Friday, August 6, 2010

Rewiring our buttons

Not all problems we have with people come from within us but often all we can control is how we react to other people. I may suggest changes in the behavior of others but unless I have a close relationship with them or a relationship built on the understanding that I am an advice giver this will most likely go unheeded, or potentially make matters worse. What we do have the ability to work on is our own reactions. Before we do this however we should look to see if the reaction we have is reasonable or not. In the example below it may be reasonable for me to say "Screw you it's my room and it is clean enough for me." This is not how I reacted and I do not like the way that I did. What happened inside me is I suddenly became tense and grumpy; ready to counterattack the perceived threat. But I get ahead of myself.

I was in a situation yesterday a few times were a friend said something to me and immediately got defensive about it. It was not what was being said and he was not trying to be mean, cruel or petty. The problem was who was saying it and the tone that was being used, these two factors came together to push my buttons and I reacted without thinking. These situations spring up in all manner of relationships; friends, families and coworkers are just a few examples. It is up to us to realize what pushes our buttons and find a way to rewire them, or maybe unplug them all together.

The first thing we need to do is look at the wiring schematic and figure out why that button triggers that response. For example my friend likes things neat and clean, which is not a bad thing, however he has a much better eye for cleaning projects and there solution than I do. He also has a way of suggesting things to me in a way that makes it sound like you are dumb for not seeing this. When these two things connect I get begin to feel that I am under attack.

Now let's look at what this button triggers and why. The first problem is when he points out something I missed in a room I feel is clean he is right most of the time. I don't like being wrong and that makes me react badly. A lot of the time he points something out that I know I should be doing but have put off and being called on it gets my hackles up as well. The tone of voice he uses is also part of the problem for me; it cuts past my filters and hits me right in the emotions every time.

For the next step we need to focus on the things we can affect. I cannot change his tone of voice though I have told him the effect it has on me and I hope that he will change. The biggest thing I can do to unwire this mess is do the things I know I should do before someone tells me. Since a large part of the defensives comes from justifiably being called lazy I can correct this behavior. If I was to have done all the things I knew should be done I could hear his suggestions as good ideas and helpful insights that they are meant to be.

As with most aspects of personal growth rewiring our buttons takes time and quite often the creation of new habits. Most of our button pushes are reflexive reactions. Because of this we will, especially at first, have to get in the habit of catching our reaction and dismantling it before it goes too far. To do this we need to be able to say those who push our buttons "This is not how I want to react give me a minute." Then take a minute to analyze our own reaction and respond to it in a way that is appropriate, proper and reasonable. This is not an easy thing to do especially when we are in an emotional state but if we want to change how we react to cretin people we have to do it. Every time we let a button be pushed it gets a little softer; a little easier to push.

A quick recap of the rewiring process: Recognize the trigger. Know what it is that sets you off. Understand what is being triggered. Figure out what emotional state this button being pushed puts you in and why. Rewire the button. Once we know what cause the reaction and what the reaction is we can begin to solve the problem that causes us to trigger in the first place.

This last step bears a little more explanation. In my example I have a behavior I need to change but this is not the only reason a button may exists. Sometimes they run on anger we have not gotten rid of or expecting other people to behave like someone who hurt us. We have to be able to see the reason that we are acting out in a situation and then work to remove that trigger. Putting anger to wrest can take time but if we are conscious of it the process becomes easier. Realizing that people are different is easy on an intellectual level but not so much on an emotional level. Like most things worth doing this will take some work. Have a great weekend.

Editing project: Disaplaner

photo By fihu


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