We all have our hot buttons that—when pushed—send us into an emotional tailspin of anger, frustration, or another less-than-positive state. Would it surprise you to know that those triggers are tied to your strengths? Here’s how:

Each strength brings a certain set of contributions that most of us are familiar with by now. What fewer realize is that each of our strengths also has particular needs that help them operate at their best, and when the need isn’t met we may be triggered emotionally.

For me, bullying is one of those triggers. I can feel my feet tingle with anger when someone is unkind to an animal, a child, or someone who is somehow in a less powerful position. For my husband, when someone throws trash out of a boat, or uses harsh detergents near a drain that goes into a nearby salmon stream, it makes his ears turn red.

In each example, we have been triggered by a need of one or more of our strengths. Connectedness is a signature strength for my partner; that is, it is in his top five most frequently used. One of the needs of connectedness is that each point of the connected network be honored and respected. When we gain a greater understanding of our strengths and the contribution, needs, and triggers associated with those strengths, we can learn how to manage ourselves more effectively. As we learn about those we live or work closely with, we are more aware of what is deeply meaningful and important to them, and we can honor that in the relationship.

As I grow in understanding of how our strengths automatically show up in all facets of our lives, I am learning that one of the greatest payoffs is in improving the relationship between me and me, and deepening the relationship with everyone I care about.

As we manage individuals and teams, recognizing that the relationship between a person’s trigger points and the underlying strengths it points to is useful information. We can navigate with greater clarity and intention, honoring our own needs and the needs of those we work with. This helps us build high performing individuals and teams who collaborate powerfully using their talents and strengths in a synergistic way.

The next time you or someone you know gets triggered, pause to ask what strength the trigger might be tied to. As we deepen our awareness and compassion through understanding, we help build a world that works for all of us, and judgement falls away.

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