Have you ever heard someone say, “He really knows how to push my buttons”? I heard my client say it the other day about someone in his life. It reminded me of the buttons I have. In NLP we call these triggers. It is the behaviour that someone else has that starts a series of reactions from our side. What is really happening is that we have a group of neurons that are all linked together and form this “reaction” to other people’s behaviours. The electrical impulse inside this neural network fires so rapidly because it has done so many times in the past. When something happens – a behaviour, a word, a tone of voice – the “play” button gets pushed and the neural network does its thing.
Let me give you an example. I’m working with someone that inadvertently said something that made it seem like a group I belonged to didn’t really matter. In fact, he actually stated that there were groups that matter and groups that didn’t and I was a part of the group that didn’t. This conversation triggered an immediate reaction from me around my significance. I argued that the group did matter and being a member of that group was important. And furthermore, that group should matter to him as well! It was a short, heated argument and it was over as quickly as it began.
It happened to me on Singapore Airlines the other day. The seat belt sign was on due to turbulence and yet people were moving around the cabin with nothing stopping them. I was so upset that I started filming the whole thing on my phone. After 3 minutes of videoing passengers open the overhead bins, get their luggage out, use the restroom, and kids running up and down the aisle ways, I was so angry I pushed the call button to summon the steward that worked in that section of the plane. I threatened to post the video on YouTube if he didn’t take control of the situation immediately. My issue? I didn’t feel as if my safety mattered to the staff on board the plane. I felt I wasn’t significant enough for them to make others obey the rules.
My other big trigger is around the concept of fairness. When I was growing up, I always seemed to side with the underdogs and downtrodden. I stood up for the geeks at school and stood between (literally) the bullies and the bullied. I still find my anger and fight mechanism gearing up any time I feel that someone is being unfairly treated. This goes double when that somebody is me. If corporations are taking advantage of shareholders, I get upset. If pharmaceutical companies are taking advantage of our fears and selling useless pills for our everyday consumption, I get upset. If someone is trying to pull a fast one on the less educated, less informed, or less wealthy, I really get upset.
What is important to me about my triggers is to be really aware of when someone has pushed the play button on one of them and to determine which one it is. By taking a step back and analysing the feelings I have and where they are coming from, I have a few moments to re-think my actions instead of going off half-cocked. I give myself a chance to look at my neural connections and choose a different path.
What are your triggers? What system do you need to put into place so you have a chance to take a look at your neural pathways (habitual behaviours) and perhaps change what happens when the ‘play’ button gets pushed?