You know what it’s like to get your buttons pushed. No matter how long we are in recovery we can get tangled up. Suddenly in a conversation or a situation we are flooded with feelings that come from a past experience that is totally unrelated to the situation at hand.
That can be annoying or embarrassing or damaging if we are not aware that the feelings in the present belong to a situation in the past. But it happens, and it is an opportunity to grow. You’ll find a rich mine of material here for steps six and seven.
You are going along, having a perfectly nice day, then in a seemingly benign conversation—or an email or a text—suddenly you are furious, or hurt or scared. What just happened?
You got your buttons pushed!
It’s not comfortable and not fun but with the right attitude you can see the gift that this is.
It is NORMAL to have this experience. The key is to watch for patterns. Is there a pattern in the type of person you spoke to? In their manner of speech? In certain words they used? In the issue you were discussing?
Here is what I tell people in my Workplace Communication class, but it also applies in our home life and our social lives:
If you want to be a good communicator you need to know where YOUR buttons are.
People can only push your buttons if YOU are not aware that they are YOUR buttons. This may be the most uncomfortable leadership skill you can acquire, but it’s ultimately more important than using the fanciest technology in your industry.
If you don't recognize your own buttons you will always be tempted to say, "It's his fault or "It’s her fault."
Always be willing to go back and look at your childhood experiences:
Because that's where your buttons were installed.
When you have an experience of having your buttons pushed you CAN do more than react or repress. You can notice your patterns. Exactly what button was that? Who else pushed that? Who pushed it earlier in your life?
The answers to those questions will give you a lot of insight but don’t stop there. Take that pattern—and your insight--to your sponsor, wise friend or counselor.
Sometimes our buttons get pushed at work, and that’s tricky territory. We don’t want to be unprofessional, but we can all get tripped up when a family wound shows up at work. We can forget ourselves and say or do—or believe—the wrong thing.
In that case you may want to talk to someone you worked with at another organization. If you are still good friends with a former colleague they can be a big help to your growth and change. They will help you remember how you were in that past job, and who pushed your buttons there. Again, look for the patterns.
You’ll want to remember the safe sharing guideline: “Share. Check. Share.” (Share a little. Check out the reaction. If you feel safe and supported, only then share a little bit more.)
And keep it out of the realm of gossip. Gossip, even though it might feel good in the moment, doesn’t help us to grow.