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  • background-1293455_1280I am someone who has buttons that are very easily pushed depending on the subject matter. It is evident when someone is getting a rise out of me, which is why certain people in my life seem to enjoy doing it. These people I like to call “instigators.” The Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines an instigator as, “a ​person who ​causes something to ​happen, ​especially something ​bad.”

    When I was going through my teenage years, my father was the instigator. He and I would bicker over just about everything during those years. I remember after my dad, and I’s disagreements my mother would say to me, “Abby you need to not rise to the bait, that is what he wants.” But, I never listened and to this day, I hear her voice in my head when someone touches a nerve – “Abby you need to NOT rise to the bait, that is what they want.”

    I know it is still easy to tell when someone is pushing my buttons by the look on my face – I still struggle to control and neutralize my facial reactions. However, I believe I have a better understanding of how to handle these situations when someone is pushing my buttons better than my teenage self.

    First, recognize your triggers. Be aware of the subject matters that you are most passionate about – you can tell which ones they are by your physical response when they are brought up. When someone brings up any topic on the subject of males vs. females and shows favoritism towards the male perspective, I feel my face heat up and my jaw-clench.

    The solution I use to calm my physical response to someone setting off my triggers is to focus on my breathing. I have found that this cools me down and allows me to think more clearly.

    Second, recognize the instigator. If you have ever got into a heated exchange with this person before over this topic, or they have seen you engage with someone else, they are likely goading you. Individuals who instigate others feel rewarded when they have successfully set you off. Just like my Mom said, “It’s what they want.”

    The solution I found the most success with is calling the person out in a non-aggressive manner. “Jack, I know you know this topic frustrates me, are you trying to push my buttons?” By pointing out what they are doing, removes their power. If they respond with “Yes,” then you can discuss why they enjoy pushing your buttons?

    Third, consider your weaknesses. Some topics like religion, politics, and money can get people so riled up, and instigators enjoy doing it. Will you be able to talk about a subject constructively? What is the point of getting your point across to the instigator? Is it to change their mind or is it to have a good discussion?

    The solution is to know when to switch topics or walk away. If a person continues to poke your buttons, make the decision to walk politely away. Or you can change the subject, “Jenny, I would prefer not to discuss this matter.  But I was wondering, how did you enjoy the movie the other night?”

    Don’t let yourself fall victim to the instigator!

    Have a Good Weekend,

    Abigail R.C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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  • media-998990_1920When I graduated high school in 2007, social media was just starting to take off. My sophomore year of high school I created a MySpace page, which was the only social media outlet I had, and I could only visit it from my computer at home. Facebook didn’t come out until the beginning of my senior year, and it didn’t catch on in my high school until a couple of months before graduation.  Twitter didn’t pick up speed until I was in college which was also when everyone started getting iPhones. Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist. It is crazy that I only graduated nine years ago from high school, and my experience is so much more different than kids today.

    When I was in school, and I got into a fight with a friend, we wouldn’t speak to each for the rest of the day. Perhaps we would call each other after school or get on AOL instant messenger and have a fight, but getting online and battling it out were still somewhat unfamiliar. Nowadays, you fight with a friend, and before you reach your next class, she could have already posted a status and tweeted about it.

    High school was not my most favorite years – which are a sentiment many people share. High school was tough then. However, I don’t believe it is anywhere close to how tough it is now.  Social media and smartphones have taken high school, bullying, and conflict to a whole new level.

    Students have access to social media all throughout the school day and posting or tweeting negative remarks can be done quickly and easily, right from the palm of their hand. If you are a student, how can you respond to these negative and many times destructive comments?

    1. Approach your friend and talk about the post face-to-face. An intimidating idea, but social media networks and the internet provide anyone a platform to say things they may not have the courage to say otherwise. Ask to speak to your friend privately, and explain how the post made you feel and ask what the reason was for posting it to the world. Lastly, discuss what could be done to resolve the issue.
    1. Ignore it. If you don’t act like the comment or the post bothers you then, they are not receiving the reaction which is most likely what they want. By ignoring them, you are not giving their harmful words power. 
    1. Kill them with kindness. My best friend, Maria is the nicest person you will ever meet, and she is kind to everyone. When another girl was acting nasty towards Maria rather than treating the girl in a mean way, Maria continued to be friendly. I asked Maria, “Why did you respond this way?” She said if you are nice to everyone regardless of what they say, then the person who makes negative comments or acts mean is the one that looks bad. Therefore, if someone comments or posts that the outfit you are wearing in a picture is hideous, you could respond with something neutral and friendly. For example: “I’m sorry you feel that way. I’ve always thought you had excellent taste in clothes perhaps you could give me some pointers?”
    1. Talk to someone. I stress this point because many students today think if they tell someone they will look like a tattle-tale. However, if negative or destructive comments persist it is imperative that you tell a trusted adult, especially if you feel threatened.
    1. Limit or close your accounts. I am not suggesting you do this permanently – but not allowing people to have access to you will limit their ability to hurt you.

