I had a great conversation with a coaching client of mine this morning. What came up was something that comes up often. Now it can come up in interpersonal relationships most often. That’s the idea of getting triggered. When you get triggered, or you get stressed, or you get anxious, and oftentimes this happens with people that we’re most close to because they know our buttons, and we let them in a little bit more.
But when I talk about a trigger, what I’m talking about is that pattern that happens where somebody says something to you. They act in a way that you don’t like, or a way that triggers a response. You’ve lost control. It’s a knee-jerk reaction. Now we all do this. Right? I know I do this on a daily basis. It’s been my practice probably for the last five years or so of identifying my triggers, recognizing them, and being able to either stop them or get out right away. Now, this hasn’t come naturally, I mean it certainly didn’t come right away. This was a practice and a practice that I put in place about five years ago that took me several years in my relationship with my wife, and with my family, and with those closest to me, and my employees to really hone down.
Now it’s actually the knee-jerk reaction the other way. Immediately when it’s something that would trigger me, I’ve taught myself to recognize that and then get grounded. Actually what happens is nothing happens. Nothing happens to me except for me being more grounded and relaxing. That allows the other person to do the same thing. Whereas typically in a relationship, someone would say something, I’ll use my wife as an example, she might say something to me. How many of you can relate to this?
I would get triggered and say, “Well no, that’s not what it is.” Then she would get, “Oh well yeah”. It would escalate. She would get bigger, more aggressive. I would get even bigger. Nothing was physical or physical confrontation, but both of us felt the tension in our shoulders. She was coming at me with more masculine energy so to speak. I was, as a guy, and especially as someone who’s been playing competitive sports his whole life, you know if somebody comes to me in a competitive nature, it’s natural for me to kind of rise up to that challenge. I actually enjoy it. But in these cases I didn’t.
It would escalate and both of us had lost complete control. We didn’t have control anymore. At the end, oftentimes, we were so heated we would walk away. One of us would walk out or whatever. You know, “She was wrong.” She would be saying the same thing about me of course and we wouldn’t. We take a lot of pride and our love brought us back each and every time.
But how many times does this happen to you on a daily basis? Your day is going through and someone just says one little thing and maybe you take it out of context or maybe you don’t. Maybe they meant it and it just triggers you and ruins your whole day or gets you upset or reminds you of the past and you just come off on this knee-jerk reaction. We all do it. Right?
What’s one way that you can actually combat this? This is what I taught myself. Is simply to breathe. I recommend 10 breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. If I’m doing this in front of somebody, actually I’ll just breathe internally. I’ve gotten to another stage but this is the first stage is just the breath. I’m happy to have a conversation with you if want to know the rest of the stages of this progression. But this is what I was telling my client. He was in a situation where he was getting triggered regularly and the escalation and stacking of those triggers was happening and it was blowing up the relationships around him. One relationship in particular.
Then we talked about the idea of breathing and it clicked for him. He just totally knew that’s what he needed to do. But of course in the moment you’re triggered and how do you do this? I’m going to tell you what I told him. Now I don’t go to the gym in one day and you don’t either and just expect to lose 10 pounds or to gain 10 pounds of muscle in one workout. No, it’s practice. You do it over and over again until it becomes natural. Like riding a bike or any other skill that you’ve learned. If you’ve learned a foreign language, it takes repetition and practice and continual practice.
So one thing you can do right here right now, if you’re not driving, grab your smartphone if you have a smart phone, you can use other timers as well, and set a series of alarms. Now I recommend a minimum of five alarms throughout the day. During these five alarms, I want you to have a distinct ring-tone if that’s possible on your phone, one that reminds you to breathe. It could be a chime or something relaxing is what I like, but something that’s going to catch your attention. Then I want you to name that alarm if you have the ability to do that. You do on most Android and iPhone devices. Name that alarm, “just breathe”. What that’s going to get you in the habit of is breathing, and more conscious breath.
