Emotional Triggers

I’ve had some great discussions since last week’s Blog on the topic of derailing.  Several times I heard, “It’s not really my personality to derail, but I go off course when I’m triggered.”  This is pretty common.  Most of us are at our worst when we become emotionally triggered.  In fact, Brenè Brown, PhD would say that unresolved shame issues are the most likely to pull us out of our leadership integrity.  Emotional triggers are also most likely to cause us to deflect, blame, derail, attack, withdraw… the list goes on and on.  And the repair necessary after we loose our cool is exhausting, time consuming, and in some cases, irreparable. 

Self-awareness is also all about knowing the themes that trigger you.  Here are some I have encountered:

  • It’s not fair!
  • I’m feeling disrespected!
  • You’re pulling a bait and switch on me!
  • You lied to me!
  • You’ve embarrassed me in front of my peers!
  • And the list continues…

If we return to Leading With Emotional Intelligence: Hands-on Strategies For Building Confident and Collaborative Star Performers (2011), Relly Nadler provides a list, answering this question: What are the things that not only irritate me but also drain my mental capacity?

  • People interrupting me
  • Someone not honoring my values
  • People who seem incompetent
  • Someone who talks too much
  • People being angry or irritated with me
  • Rude people
  • Lateness
  • Clutter
  • People who are arrogant or think they are the smartest person in the room
  • Too much noise

One way to address triggers is to become more mindful and employ a psychotherapeutic (cognitive restructuring) technique: Reappraisal.  Nadler (pg. 106) recommends that we ask ourselves the following:

  • What can I learn from this?
  • How can I turn this into a meaningful experience for me?
  • What would I tell someone else to do in this situation?
  • Is what I’m telling myself about this really true?
  • What evidence is there to support my interpretation that could be more accurate?
  • What is the best thing for me to do right now?

Weekly Challenge:  Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are my top triggers?
  • Which are most frequent?  Most intense?  Drains me the most?
  • Then see what reappraisals you can apply

Supporting Your Success!