Getting triggered is something that we don’t talk about much in the workplace.
But we should. Everybody gets triggered. Trigger behaviours can derail the leadership you’ve worked so hard to create.
We all have traumas – big and small – places where bits of us got stuck in the past.
Certain situations, external conditions, or other people’s behaviours and actions can trigger us.
When you’re triggered, you experience a sudden, large, unexpected wave of emotion. It knocks you off-center.
It can leave you seething or in tears, frozen in spot, or with the sudden urge to strike back or get the heck out of the situation.
Sometimes you just feel raw emotion and don’t know what’s triggered you.
It can feel like panic, fear, loss of control. Reeling and unable to be present.
There can be an added level of guilt for leaders. They fear they’re causing stress on others, rather than leading with calm and grace.
So, what to do? Start with understanding and normalizing it.
Getting triggered doesn’t mean you’re unbalanced or crazy. It’s a normal human experience. We often don’t know we have certain triggers until they show up. Usually at inopportune moments.
As we acknowledge them, we create a safe space to allow people to explore and heal them.
Leaders, for example, commonly struggle with criticism.
When triggered by criticism, you may find you attack yourself. Berating yourself that if you were a better (more conscious, evolved, fill-in-the-blank) leader, you wouldn’t be affected.
Instead, imagine responding with self-compassion and curiosity. Whatever’s triggering you likely happened in childhood. Now you have the chance to re-parent yourself by responding with kindness and understanding.
Then, curiosity. What triggered you? Why did you respond the way you did? Take the time to listen with compassion and without judgement. Again, with the kindness you’d extend to a child.
As you learn to listen to yourself with compassion, you’ll process the backlog of unprocessed stuff, and experience fewer triggers. And you’ll trust yourself to handle the ones that do show up.
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