Defeat Button Pushers

How to defeat the Button pushers in your life

We have all been around someone who aggravates us, someone we want to punch in the nose – although we may not understand why. This person makes us angry. He is pushing our buttons. How do we get this person to stop? We figure out what bait he uses on his hook and we do not respond. We do not reward him. See? Easy, isn’t it? I can hear you saying, yeah, thanks, ― uhmm…. How do I do that?

WHEN IS SOMEONE PUSHING YOUR BUTTONS? Buttons are strong emotional reactions to personal vulnerabilities. (We all have them.) Begin by looking at your reaction to a person or situation. Clues are the following.

  • You feel frustrated by the person or situation.
  • You hear yourself making the same complaint over and over and over again. You get tired of hearing yourself complain to anyone who will listen.
  • You want to get as far away from that person as possible. “Why can’t the earth swallow him up,” you wonder?
  • You try to figure the person out. “What is this person’s reason for doing this to me?”
  • You plan endless strategies for dealing with this person or situation.
  • You structure time so you don’t have to deal with this person or situation.
  • You feel helpless and begin to wonder if anything will work.
  • You begin to feel paranoid. “This person is out to get me!”
  • You are shocked by the intensity of your reaction to this person or situation.
  • You work especially hard to win this person’s approval.
  • The situation is taking time and attention away from your life.

HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE YOUR BUTTONS? Think of current or past situations when someone was pushing your buttons and you knew it. Think about situations where you saw yourself pushing another person’s buttons and you knew it. Think about some of the areas where you are vulnerable and how you usually react to someone attacking your vulnerabilities. The next time someone pushes your buttons, even as you react, ask yourself what buttons, what vulnerability or fear was open to attack.

Example: “I got angry when he disagreed with me. I feel like people always find fault with me and show it by arguing with me. I don’t think anyone accepts me and I feel like I have to prove myself.”

A vulnerability is a fear. It is an area you don’t believe you can handle or control. Most often, a button is pushed in a subtle way. No one will obviously say, “I’m going to get you angry and frustrated. I want to control you by making you react to me. It gets me what I want.”

The only way to overcome a hot button, a vulnerability, is to recognize it. Then you can work to overcome it. If it is natural to your personality, this will be more difficult. The more at peace you are with yourself, the less you will react to others pushing your buttons.


Direct people are vulnerable to someone trying to take advantage of them. They are afraid of losing control of some area of their lives. They are afraid of someone taking away their power to choose something for themselves. If you are a Direct person, someone can push your buttons by insinuating that you are not doing a good job and your job will be taken away from you. A hot button occurs when they imply that you owe them some allegiance or that they need you and expect something from you, taking away your opportunity to choose. Any time you feel people are taking advantage of you, they are pushing a hot button.

They use your good nature or your desire to protect and care for others against you.

Once you recognize your vulnerabilities, you can compensate. Look at the situation logically and objectively. Realize that an instant reaction is normal for you. Remind yourself to take a deep breath and remember that you will not allow this person to control you.

Influential people are vulnerable to feeling rejected or having someone embarrass them. Anyone who demeans his personal ego is pushing the Influential person’s buttons. If you are an Influential person, you like a win-win situation. Someone who whines or implies that you could do better for them will push your buttons; especially if you have done everything possible and they are still not happy. Remember that you cannot please everyone. The people in your life that are important to you love and respect you. Stay away from toxic people and think positive thoughts. See Develop a Support Group, page 46.

Steady people are vulnerable to someone removing their sense of security. If you are a Steady person you want consistency and stability. Anyone who creates instability or changes in your life is pushing your buttons. If someone creates a mess in your area, they are pushing your buttons. They will frustrate and exhaust you. Take your time. Think out what you will do and whom you ask for help. Stop and create a plan of action. Don’t let fear slow you down.

Cautious people need continuity and rules they can rely on. If you are a Cautious person and you observe a person consistently ignore established rules, an employee manual, for example, and getting away with it, you might feel confused, frustrated, and angry. This behavior is pushing your buttons. This situation is not directed at you. However, your sense of justice is disturbed and you begin to wonder what rules you should follow and how to make this person pay. Discuss the rules with this person or someone higher. Find out the unspoken rules and when they apply. Don’t whine. Speak in a positive way. You want to know for your own personal future information which rules you can ignore. Are they important or does something else supersede them?  Set aside your need for justice and revenge for a while. Create a rule to stop thinking negative thoughts about this person, and in time, the need for revenge will lessen.

“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”

― –Robert Frost

As you can see, a person may push your buttons by accident, a natural personality clash. The person may intentionally push your buttons to make you react, thereby exerting some degree of control over you. Some people push your buttons because they don’t recognize your right to exist and care nothing about you. Their life is centered on them, and others are not important.

STOP REWARDING BUTTON PUSHERS. This is simple, but not easy. Begin by realizing that this person has an instinct to push your buttons because you have reacted before and he learned what upsets you. This person will probably push anyone’s buttons every time he can. It’s not personal. A person may intentionally throw out a hook with bait on it. The bait is whatever you might naturally respond to. Now he has you hooked. Once you recognize what this person is doing and the bait he is throwing out, the realization tends to defuse your reactions. You see the bait for what it is.

Sometimes the button pusher is functioning this way because of his own personal needs and you are experiencing merely a clash in personalities, not a planned attack on you personally.

Identify the particular buttons being pushed by this person. Recognize and accept that you are vulnerable in this area. Decide to do something about it. When this person throws out a hook, whether intentional or not, do not grab it. Let it go by. Choose not to respond to it. Inside, you may be experiencing an erupting volcano of emotion, but do not let it surface.

You may need to say something to this person. Weigh your words carefully. Show him that he is taking away your ability to choose and that you are taking your choices back. If he is implying that he wants something from you, either ignore it or say that you will not be giving him what he wants.

Example: “It appears that you are under a lot of stress. Let me know when you’re willing to speak civilly to me and we can continue the discussion then. In the meantime, I’ll be in the other room/at my desk.”

Then work on your vulnerabilities. Strengthen these areas so you are meeting your needs in ways that do not include this person. Look at yourself and recognize that you may be different from what your buttons imply. See Discover Who You Are, page 44. You may be much stronger than you believe and have more ability than you realize in how you react, or if you react.


  • What buttons are you most susceptible to?
  • How do you reward others when they push your buttons?
  • What are you going to do about it? What will you say or do?
  • When?

©B. Eddy

[box type=”bio”] Betty Eddy is a published author and member of the Netiv community. Her work as a life coach has given her unique insight into self help. In her book “Untying the Knots of Life” she deals with concepts which guides the reader though self discovery. [/box]

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