“Unlike an elevator, no one can push your buttons without your permission once you understand what triggers you. Self-knowledge is power.”
There are three key elements to this quote by Peg Streep:
- No one can push your buttons without your permission.
- Understand what triggers you.
- Self-knowledge is power.
Lets start with point #2 – Understand what triggers you. Trainers need to teach this concept, starting at the academy, to help officers reflect on and identify their triggers; the things people could say to them that would push their buttons and cause them to lose their temper. These might be comments about their race, weight, sexual preference, their mother or any other topic that will result in pissing them off. Everyone knows how to push other people’s buttons. You learn this growing up pushing your siblings buttons or having people at school or work push your buttons. It is important that people are honest when they do this self-reflection and avoid the bravado of, “There is nothing anyone could say to push my buttons and piss me off.”
Once they identify their personal ‘buttons’ it is important to for them to understand that on the street when someone says those things to them to remind him or herself that “It is not about me.” It is not personal, even though it might feel very personal in that moment. It is a strategy and tactic designed to piss off the police and influence the outcome of the contact. What is actually happening is that the subject is trying to find the officer’s buttons knowing that once they do they can use them to piss him or her off. As soon as they piss the officer off they own them, and they can get the officer to say or do things they will regret afterward. Those things they say and do impact their professionalism, integrity and credibility with anyone who is watching and listening, either in person or on the viral video. When they understand that it is not about them, it makes it easier to let those comments slide off thereby denying that person the permission to push their buttons and take emotional control of the interaction.
In an ideal world recruits would give academy trainers a list of their personal buttons and written permission to use them in scenarios as part of the stress inoculation training process. This would be coupled with imagery and the application of breathing techniques and self talk to control their response to these verbal attacks. We do not live in an ideal world so trainers need to be sure to teach the imagery, breathing and self talk components.
This self-knowledge gives officers the power in these confrontations. The power to remain professional. The power to remain in control. And the power to maintain their integrity and self-discipline.
Help your people identify their buttons and develop strategies such as breath control and self-talk to keep them from being pushed. You may just save their career by doing so.
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