Hot buttons make some people mad, others sad. All of them kick people into an instant response. Press someone’s hot button and you’re certain of making something happen.

Dealing with your own hot buttons
Your hot buttons are dormant most of the time. They only come alive when something hits one of them. The rest of the time, you’re almost unconscious of their existence. So you’re not ready to deal with them when they spring into action. That’s why people act first and think about it afterwards, when the damage has been done.

Here’s how to become more aware of your own hot buttons:

  • Think carefully about times you can recall where you acted or spoke in haste and regretted it afterwards. Write down what triggered the response. Was it something someone said? Or something they did? Be as specific as you can.
  • Look for patterns. Does the same trigger come up several times? Do you always get mad when people patronize you (I know I do!)? Or when they bring up how hard they work? Or their expensive vacation plans?
  • Try replaying one or two especially volatile occasions in your head. Check your emotions as you go along. When did you start to get irritated? Or upset?
  • Talk to close friends and loved ones. What do they know that makes you instantly grumpy or difficult? What have they learned to avoid, unless they want to “set you off?”

The only way to deal with a hot button that’s been triggered is call a mental “time-out.” Take a moment to breathe. Slow down. Try to delay your response if you can. If not, try to limit it to signaling you’d like to say more at another time.