Don’t Let Other People Push Your Buttons


People Push Buttons

“He who smiles rather than rages is always the stronger.” —Japanese proverb

You’ve heard the saying … “Don’t let other people push your buttons.” Today, I extended it to:

“Don’t let other people push your buttons, and push your own buttons well.”

I wanted a simple way to capture and express one of the big ideas from a book called, Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Invididuals Achieve Their True Potential, by Shirzad Chamine.  We’re reading it as part of our book club.

Turning Insight Into Action

I lead a book club at Microsoft, with a colleague, called Tribal Word.  There’s a story behind the name, but long story short, I was part of a group at Microsoft that was very effective at sharing tribal knowledge and raising each other’s skills in an exponential way.

The the goal of our book club is to turn insight into action — apply the world’s best books to work and life … in tough situations.

Within a few days of starting what I thought would be a handful of people, it’s a membership of a few hundred Softies (the friendly name for Microsoft peeps.)  We share our tips, tricks, stories, and examples from testing the books we read.  For example, in our first meeting, I shared how to read faster.  I thought what better way to help people in a book club, then give them an instant way to finish the books they start, and read more books faster.

For this session of our book club, I shared an “action-framework.”  I wanted a way to turn Positive Intelligence, into some simple actions and a simple framework, that I could practice daily:

  1. Observe and label your Judge.
  2. Observe and label your Saboteurs.
  3. Practice Positive Intelligence (PQ) reps at work.

Observe and Label Your Judge

First, I shared with our club, why observing and labeling our Judge is even worth it.  I said, “I want to be a better me,” and if the science says that the insights and actions from Positive Intelligence work, then I’m up for testing it.  Specifically, I want to hone the ability to rapidly shift from “fight, flight, or freeze” to “ready and relaxed” in stressful scenarios.

I also want to be able to access the power of Sage mode:

  1. Empathy
  2. Exploration
  3. Innovation
  4. Navigation
  5. Decisive Action

Imagine the ability to summon your strengths on demand to connect with empathy for yourself and others, or explore an idea with true curiosity, or tap your innovative mind, or navigate tough challenges with ease, or take decisive action.  All without the baggage or burden of unhelpful thoughts.

The issue I had though is the belief that the Judge serves me.  Shirzard, the author says, that our judge stays in power by warning you that “you would turn into a lazy, unambitious, complacent, or selfish being with it kicking your butt constantly.”

Labeling our Judge is a way to give our behaviors an identity.  Shirzad, calls his Judge, “the Executioner” and shares examples he’s heard, including, “Destroyer,” “Insatiable,” “Brutal,”SOB,” “Know-It-All”, and “Sourpuss.”  The key is to find a name for your Judge that you identify with.

The big deal here is that you can make it a game of recognizing your Judge in action.  Shirzad points out that there’s a big difference between, “I can’t make it,” and “My Judge says I can’t make it.”  Or “You made me look bat intentionally” and “My Judge says you made me look bad intentionally.”  Or “This is a terrible situation” and “My Judge says this is a terrible situation.”  Notice the difference?

Calling out the Judge takes its power away, and help you make better choices.

Observe and Label Your Saboteurs

This step is similar in spirit to observing and labeling your Judge.  In this case, Shirzad calls out nine Saboteurs:  Avoider, Hyper-Achiever, Controller, Hyper-Rational, Hyper-Vigilant, Pleaser, Restless, Stickler, and Victim.  Shirzard also shares some friendly names for some of these.  For example, you might call your Hyper-Rational “Robot”, or your Controller “Drill Sargent” or your Hyper-Achiever “Workaholic,” or your Victim “Martyr.”

I shared with our Tribal Word team that I especially like how Shirzad said that observing and labeling is an easy exercise … you can do it in the back of your mind, and it’s fast like stamping a passport.

As members of Tribal Word shared their insights, it was obvious how much shifting your focus, changes the things that you think about, how you respond, and how others respond to you.

A change in focus, changes everything.

Practice Positive Intelligence (PQ) Reps at Work

A Positive Intelligence (PQ) rep is simply practicing your Positive Intelligence in a specific way.  The way to do a PQ rep is to shift attention to your body and one of your five senses for at least 10 seconds, 100 times a day.

Why does this work?  It gets you out of your head, and it gets you activating more regions of your mind in a very simple way.  For example, you might feel your breathing, or focus on the feeling of one of your toes, or how your butt feels on your chair, or the scents in the room, or the breeze on your face.  The point is to practice “sensing.”  This will help you rapidly get out of “fight or flight” mode, and back to “ready and relaxed.”

Shirzard shares that Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, noticed that it took twenty-one days for patients to stop feeling phantom sensations in amputated limbs.  With more research, he found that it takes twenty-one days to create a new habit, and that this might be because it takes that long for new neural pathways to be built and the old ones to atrophy.

So to put Positive Intelligence into action, members of our Tribal Word book club are going to practice 100 PQ reps a day for 21 days … and then share our learnings and insights.

As we turn another page in our Summer months, practicing our PQ reps will be a great way start August off on the *right foot.*

Can you *feel it*?

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  1. I like your three actions much better than the Japanese proverb which seems to mean splitting yourself off fom your emotions. It might make you stronger (though I’m not convinced of this) I’m pretty sure it will make you sicker.

  2. @ Evan — Today, the action framework really came together.

    I was already practicing parts of the book, but this three-pronged approach is powerful.

  3. This is a fantastic article! I absolutely loved it. I’d like to know your ideas on reading faster. I am trying to come up with names now for my judge and my sabateurs! ha! Also, I found focusing my attention on a sense really pulls you into the moment. Thank you J.D. I think you are doing a fine job over here.


  4. Fun post JD. A friend has made the observation that others tend to pick up on the voice of our judge and saboteurs, and can even begin to agree with it, to reinforce it. My wife and I try to be very aware of this when we counsel or mentor people, being alert to recognize them. Often these scripts come from the deepest areas of our woundedness. A fun exercise is to recognize them, then to run in the opposite spirit.

  5. @ Julie — “… focusing my attention on a sense really pulls you into the moment”
    Beautiful way to put it.

    My favorite name of a Judge I heard so far is “Oscar the Grouch.”

    This article explains how to read faster, but the main ideas are:
    1. Build a mental model of the material
    2. Read to answer your questions
    3. Use sticky notes to capture and consolidate insights and actions

    The big bottlenecks to our personal reading speed tend to be self-imposed limits:
    – Eye speed – We tend to move our eyes way slower than we can
    – Mental speed – We go slower to improve comprehension, but slow is not the answer — it’s focus, and asking the right questions to ourselves.
    – Subvocalization – We tend to sound things out unecessarily, when reading to our selves.

    @ Aaron — Great insights.

    It’s true — our Judges and Sabateurs can set the tone and expectations for our interactions.

    One comment that a colleague made is that what we see in ourselves. When we recognize our own Judge or Sabateurs in others, we can show more compassion or empathy, to see past, and help them find their Sage.

  6. JD, any chance to join the club for MS alumni? 😉
    I like the idea of pausing and focusing on other body parts feelings. Trying it as I am typing this comment. Kind of meditation, eh?

  7. Hi JD .. what a great post .. I’ll be back as I’d like to look through the speed reading post .. and the fact of sensing – seems a great way of becoming more aware .. I’ll be doing that for sure .. cheers Hilary

  8. @ Hilary — Thank you. I think time and again our best skill in life is how we can push our own buttons, but not let others push them at will.

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