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10 Super Simple Tools to Regain Control When Someone Pushes Your Buttons

10 Super Simple Tools to Regain Control When Someone Pushes Your Buttons

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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Good luck!

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Chris Ellis

Successful Author, Life Coach and Musician

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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