Mastering Your Triggers

Last week we discussed how to identify your triggers – the things that tend to bring out the worst in you, not the best. Once you’ve identified what these are you can pause, take a minute to reflect, and change the negative behaviour that would typically emerge (raising your voice, pointing your finger, being more aggressive, talking over someone when you’re supposed to be listening), and turn it into a much more positive one.


Easy, right?

It sounds pretty straight forward, but I found myself in exactly that situation last weekend in a meeting with my colleagues.  What started out as an agenda item in one of our meetings, quickly morphed into a full blown argument with me raising my voice, interrupting my colleagues when I should have been listening, pointing my finger and generally being a bit of a bully.  We all felt miserable!  So what triggered that reaction and why couldn’t I control it?  Well, like everything else, it takes a bit of practice.  The heat of the moment is called that because things get heated.  If I look back with hindsight, I can identify a couple of triggers that set me off but wasn’t able to do that at the time.  Our behavior can spiral out of control pretty quickly so you need to have your senses on high alert to spot your triggers and take control before they do.  Maybe get one of your colleagues to give you a kick under the table initially to help!


Recognise, Pause, Take Action

So next time you spot one of your triggers, try to take a pause before your auto pilot kicks in.

That’s easier said than done.  No matter how hard we try, it can be difficult to stop the automatic reaction which often leads to unnecessary tension, frustration, arguing or worse.  However, if we can control our thoughts, we can control our behaviours.

Here are our top 5 steps to help you do that and enable you to turn a negative behaviour into a positive.  These are exercises you can practice (operative word being ‘practice’) to help us recognise what is happening:


  1. Visualise the difference. Take responsibility for your reactions. Don’t shy away from your own behaviour.  Own it.  Think how different your life would be if you were in control of your reactions.


  1. Look for the little things. Notice and feel the emotional reaction happening in your body.  Your body is an amazing tool and will immediately start to react – increased heart rate, raised blood pressure, sweaty palms, shaky hands, rapid breathing, tension in your muscles.  As soon as you start to feel any of these, take a moment and ask yourself why you are feeling like this.


  1. Identify the trigger. The sooner you recognise an emotion is triggered the sooner you can take action towards a more positive outcome.  This is a short list of some of the most common emotional triggers.  See if any of them ring true to you:  respect, needed, valued, understood, in control, attention, loved, included, listened to, fairness, lack of justice.   Think about  2 or 3 from this list that often trigger an emotional reaction when you do not get these needs met.  The unmet need can then become an emotional trigger.


  1. Choose your next move. Choose what you want to do and how you want to feel. This takes practice.  Learn to identify when an emotion is triggered and then make a conscious decision on what to say or do next, instead of shooting from the hip.  If your need is really not being met, can you let it go, is it really such a big deal, can you move on?


  1. Actively shift your emotional state. Practice these next few steps.  They will help you recognise your triggers and think through your responses.  When you have decided what you want to do next and how you would prefer things to go, flip into the emotion that will help you achieve the best results.


  • Relax – use your breath to relax and release any tension in your body
  • Clear your mind of the chitter chatter
  • Centre yourself – focus on the centre of your body using your breath
  • Affirmation – focus on 1 keyword representing how you want to feel at this present time. Breathe in this word and allow yourself to feel the shift/flip.

Building a better you!

Stop trying to suppress your emotions, instead choose to feel something different, something more positive.


‘You are powerful in that you consciously own and choose how you respond to people, situations, and circumstances. You aren’t blindly reacting anymore.  Life is full of triggers, know this. But, also know you have the choice and the power to respond to those triggers in ways that are healthy and achieve better outcomes. In this way, you transform your life for good’,

Kerry Campbell

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