Unhooking Your Hot Buttons

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Thursday, June 29th, 2023

“Imagine you’re in an important meeting. You feel comfortable, well-informed, creative and collaborative. Suddenly someone across the table from you says something, and for no apparent reason a strong electrical shock surges up through the table and right into your body. It sends such a jolt through your body that you lose your train of thought and start sweating. Then, as you start to get angry, you realize that nobody else at the table seemed to feel this jolt of electricity.

You don’t say anything about it, but just when you start to regain your composure, someone raises the same subject that caused the earlier jolt, and, sure enough, you get another jolt of electricity. Now you’re not just shocked, you’re really mad. You may even start yelling at the other people, accusing them of shocking you. Now, of course, the other people at the table, who have no idea about the jolt of electricity, are all looking at you as if you’re from another planet. They may not say it out loud, but everyone is probably thinking that you’ve gone a little crazy and that you’re overreacting to what was said.

You don’t feel that you’re overreacting, however, because through their words, ideas, tone of voice, or maybe body language, someone is shocking your system just as though they had their hand on a button with your name on it. That person has said or done something pushes a tender and vulnerable spot deep inside you. It’s a spot that can cause you pain or fear or other uncomfortable feelings whenever it’s touched or exposed. It typically also triggers a strong defensive reaction from when you’re reminded of that spot. That is what we mean by the phrase getting your hot button pushed.

One of the tricky things, is that you’re probably not even conscious that a button is being pushed or that you’re having a reaction that may seem unreasonable or out of proportion to others. People are often not aware of their own hot buttons, so they act unconsciously and sometimes irrationally when those buttons get pushed. Getting their hot buttons pushed makes people horribly ineffective in relationships or in problem solving (p. 158-159).”

From: Tamm, J.W., & Luyet, R.J. (2019). Radical collaboration: five essential skills to overcome defensiveness and build successful relationships. 2nd edition (e-book). New York: Harper Business.

Questions for reflection:

  • Do you know of any of your own hot buttons?

  • What's your first reaction to having your hot button pushed? What can you do change it?

  • How can understanding hot buttons help you when working with a team?

Posted In:
Thu, 06/29/2023 - 10:45pm -- pollard.145@osu.edu

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