Someone Has Been Pushing My Buttons!

Last week began a multi-week series discussing Larry Dressler’s book, “Standing in the Fire: Leading High Heat Meetings with Clarity, Calm, and Courage.” One of the author’s main points in this work is that since the we only can control ourselves, that is where we must begin- with self-awareness and self-control.

That sounds great, but if you have ever been in a high-heat meeting, you know this is easier said than done.  However, the author’s point is that the development of self-awareness and self-control does not come through learning a few quick tricks, but over time and with continued work.

Author Dressler suggests six ways to “Stand in the Fire” (e.g. ways to withstand heated meetings and conflicts):

  1. Stand With Self-Awareness.
  2. Stand In The Here And Now.
  3. Stand With An Open Mind.
  4. Know What You Stand For.
  5. Dance With Surprises.
  6. Stand With Compassion.

Over the next few weeks we will break down each of these strategies, starting this week with:


There are three components of standing with self awareness: understanding conscious thoughts, unconscious thoughts, and emotions and hot buttons.
Conscious thoughts: These are thought of which we are fully aware. Limiting beliefs such as, “He doesn’t really care about this project.” Or “If I don’t do it, no one else will step up to the plate.” These are limiting beliefs or “rules.” In your mind they represent the only picture of reality which leaves no room for anything else.

What to Do:  Name these thoughts. Pay attention to the thoughts running through your mind and make a conscious decision to make more conscious choices. For example: before you automatically volunteer for that project because you KNOW no one will put forth the same effort- give others the opportunity to do so.

Unconscious thoughts:  AKA “Shadow beliefs.” These are thing we keep from ourselves. For example, “I am not good enough,” or “This task scares me.”

What to Do: First take time to unearth these thoughts. This is difficult, particularly in the heat of a meeting. I personally find it easier to reflect on situations later and mine for what might have been unconsciously going on in my head.

Once you do uncover these thoughts- name them. Describe them to yourself. Then, you can begin considering how to make conscious effort to transform them.

Emotions and Hot Buttons: I have them, you have them, we all have them. I don’t care how your brain operates (thinking vs feeling; logic vs emotions), there are things that just PUSH OUR BUTTONS! Sometimes these can stem from childhood. The author uses the example of an employee who was bullied as a child and now lashes out immediately when backed into a corner on an issue.

What to Do: Face that no matter how enlightened you become, your hot buttons will likely continue to exist. However, being aware of them gives you control over them. If you know that Hot Button X causes you to react in a negative way, you can accept that and realize it is really not the person, or the situation, or likely even the conflict, but it is hot button X that is causing the emotional reaction.

Bottomline: Being self-aware takes time and is a continual process. However, it is only through self-awareness that we can exercise self-control.  Sometimes the person you are angry with may really have wronged you (even intentionally) in some way, but you will need to have the self-control to determine the way to handle it which will result in the best way for you.

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