Three Things To Do When Someone Pushes Your Buttons.

Think of the last time you felt insulted when someone said you were so (fill in the blank!)

In my case it was bossy.

For purposes of this article, I am not going to go down the road of why you rarely hear a man is bossy but you can be sure someone says a woman is bossy.

What I do want to discuss first, is our ability to look inside and discover how our strongest traits can be seen as both positive and negative by ourselves and by others.

A great exercise to try when someone has pushed your buttons, and you begin questioning, “Is it them or is it me?” is to list your character traits in a column. One column is positive, and one is negative. These are your perceptions. As you develop this list, you will recall times when others have labeled you in some way. If you feel that label is true, by all means, add it to your list.

We are usually pretty good at coming up with our negatives. My negative list was at least double what I thought my positives were.

The trick is then to take a look at those negatives and put them into context.

Here is a link to get you started.


Our self-esteem is a huge magnifying glass when we decide if we have been insulted or if we should be proud of our label.

Picture the word you were called.

Remember, there are two people in this communication. One saying the “word” and one receiving the “word.”

During this communication, when you were called a name, something happened to cause person one to make an assessment, and they are expressing their thoughts on the matter.

To say someone is bossy, one has to feel bossed.

In feeling bossed, there are so many things that go on inside a person that may have nothing to do with you at all.

Lesson One

Sometimes it isn’t about you.

Let’s say person one was triggered by the manner in which I said something because of their past. A trigger comes from being reminded of something bad, full of pain, or hurtful in one’s past. This reminder brings forth an association or even a memory held in the brain.

You probably do not know this is even going on as they process your statement.

Our actions, our words, our facial expressions, the way we position ourselves, and our tone are all taken into account by the receiver. If this interaction was done via an e-mail or text and we aren’t even present — the situation may have brought up something that person is imagining based on their past experiences — and then they react.

I have a boss whose face screws up, and their upper lip wrinkles and they put a scowl on every time they react to what seems like a surprise to them. I have a choice.

I could say what I am thinking. “You look just like my mother when she was mad at me.” Then I could be triggered. Or I could hold that thought and wonder what is being triggered in my boss. Why is she feeling vulnerable? Why didn’t she take the time to read through my report before jumping to conclusions? What kind of pressure is she under?

Lesson Two

You are also that person on a day to day basis.You are reacting to others.

Think of a time when you reacted, and the person was surprised, combative or hurt by your reaction.

Clue number one is a surprised reaction. Clue number two is a defensive reaction. Clue number three could be silence, brooding or simply walking away. These reactions signify a mismatch in messaging or a triggering event between one or both parties.

Lesson Three

Sometimes I am “bossy,” because my definition of being the boss is a positive one.

Sometimes I am the best person to provide leadership and direction. That is what the person who is being looked to for direction does. Great leaders demand and inspire employees to work hard. Parents demand and inspire their children to grow. Leaders have a certain skill set to grow an organization and set them on the path to accomplishing their goals.

Moms and Dads want to raise children to be self-sufficient, to interact with others positively, to become critical thinkers, to find their niche in life, and contribute to society in a meaningful way, and to be kind and compassionate toward others.

Being the boss or being bossy sometimes requires reminders of the family rules, the insistence of communal chores being done, and lessons on how to care for each other.

Being the boss or being bossy requires the insistence that timelines are met, that teams work together, that help is asked for, that problems find solutions.

Knowing which side of the scale you are deploying your trait, is key.

Bossy has a connotation of being rude and dictatorial. If I am acting that way, then yes, I should be made aware, and see if I have any triggering events in myself, and then resolve them.

BUT, If you are perceiving me being bossy, then you should check for your triggers first.

When problems arise between two people, a friend once told me to ask, “What was my part in this?”

I am a firm believer that if we could be successful in doing this at a micro level, we would be successful in doing it at a macro level.

Have you noticed our character traits seem to change depending on (1)our belief in our self, (2) others beliefs about us and (3) circumstance? In every circumstance, it is the same scenario.

