What are your hot buttons?  No, not that kind of hot button.  Get your mind out of the gutter!

We all have them.  They are the triggers, words, phrases, facial expressions, or comments that make your blood boil.  I remember when I was growing up, the one that killed my mother was “What-ever (insert eye roll here)”.

What’s the value of knowing your hot buttons?  If you know what they are, you significantly improve your relationships, spend less time frustrated, and get results more efficiently and effectively.  By having some self-awareness and communicating expectations to the people closest to you, you can minimize (not eliminate) the number of times your hot buttons get pushed, and you can spend less time being reactive.

The first step is to identify your triggers or hot buttons.  Pay attention to conversations, situations, or people that bother you.  What is it about what they are saying, how they are saying it, or what they are doing that is causing frustration?  Being aware of your triggers is key.

Next, communicate your expectations to others.  Rather than holding your frustration in and letting it build to the point where it can lead to destructive conflict and damage the relationship, communicate assertively.

Let’s say for example that one of your triggers or hot buttons is when you’re talking to someone and they continue to check their email or look at their phone.   You have a few choices when it comes to communicating how you’re feeling:

1.  Aggressive communication   – “YOU’RE not listening to me!”

 2.  Passive-aggressive communication  –  Ignore it or say, “It’s fine” (When it’s really not fine)

3.  Assertive communication –  “Would you prefer we talk at a different time?  It’s hard for me to concentrate while you’re on your phone.” Or “When you look at your phone when we’re talking, I don’t feel like I have your full attention”.

Most of the time when people fail to meet your expectations, it’s because they don’t know what they are.  While it’s sometimes uncomfortable to communicate assertively, it is much more effective and leads to better relationships.

You might also consider asking people close to you what their hot buttons are.  You might be pushing them without even know it!

What are your hot buttons?


  1. What a great topic – and really timely for me! Any suggested phrases to address people who stop my desk and beginning talking without regard to the fact that I may (and usually am!) in the middle of working on something? Thanks!

    • I am constantly working on improving how I manage my responses and try to act rather than react to others.

      For Linda: One thing I find very useful in dealing with “drive bys” is saying politely: “I would love to discuss this more and give you my full attention. I’m working on something right now and need to focus on this first. Can we get together later?”

    • Hi Linda,

      I like Barb’s suggestion. You can also try something like, “While I would love to chat with you, I really have to get this done. Could we touch base later?” Or “I enjoy visiting with you, but it is difficult for me to get refocused on what I was working on. Could we set aside a time each day to catch up?”

  2. As I read the article, I started to realize that due to so many situations going on in my life causing stress, my hot buttons get pushed quite often. I will have to practice to speak in the moment than bottle it in. Thank you! 🙂

    • Hey Juanita,

      It certainly takes practice and requires awareness. The more you do it, the more of a habit it becomes. Keep me posted on how it’s going! You can do it!

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