11 Button Pushing Tactics And How To Stay Calm (2024)

You’re about to learn the most common button pushing tactics, and how to react when a person tries to ‘trigger’ you.

With this information, you’ll be far better prepared to stop losing your temper when other people try to get under your skin.

In my role as a certified life coach, I am often tasked with helping clients overcome such problems – and that’s why I’m so excited to share this post with you. I hope you learn a lot!

So, take a deep breath and let’s dive into my button pushing guide.  

Button Pushing
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What Does It Mean When Someone Pushes Your Buttons? 

We all have things that make us lose our temper far quicker than should be normal.

This typically happens when a certain situation or behaviour triggers memories of previous traumas. 

When a person is pushing our buttons, it’s as if they’re pressing the exact code to unlock this trauma inside us. 

You may think about a loved one deliberately annoying you, whenever you hear about “button pushing”. After all, it’s those who have known us longest that are best-equipped to trigger us.

However, it’s entirely possible that a stranger can accidentally push our buttons. The media often aims to push our buttons, also. 

Either way, it’s important to remember the following rule about button pushing: 

The rage that arises from having our buttons pushed is rarely about what’s happening in the present moment. More likely, it’s about the past trauma brought to the surface. 

Remember this and it’ll be easier to stay calm when having your buttons pushed.  

11 Common Button Pushing Tactics

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When our buttons are pushed, the rage can take over so quickly that we have no time to logically address the situation. It’s as if our ‘pain body’ takes over.

However, if we can recognise when people are trying to push our buttons, it becomes easier to react in a calm and sensible way. 

With that in mind, here are 11 of the most common button pushing strategies that people deploy to try and enrage us.

1. Pushing on your fears

A wife threatening to leave her husband and take the kids. A mum warning her daughter she’ll end up alone if she doesn’t learn to act a certain way. A news story exaggerating the danger of a specific situation.

It has been proven that news stories sparking fear and outrage attract the most attention. That’s why news companies always tend to lead with these types of button pushing stories.  

2. Pushing on a sense of injustice

A person may engage in this form of button pushing to spark up support for their cause. It happens all the time in political contests. 

  • The pro-Brexit campaign focused on British jobs and British money being stolen.  
  • Many feminist campaigners tend to focus on the historic oppression of women
  • Kanye West famously said: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”. 

These are just three examples of this type of button pushing being executed on a national level. 

3. Pushing on your insecurities

You’ll see this type of button pushing executed by bullies, or as a petty way of getting one over an opponent in an argument. 

  • “Why do you treat people like that? Is it because you’ve got a small penis?” 
  • “Maybe that’s why you can’t get any dates.”
  • “Maybe that’s why your sister makes more money than you”. 

4. Disrespecting your core beliefs

A lot of people base their whole life around certain beliefs. Deeply religious people. Political campaigners. Sports and film fanatics. Flat-earthers.  

So, perhaps it makes sense that someone’s buttons would be pushed when these beliefs are challenged. 

5. Not being taken seriously 

If a man or woman has a history of never being taken seriously, they can easily be triggered when a friend ignores, teases or makes fun of them.  

6. Stealing attention

Stealing the thunder of an attention-seeker could often trigger a nasty response. 

7. Disrespecting physical boundaries 

When a man or woman is looking to goad someone into physical violence, they’ll often move into their personal space. Maybe they’ll poke them in the chest or ruffle their hair. This form of button pushing often triggers a physical response. 

However, it’s also possible to be triggered by this type of button pushing in a non-confrontational setting. Those who were physically abused in the past might be particularly susceptible to this. 

8. Dishonesty 

If you’ve been hurt by dishonesy in the past, you might be particularly susceptible to being triggered by even the smallest, most innocent lies.   

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9. Helplessness

A lot of people affected by trauma develop a need to be in control at all times. 

If these individuals are put into a situation of vulnerability or helplessness, an anxious or angry response could often be triggered. 

10. Self-harm

When a loved one hurts themself and blames the other person. This is an extreme method of button pushing, but one that can really get under people’s skin.

11. Taking away crutches

A lot of people are reliant on certain vices to take the edge off at the end of a hard day. Take that away from them even briefly, and you can often expect a triggered response. 

What Do You Do When Someone Pushes Your Buttons?

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It’s commonly suggested by psychologists that if you’re experiencing levels of anxiety or rage above a 5 out of 10, you’re probably being triggered.

That is to say, you’re probably responding to something from your past, rather than what is actually happening. 

The first (and best) thing you can do to prevent this is to learn what your traumas are, and what tends to trigger them. This self-understanding is crucial. 

When was the last time you were triggered? What can you learn from that? What was the real cause? Once you understand this, you’ll be better prepared to not let it affect you again. 

Now, next time your buttons are pushed and you begin to feel triggered, you may react differently. Hopefully you’ll recognize that your emotions are about to bubble over, not just because of what this person is doing, but because of how it relates to your personal experiences from the past. 

As such, there’s no probably no reason to take it out on them. 

There are plenty of other exercises to slow down the process of rage encompassing your body, as your buttons are being pushed.

These self-control methods include:   

  • Verbalising how you feel and why. “I am frustrated, because it feels like X, Y, Z”.
  • Make affirmations. Tell yourself “I need to relax”.
  • Take a deep breath, or several.
  • Counting to 10, or 100 if you’re really upset. 
  • Take a few moments away from the person pushing your buttons. 

What To Do If You Feel A Loved One Is Purposely Pushing Your Buttons

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It’s a common strategy to deliberately push someone’s buttons in an argument, so they get upset. It’s often done when a person is losing an argument as a deflection tactic.

Let’s say a married couple is arguing about how the husband is always late home from his  company drinks on Fridays.

A (bad) husband may become defensive, and decide to engage in button pushing to distract from the fact that he screwed up.  

  • “If you keep nagging like that, you’re going to end up alone with your cats” (pushing on her fears).
  • “What’s the problem? You’re worried I’ll find a skinnier woman?” (pushing on her insecurities)
  • “Aw, you’re so cute when you get angry” (not taking her seriously).

Of course, this is no way to react to criticism. Perhaps you think she’d have every right to lose her temper after a personal attack like this.

Even so, in this scenario, it’s best for the wife to calmly address what the husband is doing. 

“You know that I feel really upset when you comment on this. I don’t understand why you mention it, when we’re talking about you being late.”

It’s asking a lot of the average couple to be able to do this. In many cases, it may need a marriage counsellor or therapist to act as a mediator for such conversations. 

Any More Questions About Button Pushing?

I hope you enjoyed my post about button pushing – and that you were able to learn a lot.  

If you have any questions about becoming triggered or anything else regarding button pushing, feel free to leave a comment below.

It’s always great when people react to my posts – and it really would be amazing to hear what you have to say.

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About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.