    High school is just a small portion of your life – learning how to address negative and destructive posts and comments now, will prepare you for the real world later.

    Have a Great Week,

    Abigail R.C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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  • Group with Questions

    Gossip and rumors. We see it portrayed in cartoons, played out in comedy sitcoms such as Modern Family, and listen to tunes such as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by singer Marvin Gaye. We even have gossip columns such as TMZ all in the name of finding the latest scoop. For the most part, we have this need to know.

    Gossip takes many forms from amusing tidbits, exaggerated news, and misinterpreted information all of which gets passed quickly from person to person and in lighting speed through the social media networks.

    And then, you have the insidious and negative rumors that often imply a more sinister motive. For example: “Hey, did you hear about Bob? I can’t believe they are promoting him. Don’t they see he is not a people person? He is a horrible supervisor. Management just won’t listen to us.”

    When this kind of office gossip occurs in the workplace and gets out of hand, it can have a very destructive impact on employee morale, create a hostile work environment, and ultimately, damage a business’ reputation. Unfortunately, gossiping is a behavior that is here to stay. It is practically impossible to stop people from talking and sharing information.

    So, what motivates people to gossip, especially when the gossip can be destructive or hurtful to the individual, team or organization?

    Often, the unknown that comes as a result of change creates fear, anxiety and confusion. We feel the need to talk about the question “what’s going to happen to me?” to others as a way to deal with our anxieties and fears. Let’s take a look at what is happening all around the country – layoffs. For example, a company orchestrates a layoff. The employees know the layoff is coming, they even know the day and the time of the layoff. What they don’t know are the specifics mainly WHO. An employee overhears a manager talking about the details. Within two hours, some of the details spread throughout the company causing misunderstandings, panic, and unnecessary pain. The communication plan that was supposed to alleviate employee concerns and spare them unnecessary stress was defunct. Leadership had to shift from planning to crisis management in just a few hours.

    Employees choose to gossip as a way to seek support, to feel justified or heard and to protect what they feel is threatened. In the case of a layoff, they want to protect their jobs. People who have the need to gossip are fulfilling an underlying need to talk about their concerns with someone they feel safe with and can trust. On the other hand, the compulsive “office gossip” who has earned a reputation as someone not to trust is fulfilling a need to feel important and to feel included when in reality their very actions prevent them from getting what they truly need and at a cost to others.

    So, how can you distance yourself from the rumor mill? Don’t visit. It should be no surprise that it starts with you. If you want to stop the gossip grapevine from growing, you need to hold yourself accountable for your actions and stop engaging in gossip. How do you stop? The first key is to understand what motivates you to gossip about others or to listen to gossip. What do you gain by doing this? Answer this honestly.

    The second key is to go to the source of information to stop the grapevine from growing. If you hate the destructive nature of gossip, and you want to see it stopped, choose to address your concerns directly with the right person. In the case of a layoff, the best thing to do is talk with your manager or Human Resources. If you hear negative things are about you, consider going directly to the person who said them. It can be an especially scary thing to do if you don’t like confrontation.

    Here are some steps to address the person who is the source of gossip directly and productively.

    1. Don’t assume what you heard through the rumor mill is what was said or intended from the source.


    1. Reflect on what you heard that causes concern.  Why is it a concern? Once you identify this, you will be better equipped to voice your concerns.


    1. Ask the person who was the source of gossip for time to talk. Barging into someone’s office or cubicle without warning does not create a safe atmosphere to talk.


    1. Approach the person without attacking or blaming. Don’t start the conversation with “Stop spreading rumors about me that are not true.” Instead, you might say “I heard some things that upset me, and I need to talk with you about it.”


    1. Clearly communicate your concern using I-statements such as “I am concerned about losing my job based on what I heard. I need to get accurate information.” Or, “What I told you was in confidence, and now, people are misinterpreting the situation.”


    Patricia M. Porter

    Founder and Host

    The Texas Conflict Coach®


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