When I Grow Up I Want to Be an Old Woman …
In the words of George Carlin...

Mind Your Own Buttons


CBS Sunday Morning one week featured a sweet story about a magical little button shop in NYC, Tender Buttons. There are buttons upon buttons for every garment imaginable, with prices ranging from 50 cents to $2000. Some of them are works of art and many are vintage with a full back-story imbedded in between the buttonholes. Storeowner and button collector, Millicent Safro, is very proud of her museum-like button empire and watches over them protectively, preciously, until someone else falls in love with them and takes ownership of them. TenderButtons store

Oddly, it got me thinking about a discussion I recently had with a friend who was dealing with some boundary issues with a co-worker who really knew how to push her buttons. Out of that dialogue came the mantra: “Be in charge of your own buttons.”

When you push a button such as an elevator button, a website button, etc., it sets something in motion or switches it on. What do your buttons signify and what gets switched or set in motion when they are pushed?

Take a moment and learn from your own buttons. What happens when someone pushes them? What’s the back-story of your “buttons?”

Here are some tips on dealing with your buttons:

  • Name your buttons – anger, fear, rejection, insecurity.Recognize that the back-story of your own button is just that, back-story or history that has nothing to do with the present moment or the person you’ve designated as your button-pusher.
  • Have a mental dialogue with yourself: “oh, there’s that anger button.Clearly my reaction stems from something that happened last week, last year, last decade, last millennium, which has nothing to do with this person or this conversation.”
  • Then, disconnect the button – disengage from the negative association.

When someone thinks they know your buttons, and seem to purposely press them for their own purposes, understand that this has nothing to do with you but rather their own fears, insecurities, issues and anxieties; their own back-story. Their way of exerting control is to try and control you and your emotions which are intrinsically tethered to your buttons. This phase of the button-pushing scenario is about setting clear boundaries. That’s when you say to yourself, “one, two, three it’s not about me.”

The second agreement in Don Miguel Ruiz’s best-selling book, “The Four Agreements,” is “Don’t Take Anything Personally.” About this Ruiz says, “As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won’t need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you. When you understand this, and refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by the careless comments or actions of others.”

One way to deal with your button-pusher is to say to them from a position of neutrality and truth, “while I appreciate your need to say what you just said, it’s not the way to address this issue with me. What are you really trying to say?” You just took control of your button by disengaging it, while at the same time allowing, if you choose to, the button-pusher to get on to the issue at hand.

Setting clear boundaries and being in charge of your buttons will lead toward stronger leadership and effective results.


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