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By Darryl Stewart

Can you stay cool when someone pushes your hot button?

According to Bradbury and James in their powerful book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, it is possible to stay cool, calm and collected even when our co-workers do things that drive us crazy.

All the input we gather from our senses first travels through our limbic brain, where emotions are generated, before they reach the frontal lobe, where rational thought can have a go. This is a challenge for us humans. Emotions are already happening about a situation before we even get a chance to figure out how to rationally deal with the situation. The stronger the emotions, the harder it is for us to be rational.

One of the situations in the workplace where this can make any of us seem unbalanced is when our hot buttons get pushed. Pet peeves, emotional triggers, and things we react hyper-strongly to due to our unique life experiences and personality make-up can embarrass and alienate us. People look at our response to what seems like a trivial matter and think we have lost our marbles because our reaction is out of proportion with the stimulus that caused it.

Imagine you have a co-worker who lives her life as if on stage. Her entrance into meetings is dramatic, her voice a little too loud, her input fluffy and long winded, as if she loves to hear herself talk. You generally come to meetings prepared and ready to make logical and well thought out contributions, but you usually have to wait while everyone is playing along with the “prima donna” and her usual attention grabbing routine. This drives you nuts! You see some frustration in others, but for you it is pure torture.

Step 1 – identify who and what it is that ‘gets your goat’. In this case, it is people who don’t contribute much of value in meetings, but insist on being the center of attention anyway.

In the example, the logical prepared woman grew up in the shadow of a “stage hog” sister. She is finally clear of her sister and shining in her own light, only to have her sister’s clone working with her every day. The mild annoyance of everyone else is amped up for her. She has a hard time concentrating and controlling her body language and attitude in every meeting despite her usually high levels of self control.

Step 2 – identify why a certain situation causes you such issues. In this case, having someone act just like your sister in a meeting.

Armed with who, what, and why, we can make these situations a bit less difficult because they come as less of a surprise. We can get our thinking mind ready, prior to the meeting, to deal with the emotions that we know are going to flood in.

Step 3 – develop strategies for your specific hot buttons.

My favorite technique is to “walk a mile in the other person’s shoes”, generating pre-forgiveness. I have found that if I take the time to know and understand the perspective of the person on the other side of the things that drive me crazy (or someone like them), I can forgive them more easily in the moment and not lose my cool.
In this case, thinking about your sister and the deep insecurity you know she felt, would help you feel empathy for the show off, rather than anger. Your mind has a compassionate feeling and a logical explanation both for why you feel the way you do and and for why the person acts the way they do.

Step 1 – identify who and what it is that ‘gets your goat’.
Step 2 – identify why a certain situation causes you such issues.
Step 3 – develop strategies for your specific hot buttons.

IBEX Payroll extends our profound respect and immeasurable gratitude to all the ancestors and keepers of the land on whose traditional territories our work takes place. We acknowledge that we are on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional gathering place of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene people and the traditional homeland of the Métis people. This land is sacred, historical, and significant. 

Every time we acknowledge this truth, we have an invitation and an opportunity to reflect on the wrongs of the past, what we do in the present, and what we can do to continually honour the people whose lands and water we benefit from today. 

This statement only acts as a first step in honouring the land we reside on and its peoples, and must be paired with education, understanding and informed action.