Know your triggers

Jan 16, 2022

Mark C. Zweig

Use these tactics to respond to the things that trigger you emotionally and contribute to you losing your temper.

Most people – not all, certainly, but most – have “triggers.” Those are the things that can really upset them quickly if they occur.

Many of these triggers are related to things certain other people may say or do – particularly in the workplace. And if you are a manager, you have to be very aware (and wary!) of these things.

One of the worst sins you can commit is losing your cool. You never want to do that. It is an instant way to generate fear, uncertainty, and lose the respect of your people.

I can reflect back on my career and identify many of those triggers. And I didn’t always respond the way I should have. Maybe if I had been more cognizant of how my reaction to those things affected other people I would have been a better manager.

Being an effective manager is an art. And it is also a learned skill. I’m not going to belabor all of the differences in management and leadership – it’s not the point of this treatise. I will say, however, that being an effective leader certainly helps you do a better job as a manager. And losing your temper isn’t going to help you be effective as either one.

So what can you do if there are certain people – or things that people you work with do – that trigger you emotionally and contribute to you losing your cool? Here are some tactics that can help:

  1. Know and acknowledge whatever it is that leads you to have an emotional response. Make out a complete list. Keep it private. Add to it over time. The notes app on your phone is the perfect place to keep this list.
  2. Rehearse in your mind how you will ideally want to respond in these situations before you are actually in them. How can you keep from blowing up? What would be the best response you (or anyone) could give if you were in that situation? Practice responding in that way. You may want to do this several times a day until your response is automatic.
  3. Avoid these situations if at all possible. That may sound silly, or make you feel like you are copping out for wanting to avoid a blowup, but it is neither. It’s just smart. Tax avoidance is smart. So could be avoiding people and situations that could trigger you.
  4. If you find yourself in a triggering situation, consciously slow down. Don’t respond instantly even if you want to. Step away physically and gather your thoughts if at all possible. And if you can’t do that, count to 10 or 20, and shift your mind out of gear for a moment so you can reflect back on your prior thinking of how you ideally wanted to respond should you be in that situation.

None of this may seem at all profound. But it IS important, nevertheless. And although I didn’t know these things 30, 20, or even 10 years ago myself, I sure wish I had. If I can keep just one of our readers from blowing up (and blowing it!) in response to one of their triggers, I will feel like I did my job.

Happy new year to all of our readers! 

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at mzweig@zweiggroup.com.

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.