So next time that person, and let’s just say it’s a significant other or a staff member or an employee of yours, triggers you just remember to breathe. Take about 10 breaths. What’s going to happen, you’re going to notice is if you’re just breathing and they feel you kind of relaxing and listening to them, odds are, it doesn’t always happen, but odds are they’re going to calm down too. You’re now creating the space in the level playing field where they can get out what they want to. A lot of times they’re like, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to go off on you,” and they’ll start apologizing. It’s amazing.
Now you will be tested by these people. Right? They don’t know if this is the real you. Is this the real you that always used to get triggered and now all of a sudden isn’t, or is this a creation of something you’re just trying out? Now, of course, you are trying this out. But over repetition this becomes you. This becomes the new you, whether it’s family or anything else.
Now some people often ask me, “Well, Doug, what if he or she is wrong or what if they’re accusing me of something? What if they told me I did something wrong and I just didn’t do it?” That’s a common thing in relationships. Right? “They said I did X,Y, and I didn’t do any of that.” So what I would say to you is if I right now looked at you and said, “You’re purple,” you would be like, “What are you talking about? I’m not purple.” You would just either, probably chuckle and laugh it off and think I’m crazy.
Well the reason you get triggered, I’m going to invite you to think about this. The reason you get triggered is you believe what they’re saying is true. If you didn’t believe what they were saying is true, like being called purple, you know you’re not purple. Right? You just know it. Now I don’t know what ethnicity you are or what your skin color is but it’s probably not purple. So you just brush it off.
However, if I said something specifically about looking at myself and I said, “Oh you’re just way too white,” and I am. I lived by the beach almost my whole life and I just don’t tan. That could trigger me. In the past, it used to make me feel sad. “Oh man. I am too white.” But whatever it may be. It’s funny. It’s laughable for me now but as a young kid my friends would go to the beach, get tan, they were surfers. I would be this kid that always got burnt.
But these triggers can go deeper into emotional concepts. So things like, “You’re a jerk. I don’t like you,” whatever it is. If you internalize them and you believe what that person is saying about you, then you can get triggered. Now again, all you have to do if someone’s like hey they’re going at you like, “You’re a jerk. You’re always late. You’re doing this. You never do the dishes. You never take out the trash,” whatever it is for you, you take a deep breath and just know something’s occurring for them. It has nothing to do with you. It really doesn’t.
Something’s going on in their world. If you just take a breath it allows them to calm down and then most likely they’re going to go, “Look, I’m sorry.” You can ask them to have an intelligent conversation of like, “Is this really bothering you. Is this the real issue that we need to address?” That allows them to relax because you’re standing in what I call “your power”. You’re in your power center. You’re confident in yourself and loving yourself.
Now, this is only step one. Step one, but it is a deep step. It’s one that you want to practice. So set your alarms. Then I also invite you to grab your journal and grab your Five to Thrive and write out what your triggers are because the next step is identifying the triggers. You need to know what your triggers are in order to identify them and put this into a practice like a doctor has a practice. A doctor isn’t just an expert. They call it a practice because you’re always doing stuff. You’re always learning. This is the same for you when it comes to triggers.
Now I know this is a longer daily growth act but we do a deep, deep, dive in this in The Author of Your Own Story University just like I do a deep dive with my personal coaching clients that I work with one-on-one. So I invite you to go over to The Author of Your Own Story website and make sure you get on that waiting list for The Author of Your Own Story University, so when we open it up and we have additional slots, you have the opportunity to make a choice of going in rather than rushing and all these people that email me and contact me, “Can I get in? Can I get in?” The answer’s probably, “No”.
So unless you get on that waiting list, unless you sign up, we want to make sure those people that have already taken action are getting priority. Priority seating so to speak, and that you can have deeper dives and deeper conversations like this. That’s it for me today. Go out and inspire somebody by being the author of your own story. Inspire them by being in your power by just by breathing during confrontation. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.
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