Reality Check: Hot Buttons

“He pushes my buttons! He knows that I have a temper so he gets me going; then he walks away smirking as if he had nothing to do with it. He does it on purpose to get me into trouble. It shouldn’t be allowed. Everybody knows I can’t help it.”

That’s Samantha’s perception of her interactions with Daniel. He taunts her, embarrasses her, and attempts to make her life miserable. When he starts smirking, she feels her face get hot and her tantrum starts.

Does that sound familiar? Not for you, perhaps, but for anyone you know?

Samantha’s perception may reflect reality—perhaps Daniel chooses his actions deliberately to provoke her. Maybe he finds it funny (satisfying his need for fun) or it could be a way to satisfy his power need.

Samantha feels compelled to respond to Daniel’s provocations with temper. She says it’s not what she wants to do. She thinks that’s who she is, and that her response is out of her control.

So Daniel keeps his cool, grinning as she sputters, while Samantha ends up a loser in the exchange.

It’s escalated to the point of causing a real problem in her life. Samantha wants it to stop.

Next time, Samantha could ask herself, “Am I about to lose my temper because Daniel is making me do it?”

Can anyone make you do anything? Aside from extreme examples of physical restraint; can someone make you do something that you don’t want to do?

In Choice Theory, Dr. Glasser says that the phone doesn’t make you answer it; we choose to. Another person can’t make us throw a tantrum; we choose to. Is it true?

When other people interact with Daniel, do they inevitably end up in a shouting match? No. If Daniel can’t make everybody react this way, then does he truly have the power to make Samantha react this way?

She already has a good idea of behaviours that aren’t helpful.  She has argued, yelled, stomped off, slammed the door… Daniel has enjoyed all those responses immensely! Samantha has been compliantly delivering exactly what he wants!

What hasn’t Samantha tried?

For inspiration, Samantha could observe how other people interact with Daniel. Experiment! Try a new behaviour on for size, see how it works. If it doesn’t suit, try a different one.

Decide what to do in advance. Samantha could even rehearse! If Daniel wants an angry reaction, try calm. Specifically,

  • I will state my point and walk away, with no discussion.
  • I will calmly repeat my point word for word, regardless of how Daniel responds.
  • I will wait for 6 seconds before I respond.
  • I will not engage. I will ignore. I choose not to play his game.
  • I will silently recite, “I’m making the choices for me.”

Now, any new behaviour on Samantha’s part may puzzle Daniel. He could become more aggressive and persistent, at least temporarily, to see if she’ll stick with it.

If Samantha persists with calm responses and no longer delivers the entertainment that Daniel wants, it’s no longer fun for him. He stops; she gains peace of mind. Is it worth a try?

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