The Art of Strengths Coaching

T is for Tools For Managing Triggers  

Different people have different triggers that can lead to them behaving in ways that cause difficulties. Sometimes they may manage such situations successfully. Sometimes they may fall into a downward spiral.

A recovering alcoholic may find it difficult to pass a crowded pub on a warm summer night. A person who frequently gets angry can be overcome by the rising red mist.

A footballer can make a mistake and punish themselves with negative self-talk. A normally positive person can fall into depression when hearing distressing news on the radio.

A drug user may respond to feeling anxious by searching for a quick fix. A couple may get into domestic arguments when one of them says something that hurts their partner.

Looking at your own life, are there any triggers that may produce difficulties? These may lead to you showing anger, getting depressed or behaving in ways you don’t like.

If so, what are the specific triggers? What can happen as a result of not managing them successfully? What are the effects – both for you and other people?

Later we will look at how you can avoid such triggers. We will also explore how you can manage them successfully if, despite everything, the triggers still occur. Before then, however, it can be useful to recognise what can spark such difficulties.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific trigger that can sometimes lead to you behaving in ways that can cause difficulties for yourself or other people. 

Describe the specific things you sometimes to do respond to this trigger by behaving in ways that can cause difficulties. 

Describe the specific things that can happen as a result of you behaving in these ways.

Imagine that at some point in your life you may want to manage trigger moments successfully. The following sections provide a framework and tools that you can apply in your own way.

You can recognise the triggers and avoid
putting yourself into those situations

Different people have different triggers. A gambler may feel bored and click onto a betting site. A footballer may rush to confront a referee after a poor decision. A sensitive person may feel a panic attack coming on in a certain situation.

Looking at my own life, for example, there is one trigger that I needed to manage successfully. Here is some background.

Over the past fifty years I have run hundreds of workshops and seminars. These sessions have often focused on how people can build on their strengths, build super teams and achieve ongoing success. The participants have virtually always been motivated and taken the practical tools they can use to achieve their goals.

On some occasions, however, I have chosen to get upset with a particular type of person who has behaved in a certain way during a session. Such individuals have given everybody else on the workshop the following message.

The organisation has sent me and said I have to attend. But I think it’s a total waste of time. 

This has happened around half a dozen times over the past fifty years and for me it has been like a red flag. On some occasions I chose to forcefully confront the person about their behaviour in front of the group.

Sometimes this was actually welcomed by the group. On other occasions, however, I could have handled it better. I could have talked with them privately during the break and given them a choice. They could choose either:

a) To be there and act in a professional way;

b) To stay away from the session.

This was the approach I adopted when asked to do a follow up course for one department in a company. Looking at the participant list, I saw that one of them was a person who had previously behaved in a disruptive way.

Bearing this in mind, I talked with the leader of the department. I explained that the session would work well if people encouraged each other and worked towards the goals. It may be at risk, however, if this person repeated their previous behaviour.

Looking ahead, it could therefore be helpful to make a clear contract with the person about their participation. If they wanted to attend, then it would be important for them to behave in a professional way and use their talents to make a good contribution. If not, then it would be best if they did not attend.

The leader recognised the person’s patterns. They met them ahead of the session and made clear contracts about their participation. The workshop went well and the person behaved in a way that did no harm.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a specific trigger that you might want to manage successfully? This could be in your personal or professional life.

You may want to manage a trigger that leads to you wanting to smoke, overeat or having too much to drink. You may want to manage one that leads to you getting angry, having a row with your partner, being depressed or behaving in another way you don’t like.

Looking ahead, how can you avoid putting yourself into situations where you may experience that trigger? How can you plan ahead and reduce the risk? How can you anticipate the potential warning signs? How can you mentally rehearse doing practical things to deal with the challenging situation?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific trigger that you want to manage successfully in the future. 

Describe the specific things you can do to – as far as possible – avoid putting yourself into situations where you may experience that trigger.

