CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- We've all been there. Someone makes a random comment, and it drives you right up the wall. Why do these things have such power over us?
Whenever something impacts us in such a deep way, it's usually because we have that same belief or fear on some level. When it's verbalized, it gets on our very last nerve.
This reminds me of the story about a couple who had invited friends for dinner. During the meal, a guest asked, "Where did you get the meat?" The husband answered, "Joe's Deli," while the wife inquired, "Why, what's wrong with it?"
While the guest may have wanted to compliment the hosts, or try out the deli himself, the hostess became instantly defensive. Why? Because, on some level, she felt insecure about the meal or needed external validation that it was OK. To her, the question appeared threatening. To her husband, it was a neutral question that deserved a factual answer. It didn't push his buttons because he didn't have that internalized fear or doubt.
This point was driven home in a radio interview I heard this week with Kathy Freston, author of "The One" and "Quantum Wellness." Freston explained the theory that we've chosen to be in certain relationships for the lessons we need to learn. While I agree with this theory, her next comment really made me think. She said that it's the job of those with whom we're in close relationships to push our buttons.
Freston's explanation is that this is exactly what makes us grow. Hmm ... so that spouse, partner, girlfriend, boyfriend, co-worker, friend or family member is pushing our buttons for our own good? I've never looked at it that way.
It's all in how we handle the situation that determines the growth. We may be compliant for a while and sweep things under the rug. Or we may become aggressive. Neither of those approaches is particularly helpful. It's when we can step back and examine the situation, out of the heat of the moment, that growth can occur.
Behavioral changes happen first with our thoughts. So as we examine the lesson in the button pushing, we can make choices about how to react in the future. Or we can choose to be more proactive and confront the button pusher, who may or may not be aware that he or she has made such an impact.
Starting a dialogue and setting boundaries are the first steps. Our thoughts determine our actions, and our actions result in our circumstances. So it may take a while to develop and reinforce the new thought that will bring about behavioral changes that will result in a lessening of the button-pushing effect.
One of my favorite sayings is "When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change." That's certainly true in situations like this. Rather than blaming the messenger, we can choose to look at why the message had such an effect on us.
Of course, there are people who intentionally say hurtful things. That can be a result of their own insecurities. We all know those who need to put someone else down for them to feel good about themselves. My husband often says, "Consider the source." That's helped me defuse things more quickly, so I don't buy into a negative agenda that doesn't have a foundation.
My focus here revolves more around the random comments that strike such a strong chord rather than the deliberate ones. Before giving over too much power, you may want to step back from the situation and examine why it hit you so hard. Chances are you knowingly or unknowingly harbored a similar belief.