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Lisbeth Calandrino
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Why Do People Push My Buttons?


While I was having my hair done, my friend told me about her recent trip to a retreat. Everything was fine until she mentioned to her friend that she was feeling uncomfortable about something that was recently said. She said the woman started yelling at her to tell her that she shouldn’t feel that way. My friend was so upset and annoyed she moved to the other side of the room. She said she was sure smoke was coming out of her ears. It was at that point she had a revelation. The woman was right, why was she so uncomfortable?

Often times in life we have experiences that ‘push our buttons,’ as they say.

The other day I was in the supermarket, and someone almost knocked me over. My first feeling was that of irritation. Someone pushed my button. It’s almost as if we have actual buttons installed on our body waiting for someone to turn on their emotional switches. Suddenly, I looked around, and it was a small child who bumped into me. He was yelling for his mother and didn’t see me. My mood changed and instead of being angry, I bent down to comfort the child.

Think about it in a retail situation. The customer doesn’t call us back, and we say she’s just a jerk. If we don’t call her, we make excuses for our behavior. No wonder customer service is such a mess.

Like my friend, I wondered, why was I annoyed, and how was I able to change my mood so quickly? Why didn’t I ‘think’ and then act, instead of the other way around?

Do you remember something called the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE)? (Check out the link to Psychology 101) Basically FAE means that we assume a negative intention behind someone’s behavior. On the other hand if I commit the behavior, I would claim that I did it accidentally. It’s okay for me to act a certain way, but not you. If you’re late, I believe it’s because you’re either a jerk, or you did it on purpose or you don’t care, even if you have an excuse. If I’m late, it’s okay; my excuse is legitimate, and my intentions are good. When you’re late, I blame it on your character.

According to psychologists, when we get annoyed because people act differently from us, it’s likely a case of F.A.E. For example, you might say out loud or to yourself, “Don’t they realize it’s impolite to be late?” Instead of looking at the external situation, we put an emphasis on their personality characteristics to explain their behavior. Basically, I’m better than you. (Something to think about.)

My friend and I discussed why we think we need to question other’s motives; why not just assume they too have good intentions and mean no harm?

Imagine how much better our world would be if we all thought that way?

Filed under: Business Practices

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