You can buy time to think if the
triggers do happen and consider the
possible options for going forwards 
 

Imagine that, despite all your efforts, you are suddenly confronted by a situation in which you are exposed to one of your triggers. There are many ways to manage such a situation. Here are some that you may wish to consider.

You can stay calm
and buy time to think

Different people do this in different ways. Some people do deep breathing. Some have a ritual they follow to relax, re-centre and refocus.

A tennis player, for example, may have a physical action that they follow after each point. They follow this routine to clear their minds and focus on the present. They then rehearse what they are going to do next.

Some individuals have a phrase they say to remind themselves about what is really important in life. Some make sure they don’t do anything rash by saying something like:

Stop. Walk away. Think.

You will, of course, have your own way of buying time. Assuming you have taken this step, it is then time to move on to the next stage.

You can consider the possible
options for going forwards

Good decisions makers take time to reflect and consider the possible options for going forwards. They then make their decision based on the outcomes they want to achieve.

Imagine, for example, that you are a recovering alcoholic and you are passing a crowded bar on a sunny Friday evening. You look at the people smiling, talking and seeming to be having a good time.

Looking at the clock, you see it is 6.00 pm. You have nobody to go home to – just a television set and the promise of an empty weekend. You know that if you enter the bar it may result in you staggering home at 2.00 in the morning.

On the other hand, you know it makes sense to stay sober and take care of your health. This is the only way you will continue to have access to your children and, in the long run, keep your job.

What do you do? One choice is to walk in, get your first drink and relax. Another choice is to call your friend at Alcoholics Anonymous. Another is to walk past, go home and make yourself a meal. It is then to do positive things over the weekend.

People make choices every minute. Each choice has consequences, both for themselves and other people. How to make a decision? One approach is to focus on the following themes.

Clarity

What are my goals in the short-term and long-term? What are the real results I want to achieve? Do I want to get positive outcomes or negative outcomes? What is my picture of success?

Choices And Consequences

What the possible options? What are the different routes I can follow when dealing with this situation? What are the consequences of each option? What is the attractiveness of each option on a scale 0-10? Are there any other potential options?

 

Concrete Results

Looking at the outcomes I want to achieve, what is the route I want to follow? How can I translate this into action?

What will be the pluses and minuses involved in taking this route? How can I build on the pluses and manage the minuses? On a scale 0-10, how committed am I to taking this route?  

How can I take the first steps and get a quick success? How can I encourage myself on the journey? How can I keep doing my best to achieve the picture of success? 

Let’s return to the potential trigger you may encounter. How can you buy time in the situation? How can you explore the options for going forwards? How can you consider the potential pluses and minuses of each option?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific trigger that you want to manage successfully in the future. 

Describe the specific things you can do to buy time to think and consider the possible ways forward.

You can manage the situation and then follow
the route that 
will give you positive outcomes

Imagine that you have bought time to consider the possible options for going forwards. You can then choose the route that is most likely to achieve your picture of success.

There are many models for managing such situations. One approach is to use the STOP model. This invites you to take the following steps.

Imagine that you have chosen your way forwards. You can then do something quickly to implement your action plan. It is can be helpful to get a quick success and build momentum.

The next stage will be to keep following good habits. How to make this happen? One approach is to take the following steps.

Ritual

You can have a ritual for reminding yourself of the route you want to follow. 

Routine

You can keep following a routine and do the right things in the right way. 

Results

You can do whatever is necessary to get the desired results.

This article has explored some of the tools people can use for managing trigger situations. You will, of course, have your own approach to taking these steps.

Let’s return to the potential trigger that you may encounter. How can you manage the situation? How can you pursue your chosen option? How can you do your best to achieve your picture of success?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific trigger that you want to manage successfully in the future.

Describe the specific things you can do to pursue your chosen way forwards and do your best to get the desired positive outcomes.

Share

    Leave a Reply

    You can use these HTML tags

    <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>