17 Nov 2018 17:22 IST

Learn to identify what you’re sensitive about

It helps to recognise and acknowledge your weak spots, so that others cannot push your buttons

It is quite common to see a person get riled up and bothered when a particular topic is raised. This could be something personal or even a completely unrelated subject. An apt example is the kind of behaviour I noticed in a professional during a recent interaction. A series of discussions were being held to determine the core issue to be addressed as part of brainstorming sessions. This professional was quite objective, contributing in a meaningful manner, raising several valid points and sharing interesting ideas. However, he became very agitated when questioned about the basis of his observations or the logic of the ideas presented by him.

Very soon, it became obvious that some colleagues of his knew that this was a sensitive point, and started to derail the discussion simply by raising questions. During one such session, the professional lost his equanimity to such an extent that he stormed out of the room. As this was affecting the whole process, I decided to have a personal talk with him to try and sort out the matter. Instead of beating around the bush, I bluntly asked him the reason for his extremely emotional response to being questioned or challenged.

Recognising the problem

After some initial reluctance and vague answers, the discussion ended up being quite fruitful as the person had discovered an important aspect about his own behaviour. He realised that he had been subconsciously responded to reasonable questions as a personal challenge to his competence. Without getting into details, such a response was clearly something that had become conditioned in his psyche because of several earlier experiences.

Importantly, this kind of behaviour is not isolated. One can see people getting easily agitated by a particular thing and the sad reality is that others around him or her may recognise this but the individual is usually unaware.

Any such conditioning results in a subconscious, and often unintended, response which might affect a person’s professional image and standing. More importantly, this becomes a weak spot which can be exploited by others. Simply put, others can use it to push a person’s buttons!

Leveraging the buttons

Bosses, colleagues, clients and even personal contacts can get to know of such ‘buttons’ and might leverage the same. Another example may help illustrate this.

A hard-working and sincere professional would complete her assignments and tasks well in advance. Naturally, her boss started to feel that this person can be given more work to do, even if it was not strictly her responsibility. Interestingly, the boss discovered a simple method to get this person to stretch herself and end up doing extra work.

The boss would start off by attacking this person’s work ethics and say she is leaving things incomplete and not doing a good job. This was a strong enough button for her to instantly respond by taking on the new task and completing it. Apart from doing extra work, she was also constantly stressed. When this was explained to her, she became aware and stopped responding like before.

As a management student and also in your future career, you will come across several situations where your buttons are being pushed by others. This will invariably put you at a disadvantage as your response is not within your control. It would help enormously if you were to become conscious of such buttons and start practising restraint when they are pushed by others. It is better to do this now, in business school, where the stakes are relatively lower. Stop letting others push your buttons.