Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Friday, January 20, 2012

When Those You Love Push Your Buttons

We all have them. Those little invisible spots that our spouse or kids hit with a word, look, action or remark that sets us off, right? They get pushed when we're in some of our best and worst moments. It happens in private and in public. And sometimes we can't help but respond with mega-emotion: anger, tears, panic despair.

And we know the buttons that others have as well. And we can push theirs especially when we feel threatened.

I rather doubt that button-pushing in families, friendships and acquaintances will ever stop but I do have a couple of  strategies and concepts that may lower the feelings-meter a bit.

Unhook the buttons that are tied to your worth. For example, when your spouse says something and your first response is that he or she "thinks I'm a loser," or is "making me look stupid right now."  Really?  Maybe they are making you look a little weak, maybe not. In most cases they probably aren't but we think what they just said is going to ruin us as a person. So what do we do?

Well, we explode or argue or demean or just leave. But we rarely have a helpful or meaningful conversation or response right then.

Or a child does something - again - that we've asked them a hundred times to do or not do.  And immediately instead of responding in a firm, loving and healthy way to deal with it, we feel like a terrible parent or that our parenting is at least threatened. I've talked about this in other posts but in a nutshell our worth is not dependent upon how others see us. It's that simple. God loves us, thinks we matter and have purpose, is our Father and forgives no matter what. That's where our worth lies.

Second, learn to respond differently as a result. If that button doesn't mean what it used to, if you no longer will allow that button to infuriate or paralyze you, you will respond in a new way. But it will take practice.  You will learn, however, that it's OK to say, "You know, we're going to have to disagree on that but that's alright."  Or, "I'm sorry we don't see things the same way, but I still need to do what I've chosen."

With a child you might say, "I know this isn't your first choice, but there are only two choices I'm giving you. Which of those are you going to do right now?"  With your spouse or a friend you can hopefully learn to say, "I didn't realize I hurt you but tell me more about how you felt and what I can do differently."  That doesn't mean you are taking all the blame.  You're just admitting you might be wrong and that you don't have to win the war no matter what.

The buttons that set us off are only powerful if we keep them connected to the hurts of our past and the wrong thinking that has invaded our minds over the years. Like that button on the elevator that you eventually discover doesn't work, you can make the buttons in your life inoperable too with some new thinking and bit of practice.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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