in any conversation.
Many people can be insensitive or inadvertently push your buttons. Many times you can cope with this behavior by changing the subject. For example, if someone brings up a subject that is a sore point for you. You simply ask the person something about himself, preferably something that he is interested in. People love to talk about themselves and the communication about the sensitive area will be completely forgotten.
Here is an example of how to steer a conversation:
Let’s say Geraldine has a button on her intelligence. Let’s not even go into why she has that button, she just has it.
Now let’s say that someone makes a crack about something she has done that he feels is stupid. Geraldine knows that this person is a avid fisherman. She takes no notice of his insensitive remark and simply says, “Hey! I hear that you caught a huge fish last time you were out! Tell me about that!”
With this one move, Geraldine has taken control of the communication and put it on a course that is more desirable.
3. Educate the people close to you what your buttons are and find out theirs.
A very good thing to do at the beginning of any close relationships such as newlyweds or fiancés would be to sit down and go over areas that might be sensitive. Then at least, when you wade through the minefield, you know where the mines are. You are less likely to have one explode in your face. It is also good to make an agreement that you will never use these areas to intentionally hurt the other person no matter how angry you might be.
Here is another example:
Joe notices that his wife Geraldine is getting grey hair. He doesn’t realize that she has a button on getting older as she never told him about it. Joe makes a comment to Geraldine that she has a lot more grey hair than when they met. Perhaps to him it is not a big deal but it has the potential to cause Geraldine pain.
Geraldine takes a big breath and instead of calling Joe an insensitive clod, she calmly lets Joe know that she knows she is getting older and is a bit sensitive about it. Joe, if he is smart, decides that this is not an area that he will bring up unless there is something really important about it that needs to be said.
If Joe is an insensitive clod, he continues to push this button with Geraldine and the wonders why he comes home to find the locks on the house changed and all of his belongings at the end of the driveway with a note inviting him to find another place to live.
4. If something has really upset you, go somewhere quiet and regroup.
Sometimes these things take us by surprise and it can be difficult to regain our composure. The best thing to do when that occurs is to go somewhere by yourself and regroup. Do not react when you are severely upset. Wait until you have calmed down enough to figure out a good way to handle the upset.
Nothing good comes from blindly reacting from a painful place. Pain creates pain in these instances and the impulse might be to hurt that person in return. This starts a chain reaction of negativity and you always feel terrible afterward.
Breathe, dry your tears and go turn the situation around.
5. Understand that a person’s hurtful comments have nothing to do with you.
They really don’t, no matter what the other person is saying.
If the person is being nasty, that is NOTHING to do with you. It is ONLY in his or her own universe and comes from his or her own personal pain.
The best thing you can do when this occurs is to recognize that the nasty person in front of you is not the real person. Granted there are some people who are like this all the time and are best avoided but the majority of people are just doing their best with a huge lack of workable tools to fix unhappy situations. They don’t like acting the way they do any more than you like having to deal with it.
Just look beyond the hurtful comments of these desperate people and take the opportunity to help him or her solve the problems. Get them to talk and be interested in finding out the real problem. If they are just too angry or verbally abusive, let them know that you will try to help when they calm down and then you can have a real conversation. Being able to pinpoint problems and help others to do so is a valuable skill. Those around you rightly perceive you as a valuable ally and value you.
6. Understand that certain relationships have buttons in common and need extra care and consideration.
Specifically, I am talking about the familial relationship. So many times these can get off on the wrong foot and make you both miserable. In close relationships, there is shared pain, and buttons come from pain. This pain can then create patterns of behavior that are destructive
Understand that just because patterns are set early in a relationship does not mean they have to remain that way during the relationship.
The most destructive thing you can ever do is to go back and forth pounding each other’s buttons. It accomplishes nothing but more pain and unhappiness.
When my son was little, we would clash at times. We both have extremely strong personalities and sometimes we would disagree. Whenever things started to get painful, one or the other of us would ask, “Can we just start over?”
It was perfect because it gave us the opportunity to drop the defenses and just go back to being in love with each other. Of all of the tools I had with my kids, that was the most valuable one. The result of this one tool was that we constantly broke bad habits and behavioral patterns and started afresh.
7. Recognize that another’s behavior may be the result of limiting beliefs, prejudices, opinions and generalizations.
And guess what! You don’t have to explain yourself, justify yourself or in any way prove that you are a good and decent person!
Even if you did, this person would not see it anyway because all he or she sees is his or her own limited views.
You are not responsible for someone else’s prejudices or generalizations. Let it go and move on.
At the same time, look at your own views of certain people. Are there groups of people that you have a fixed view of? If so, make a point of getting to know these people without a curtain of prejudice and you will likely find that most of them are ok.
Many lies are told about us as groups by the media and they are negative and divisive. Don’t believe them. Talk to people as individuals and make your own determinations about who and what they are.
8. Stay away from the universal buttons!
What I am going to give you here is so valuable that it will smooth out communication for you with 80% of the people you deal with
Here are some of the universal buttons:
Do not invalidate a person or his or her beliefs and do not allow someone to invalidate yours.
When I say “invalidate”, I mean to seek to take away the credibility of the person, or the thing he or she believes in.
Nothing good comes from seeking to make people wrong. People have been made wrong so often that it has become a universal button. If you need to correct others’ behaviors, do it in such a way as to validate them for what they did right.
For example, if your child washes the dishes but misses a spot, first let him know how happy you are that he has done the dishes and what a sweet and caring person he is. Then, once you have made him RIGHT about the dishes, make him more right by showing him how he can do it better.
Focus on the right! Validate your people at every opportunity and really mean what you say! People blossom before your eyes when you do this and if you go out of your way to validate people, you will be the best loved person in any gathering.
Do not tell a person what to think about himself or herself and do not allow someone to do that to you.
This is extremely hard on a person and can cause unneeded sadness. Nobody wants to hear “Your problem is….!’ or “You need to ….”
The bottom line is that it is up to the person to decide what his or her “problem” is or what need to be changed in life. It’s extremely damaging that you point it out. Instead, offer to help them and show them different ways of doing things. Again, make them right for trying.
When a person says something to you, don’t ignore them.
All you have to do is something that lets them know that you have understood them. If they are upset about something, don’t seek to minimize it or make them wrong for being upset. Help them out.
That said, there are people who seek to upset and irritate for sport. Let them know that you are onto their game and are unwilling to play it. If they decide to change, they can come back to your life; if not, tell them “See you later Baby!” and move on!
Do not interrupt people when they are talking.
This has gotten to be commonplace in our society but it breeds upset. If the person you are talking to is the one who hogs the conversation, wait for the breath to start in. If you’re interrupted, ask people to wait until you are finished.
9. Understand that communication is one of the most misunderstood subjects on the planet.
So many people have no idea how to communicate effectively and communication itself has become a big button. People learn bad habits from their parents, but these bad habits can destroy the whole generations of relationships.
To begin with a fruitful communication, listen to what people say and acknowledge them when they have spoken.
10. Know that life is full of both good and bad experiences and each is part of the learning curve of life.
If you have run into a bad experience, look at it and see what you can learn from it. Be grateful that it didn’t kill you and learn a lesson from it.
Take all of these techniques I have given you and practice them with people until you are comfortable using them.
This can open up a whole new world for you by giving you control over communication and tools to recreate relationships. Use them well. Educate those around you about communication and how it works and seek out more information on the subject. There is more to learn but this will get you started!