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9 Questions to Ask Yourself When Your Buttons Get Pushed

Questions to Ask Yourself When Your Buttons Get Pushed _

How often do your buttons get pushed at work?

(Oh, you know the buttons I mean–the ones where a comment, action, or even an email can fire you up so H-O-T that we could roast weenies on your brain.)

Here’s a secret you need to know about today’s world of work.

It’s highly likely you’re going to work with other people who might think, act, or just believe differently than you do.

And when that happens, you’re bound to have your buttons pushed every so often.

But at those times, you have a choice. You can react on gut instinct (and often make the situation worse), or you can respond like the intelligent adult you are, with thought and care.

Which sounds better to you?

Here are my favorite questions to ask yourself when your buttons get pushed. The answers will help you respond better, and  over time, you’ll teach yourself to avoid reacting in ways that aren’t helpful to you, your career, or others.

9 Questions to Ask Yourself When Your Buttons Get Pushed

1. What else could this mean?

Your hot buttons typically center around a value that’s important to you, such as teamwork, respect, or fairness.

But not everyone may share your values.

That doesn’t mean they’re bad or intentionally derailing you–it just means they don’t see the world the same way.

When you ask yourself, “what else could this mean?,” you open the door to understanding the other person better, and making sure you don’t have blind spots that are getting in your way.

2. Why does this bother me?

Let’s get real. What’s the truth behind your hot button?

As I mentioned above, you’re likely reacting to a value or belief that you perceive is being violated. But are you clear about what that value is?

Often when I’m working with a new coaching client, the person will say they know their values, but won’t be able to articulate them. But until you do the work so you can state them clearly, you won’t understand when someone rubs against them the wrong way.

(It’s one of the reason we dive deep into your values and long-term vision in my on-demand video course Create Career Clarity–reacquainting yourself with who you are and what you believe at work makes a huge difference in your career growth.)

Get clear about what that value is, and why it’s important to you, and you’ll go a long way toward figuring out the right way to react or respond.

3. What am I assuming here?

Maybe you’re assuming she’s just a jerk.

Or maybe you’re assuming he remembers the conversation from two weeks ago just like you do.

Look hard at your assumptions. Our brain strives to make sense of the world as we see it–not always as others see it.  So . . we’re often wrong.


What do you know as fact–the things that are observable, trackable, non-debateable? The rest may just be assumptions through your own filters.

4. What does feeling this way getting me?

Here’s what no one tells you about control at work.

You can only control three very important things:  everything you do, everything you say, and everything you think. (More here.)

That’s it.

So yes, you can learn to control your feelings about a particular button pusher or action.

Because if the way you’re feeling isn’t benefiting you, maybe it’s time to change the channel.

5. If I trusted this person more, what would I do now?

Think about your button pusher. On a scale of 1-10 where 1=not at all and 10=with my life, how much do you trust this person?

If you rate them less than 6, ask yourself how your reaction would change if you’d rated them a 10?

If they’re a constant button pusher in your world, how might you need to work on your part in the trust equation so you understand them more and react less?

(If trust keeps coming up again and again for you, try these strategies to build trust here.)

6. How might I be wrong here?

Yup, it’s possible.

Your brain won’t want to acknowledge it, but hey, you’re human and as such imperfect. You might be wrong.

(Thank goodness–we couldn’t tolerate you otherwise.)

It’s a show of strength—not weakness—to admit when we’re wrong. Plus, you end up being a role model for others, too.

7. What would [someone you admire] do in this situation?

Think of someone who you admire–a friend, colleague, mentor, or even virtual mentor you’ve never met.

Now play out the same buttony-conversation, with the admired person playing the part of you.

What would they say, think, or do differently than you in this situation? What’s worth copying from them?

8. What does the other person need to hear to feel safe?

As human beings, all of us need a feeling of safety and security to be at our best.

Too bad our situations at work often can make us feel unsafe, whether or not we’re consciously aware of it. Criticism, pressure, fear of being wrong, fear of not being good enough–all of those natural workplace emotions add up to make us feel unsafe.

Most of the times when people push your hot buttons, they’re not thinking about you; they’re thinking about something they need.

So, what is it? Maybe they just need to know they’re heard, or respected. Giving someone else what they need doesn’t have to mean you get any less.

9. What do I need to hear to feel safe?

Of course, when we’re all aflame with our hot buttons pressed, we forget to ask ourselves what we need to feel safe, secure, comforted, normal.

As you reflect on this question, you may realize you need to hear more specifically that the criticism of that one memo is not criticism of your entire career.

What aren’t you getting that you need? (If it’s happening over and over, try the AND strategy I describe here.)

Hey—want more help?

No matter what’s happening in your life at work, a 30-minute chat with me can help you get unstuck and move forward, fast. 

Just hit the button below, and pick a date and time that’s available. Answer a few short questions, and then I’ll call you at the time you picked. There’s nothing to prepare–just show up right where you are. If, after we talk, it sounds like one of my coaching programs or courses will help you going forward, I’ll share details after our call. There’s no pressure -my goal is to be helpful immediately.

Spots fill up fast, though, so schedule yours now and start getting the support you deserve.

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