Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?

This post builds on our ongoing discussion of the empowerment principles shared in Bruce D. Schneider’s book, Energy Leadershipwith a look at “button pushing.”

What is button pushing anyway? Many of us use the term when complaining about how our kids, parents, spouses or colleagues really know how to push our buttons. What are those buttons and what happens when they’re pushed? Most important, how can we change our reactions to them?

Button pushing is very personal
because it’s ALL ABOUT YOU.

A button is something that, when exercised, leads to a reaction in you that doesn’t feel good at all. The resulting feelings run the gamut of the fear synonyms we explored in the previous post such as anger, contempt, judging, shame, blame and lack, to name a few. If I say or do something and your response is an unhappy one, you have a button and I just pushed it. I didn’t CREATE either the button or your response. I only PUSHED the button, possibly unwittingly.

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?

Because no one can MAKE you feel anything. As we’ve discussed in previous energy leadership posts, what others say and do is about them and the filters through which they’ve chosen to view the world based on the limiting beliefs, interpretations, assumptions and gremlins born of their conclusions concerning the sum total of their life experiences. In the same way, how you react to others is completely about your chosen conclusions based on your experiences. There is no absolute reality, only the story you are telling yourself in your head about what’s happening, why and what it means.

No one else can push a button
that doesn’t already exist.

Let’s take a look at a situation in which someone’s button is pushed. Sally, Jane and Patrick are in a meeting discussing the implementation of a new company procedure. During the meeting, Sally continually interrupts Jane and Patrick as soon as they begin to speak. Jane responds by kindly but firmly telling Sally that she’s not finished with her thought yet. Patrick doesn’t say anything for a while, then eventually explodes, yelling at Sally about how rude she is.

Button pushing involves reacting to your INTERPRETATION of what’s happening, not to the actual event. Sally pressed a button of Patrick’s and he reacted. Patrick took Sally’s interruptions very personally, based on his past experiences and what he interpreted her actions to mean. Maybe he felt Sally’s interruptions meant she doesn’t respect him or his ideas. If at his core he believes that he isn’t worthy of respect or being listened to, then it’s understandable that he would react negatively to Sally’s interruptions based on his interpretation.

Jane didn’t want to be interrupted either. But because she doesn’t have a button about being unworthy, she didn’t take Sally’s interruption personally. Jane achieved her objective of completing her thought by responding firmly and objectively to Sally. Jane may have other buttons that incite her to riot in other circumstances; Sally’s behavior just didn’t push any of those particular buttons.

In fact, Jane may not take it personally when another female interrupts her but when a man does it, she may blow a gasket. Because her interruptions button is more specialized. It has to do with men not respecting women in general and treating them as if they don’t matter based on how her father and brother always treated her. So if a man interrupts her, heaven help him. The reverse might be true of Patrick, he may not react when men interrupt him because he assumes that’s just what guys do in business. His reaction to Sally doing so may have been based on his generalization that women don’t respect men because he feels his wife and mother don’t listen to a word he says.

Yes, button pushing can be very specialized and personal. So how do you learn to respond objectively instead of taking things personally? First, stop and take a deep breath. When you begin to recenter, ask yourself some questions.

  • Was my response optimal and effective?
  • If not, when else do I tend to react this way?
  • What do those situations have in common with this one?
  • What’s really going on here?
  • What did I take this to mean about me?
  • What is my button?

Armed with these insights, ask yourself how you would like to handle the situation should it come up again or what you could do differently the next time. Role-playing similar scenarios with a professional coach or trusted colleague is a great way to practice your preferred response in advance.

Bringing buttons and interpretations into awareness is an important part of the Core Energy Coaching™ process. Instead of blaming others for pushing your buttons, why not thank them for the opportunity to learn and grow by understanding yourself better?

Wondering about the nature and origins of your buttons and how Core Energy Coaching might help you shift your responses to optimal? Sign up below for a 60-minute complimentary coaching session.

Web copy used by permission. No reproduction or retransmission is permitted without expressed written consent of Bruce D Schneider and the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). ©2006-2016 Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC)


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About djwlifecoach

I am retired from 40+ years of helping individuals and teams build lives and organizations they love. One of the great joys of my retirement from professional practice is having greater bandwidth to donate my professional and creative talents to support and promote animal and social welfare charities. During my 30 years as an organization transformation consultant, I served as a senior partner in four of the world’s largest, most prestigious global professional services firms. In 2005, I took a five-year sabbatical to find healing and peace because non-stop work had taken its toll. My recovery from burnout led to finding my purpose guiding others on their journeys. As a board-certified coach, author, consultant, radio host, Reiki Master and EFT/tapping practitioner, I share hope, possibilities and empowerment with the world. 111419 DJW Sid CH Pet Corner Photo ShootI help clients achieve rapid, extraordinary, sustainable results by connecting who they are with what they do, a connection often lost through stress and the sheer busy-ness of daily life. Courageous self-awareness and unconditional self-love lead to honest choices based on priorities that nurture you and those around you on a journey to wholeness. Decades in coaching, consulting, change management, organization development, human resources and mixed media artistic expression honed my business sense, professionalism, creativity, intuition, leadership and communication skills. The result? Practical tools that help you become more insightful, creative, committed, productive and fulfilled. Even the most dedicated and hard-working individuals can shift from frustration to a sense of futility when their values, passion, work, and lives become disconnected. One of the problems with not taking care of our health is that the effects of ignoring it are often slow to show up. We continue to juggle family responsibilities, work and finances until we lose ourselves, waking up one day 50 pounds heavier in body and soul—no good to ourselves or anyone else. I love working with people who are ready to take life-changing action to make their dreams a reality. At each moment, you have inside you all the wisdom you seek to choose your life and your way of showing up. Limiting thoughts, beliefs and feelings can block you from moving forward. An absence of love and concern for yourself can result in negative head talk that holds you back with discouraging messages about who you are and what you can do. By listening and caring deeply, I guide you in connecting with your own inner wisdom. We identify the way you’d like to live. We determine what’s blocking you and release you from the hold those blocks have over you—unleashing the positive energy that will fuel you forward. Together we develop a plan to move you closer to your heart’s desire. My books, blog, radio show and signature coaching programs help individuals and organizations harness the transformative energy of love to turn unexplored possibilities into fulfilling realities and step into their greatness. What’s love got to do with it? Everything! My book, Choose Your Energy: Change Your Life! (Hay House/ Balboa Press 2013) shares my story and the stories of 10 of my clients along with my signature Discovery Framework. For fun, I love reading, sewing, knitting, yin yoga, afternoon tea, opera and movies. I live in Williamsburg, Virginia with my spouse, Wilson Abney, and the cat who runs our life, Maisy Jane.
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