You have no doubt heard the term “button pushing”. Has anyone ever pushed your button? Button pushing is pretty common in personal relationships. Over time, we may learn exactly how to push our spouse’s button and act all innocent when they react. It is a strange kind of power over someone when it works. When a button is pushed you hear something like…
“See you are acting all unreasonable now;
I can’t talk to you when you are like this!”
Then, you go off and do what you wanted to all along. (Not that I have any personal experience with this…I’m just sayin’).
Button Pushing at Work
If we take the button pushing dynamic to work it is most commonly seen when a boss or co-worker is being difficult and a subordinate or peer wants to take them down a notch. Inferring “you don’t know what you are talking about” with a subtext of calling them ‘stupid’. Or, another button pushing maneuver is not responding immediately in order to point out “you might have authority over me but you can’t control me!” Button pushing definitely moves into passive aggressive territory.
To get your stress down and to make sure you are not handing others the power to push your button(s) here’s a suggested way to deactivate the button-pushing game when your buttons are showing:
- Explore what’s getting “pushed”. When you get defensive it takes courage to make your first step self-reflection. Ask yourself: “What did that person imply (or outright say) that put me on the defensive?
- You are stupid
- You are not good enough
- You are inferior to others
- You do not know what you are talking about
- You are weak
- Buttons are beliefs. This took me a long time to understand:
The only way a belief can work on you is if you believe it too.
Here’s an example:
The reaction hits — “No I am not stupid!!” You get defensive and run around gathering proof usually finding all your degrees, recalling your awards, engaging others to support your ‘not stupid’ stance to prove you are not stupid. But, if you are not stupid why are you reacting to the inference you are and trying to prove you are not? Who exactly are you trying to prove you are not stupid to?
It’s completely horrible and uncomfortable to be thought of as stupid so there is no way I am going to be considered that so I will defend myself.
Do you see how BIG THE BUTTON IS? Really easy to hit if you come off as a jerk and someone wants to push your button. The button is GIGANTIC! For them, it’s sport to hit the button and fun to watch the reaction, not much more than a game and to their way of thinking…innocent enough.
- Make it ok to be what you fear most. Self-acceptance allows for the truth that it is entirely possible whatever you are being accused of is, at some level, true, so what? It doesn’t mean you are not everything else that is truly great about you. Now you are free to be a whole person. To continue with my example, I did a stupid thing once, I could do something pretty stupid today or a week from now – seems to be stupid lives in here so I don’t have to spend time trying “not to be stupid”, that’s exhausting. I look in the mirror and say, “Yeah, ok and you are just fine. You have learned a lot and you can still make mistakes and be called or feel stupid but you are still whole, and capable and able. That was stupid, you can learn and move on.” Going to get a hug from your spouse or Mom, or someone who loves you unconditionally doesn’t hurt either.
Deactivating your buttons by getting to know yourself and what your buttons are is powerful. It requires introspection and self-acceptance at an unprecedented level.
When my button is pushed I ask myself, “What was that?!” and then I talk myself down with “I” messages. For example I recently missed a deadline: “I feel caught not being accountable. I teach this stuff! I believe they think I’m a fraud because I am not perfectly accountable and expect wiggle room. Wait…what?! I was not accountable, I can own, act on and answer for what just happened without fault, blame or guilt. I don’t need to go into defensiveness I need to go into gratitude for the lesson and keep improving.”
So when your button gets pushed it’s an opportunity to be accountable for your growth and development.
- What am I reacting to?
- Is it the least bit true?
- Instead of getting defensive get back on track by thinking, “OK, that’s true, so what? – What am I trying to get done here? Am I trying to prove that’s not true or trying to get this job done?”
Mastering your internal truth deactivates your buttons. It’s awesome!