What is important to note is you are in charge.

If we have a healthy self-esteem, then we should not get knocked off our solid, healthy, position when someone is unhappy with us. If we have been acting with authenticity, if we have been acting from a place of good will, then we can assume the issue is with the other and something that has been triggered.

From that place of strength, we can help them if they are willing.

Instead of reacting to their reaction, we can come from a place of understanding and compassion. We can give them the space to process. We can soften our tone and reach out.

What we should not do is change who we are for someone else. If we want to change for ourselves, that is one thing, but to change to make another happy, that is asking for trouble. I have been a chameleon for much of my life and have realized it does not serve the greater good when I am not authentic.

We need to keep pursuing any path that makes this world better. Sometimes it is only the boss that can see the big picture and ask others to do what they need to do.

Encouragement is always best, but sometimes due to safety or timing, a command must be made. If we have set an example after example to gain confidence in our right intention with our family, and with our team and with our readers, then being a boss is being a leader.

What I want you to get from this article is that some of our characteristics aren’t bad. Sometimes you have to be the boss to get the actions needed. Sometimes being bossy is getting the best from everyone.

Look at your list of character traits. Notice which ones can be both a nuisance and can be the perfect thing to do.

Imagine a sporting event when the cheerleaders aren’t rowdy. Imagine a kindergarten teacher that is not soft-hearted. Imagine a start-up that lacks arrogance that they can invent the next new thing. Imagine the fashion world without someone daring to be trendy. Imagine a pediatrician that can’t be childish. Imagine a comedian that was told never to be silly. Imagine a chemist that wasn’t cautious. Imagine a critic that wasn’t difficult.

There are times and places for using most character traits. We can’t let others dictate to us our names and their meanings when we come from a place of knowing and goodness. We need to stay centered when that happens.

But we also need to look inside and see when we are being triggered. That is our responsibility to fix.

I challenge you the next time you react to someone, to look beyond the statement.

  1. See if you had any part in their reaction. If so, fix it.
  2. Look at your intent and delivery. Were you full of integrity? Were you honest?
  3. See what part of you feels vulnerable and wants to lash out or shrink back. Investigate those instances.

In Brené Brown’s, Rising Strong, she shares a mighty tool that can help when we are feeling hurt, ignored, dismissed or attacked. You can use this sentence within your mind to help you give permission to yourself and help understand another’s actions. It works wonders in person when using it with the one you have an established relationship with.

The tool is: “The story I am making up is…”

In my case, I could say, “The story I am making up is you felt as though I was telling you what to do, rather than stating what needed to be done. Because I want you to have autonomy in how you do things and I need this to be done by____, I am hoping we can talk about this reaction. I did not intend to tell you what to do: I wanted to remind you of what is expected of you.”

If I discovered I was indeed dictating, I could say, “The story I am making up is you felt I was telling you what to do.” We know that psychological resistance is present in every one of us. “I realize that is true and I am sorry. I am feeling frustrated, and a bit anxious and I don’t want to be caught off guard because the last two times I asked you to complete X and Y, it wasn’t done and this caused a whole bunch of problems for me. I am sorry I came across that way and will try to do better in the future. How can I be assured you will meet the deadline?”

My story has a lot to do with not wanting to appear foolish, not wanting to drop the ball, wanting to fulfill my promises, and wanting to be ahead of the game. My story has to do with knowing others have negatively labeled me as not pushing as they would have. My story is wondering if they were right or if it wouldn’t have made any difference or if it would have made things worse. My story has to do with knowing I didn’t start off in the best way and I am trying to make amends. My story is wanting to excel, being something I can be proud of, so my family will also be proud.

We each have a story and knowing that is half the battle.

The key for all of us is in knowing ourselves and not allowing others to push those buttons or catching ourselves when they do.

If this story brought a new level of awareness or a new tool to use, please consider clapping so that others can also benefit.

P.S. Want to have a chance at winning a Tesla? Enter here:



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store