Control Your Emotions or Your Emotions will Control You

By Stephen Garber

Emotional triggers—what we at Third Level like to call your hot buttons—are a part of everyone’s emotional fabric. They are natural responses to upsetting or painful experiences. Think of them as sensitive spots that can leave an emotional bruise. Not surprisingly, whether you’re aware of them or not, hot buttons can affect you in many ways.

They can cause stress or pain when they have too much control over you.

They manifest negatively in your subconscious, which is why many people are unaware of them.

They result in a pattern of beliefs, communications, behaviors and outcomes that are reactive, rather than thoughtful.

Sometimes our hot buttons are valuable. We are hurt by a failure in our past, and we vow never to let that feeling of failure arise again. It helps motivate us to success. But sometimes that same hot button can hinder effective leadership, communication and thoughtful decisions. It can make us driven and demanding in ways that cost us good people and performance.

In the business world , a powerful emotional charge that results in unproductive, reactionary decisions and behavior is not only counterproductive, it can also be destructive and limit growth, leadership potential and the ability to work as an effective member of a team. These same negative consequences that will hold you back in the workplace will also cause problems at home and in personal relationships.

Hot buttons do not have to run your professional or private life. As with so many things in life, the first step in overcoming them is identifying and understanding them. Some common emotional triggers:

• Lacking the confidence to say “no.”

• Feeling that someone else (a boss, coworker, customer) controls your time.

• Believing your opinion/ideas are not valued.

• Considering a professional challenge as a personal failure.

• Changes in routine, an atmosphere of instability or lack of structure.

Managing your hot buttons takes a concerted effort and a lot of self-awareness. Once you’ve identified them, you are on the right track to managing them and moving forward in a positive way. You can control those buttons and their results, rather than your hot buttons controlling you.

With knowledge comes empowerment. Recognizing a situation that will trigger an emotional response allows you to take an emotional step back and choose whether you want to ride the train along the same rails as in the past, or take a detour toward a constructive response.

Once you’ve decided to change the pattern, and being aware of your unproductive perceptions and behavior, will allow you to address your stressful “trigger situations” with the tools necessary to set aside your emotional knee-jerk reaction in favor of a balanced, thoughtful response. Shifting your emotional state and responding from a thoughtful, logical place becomes a skill you can practice until the new dynamic becomes second nature.

Rather than letting unconscious patterns and old emotions control you, you can make conscious decisions that are more likely serve you and your business,

It’s a healthier, more powerful and more productive way to live.

For information on identifying and overcoming your hot buttons, or helping your team identify and overcome theirs, visit and go to the Services/Hot Buttons page, email or call 800.262.0705. ♦

Stephen Garber is director of Third Level Ltd. Contact him at 561.752.5505 or

Stephen Garber
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