How to Guarantee an Explosion

Tattoos, retirement funds, texting while driving.  What do these things have in common?  My family knows not to bring them up at family gatherings unless we’re itching to be on the receiving end of the rant.

They’re pet topics of certain, beloved family members.  They can’t help but get fired up.  It’s a knee-jerk reaction–we all have them. But why?


Jordan and the gang from Messy Mondays have a knack for picking up on human ticks.  I’ll add one thing.

By identifying what ‘sets you off,’ you may be able to identify your greatest fears, and therefore be more objective about what makes you angry.

Business leaders Mark and Kristine Militello talked about how each person has a ‘fear button’–a fear that causes a knee-jerk, angry reaction when provoked. Kristine says her button is value. When she feels she is not valued, she reacts in anger. Mark reacts the same way to what he sees as a lack of respect.

They talked about how, once they discovered what their fear buttons were, they were able to step back, realize why they were angry, and that perhaps the person did not mean to make them feel unvalued or disrespected. Likewise, if the other was angry, they could address their need for value or respect, and diffuse the situation.

We all have these buttons. Mine is intelligence. If I feel patronized, or that my intelligence is being insulted, I get angry. You might not be able to tell–I am a non-demonstrative introvert–but inside, be assured I am fuming.

I have to realize that, for the most part, people don’t mean to insult my intelligence, and I need to not be so thin-skinned about it.

I bet if we were observant, we’d be able to detect the fear buttons of our best friends, spouses, kids and family, and save ourselves the trouble of many knee-jerk reactions.

What is the pet peeve that sets you off?  

2 thoughts on “How to Guarantee an Explosion

  1. If I get the feeling I’m being blamed for something, obviously unfairly in my opinion, let the knee-jerks fly. I get angry. I think you have a great point here about naming these things – once we become aware of what sends us over the deep end we can, as you say, step back and think a bit. Is it really worth going ballistic. Most of the time – no.

    1. Hm, well said. I wouldn’t so so well with the blaming either (especially if they insult my planning, reasoning, etc). getting angry doesn’t seem to help–just provoke a knee-jerk reaction in the other person!

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