Do You Ever Get Triggered? Curiosity Can Help

 In Communication, Negative emotions

I’m a lousy frisbee thrower. I usually fling it off in the wrong direction so the other person doesn’t get many opportunities to actually catch it. But this new, large frisbee was working much better for me. I was playing with my daughter and actually getting it to her most of the time. I was feeling proud of myself. Maybe there was hope after all.

A little later my husband came over to watch and made a snide remark about my incompetence with a frisbee. It was an appropriate comment based on my history with frisbee throwing, but at that moment it triggered me. He hadn’t even seen how well I was throwing! I was instantly defensive and mad. I made some irritated comment back and walked away.

I admit, I’m sensitive to a number of different triggers – situations that provoke an unreasonably strong reaction. For example, I think I’m a fairly patient person, but I can get impatient when I feel like other people are wasting my time. It could be getting the runaround on the phone when I’m trying to get technical help with my website, or when someone is over-explaining something I already know. In those moments when I have a strong reaction, I sometimes show my irritation with a not-so-nice tone of voice and comment. Has this ever happened to you? 

In the past few years, I’ve learned an approach that has really helped me recover faster (and apologize more easily). Now I try to notice my reaction and then I try to get curious.  How curious that I’m having such an unreasonable reaction and feeling such strong emotions! I notice the physical effect it has; maybe a tightening in my chest or jaw. I try to put my response in perspective and ask if this is how I really want to feel and act. Sometimes I can do this before I say or do something I might regret. It takes practice but I do think I’m getting better at managing my triggers.

What situations trigger you?  Are there any upcoming situations you could practice being curious about your reaction? Imagine the scenario in your mind for some virtual practice.  



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Tina Hallis, Ph.D. is Chief Positivity Officer of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations increase their positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures. She is certified in Positive Psychology, an authorized partner for Everything DiSC®, and a Professional Member of the National Speaker’s Association

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