How to Deal with Triggers as a Leader

Whether you were a class representative at your school or you were just appointed as a manager at your work,...

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  • control triggers as a leader

W hether you were a class representative at your school or you were just appointed as a manager at your work, there are always times when we must take on the role of a leader. Let us tell you how to deal with triggers as a leader so you can be the best leader you can be.

What are Triggers?

Before we can learn how to deal with triggers, we must first learn what it means to be triggered in the first place. The word trigger can have many meanings but in this context, trigger refers to any stimulus that affects our overt and covert behavior as well as our mood. 

We’re all humans so anger, grief, frustration, and fear are common feelings we experience when we are triggered. A tone of voice, a sort of person, a specific opinion, a single phrase, anything might be a trigger, depending on our beliefs, values, and prior life experiences. 

What’s important is not letting these triggers get the best of you when you're trying to manage situations. 

Why It’s Important to Control Your Triggers

We all have the option to either give in to our triggers and surrender to the countless physical and emotional health hazards that they bring or try to regulate and discipline ourselves. The mark of a good leader is when they can control their emotions to think critically and rationally under pressure, without projecting their past experiences onto a situation. 

The good news is that there are steps that you can take to ensure that these triggers don’t affect your performance as a leader.

Recognize Your Triggers

Everyone’s triggers are unique to their own experiences. You have to find out what your own triggers are by reflecting on their root causes, your emotions, and listening to your body. 

Be aware of your body’s reaction to the triggering situation like shallow breathing, and elevated heart rate, and you may feel as though your head will explode. 

After that, reflect on what emotions you feel i.e. anger, anxiety, sadness, or a mixture of all of them. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you identify emotional triggers: 

  1. Who was the individual that triggered me?
  2. What exactly did they say that caused an emotional reaction rather than a rational one?
  3. Has a situation like this happened before
  4. Is there a pattern?

Take a Breather

If you are overwhelmed by emotions, in that case, rather than pushing through those emotions and trying to forcefully get the work done, instead, try to take a ten-minute break to cool off. If you’re in the middle of a conversation with someone while you’re triggered, try to table that conversation.

You can say: “I’m sorry but can we pause this discussion for right now and continue it later?” or come up with an excuse like “I’m sorry, I have to take an important phone call” and leave the environment that is causing you emotional distress. 

Distract yourself by taking a timeout once you've disengaged. Before you re-engage with a problem, taking a step back might help you calm down. You may use this time to consider your current feelings and how to deal with them constructively. If you're stressed, think of ways to relax.

Make A Strategy

Once you've identified a person or scenario as a source of emotional triggers, devise a strategy for responding differently. For example, if coworkers are undermining your work, make regular contact with your team leader or boss to explain your involvement in the project or job. 

If you know that an employee frequently lies about the status of their project, instead of engaging in an argument, ask them to simply provide you with evidence that the assignment was finished. Send emails verifying your interactions if a person tends to dispute that he or she agreed to something.

Communication is Key

If you’ve tried everything on this list, but the problem persists, then the next step is talking about the problem with the person constructively. Try to tell them politely about what’s bothering you and what they can do to improve it. 

It takes time to learn how to deal with triggers as a leader. Triggers take us by surprise. We are less adept at regulating our responses when we are fatigued or worried. 

It can happen to even the most emotionally astute of us all. If you stay aware and practice often, you'll discover that you've created a strong trigger reaction and that these actions come naturally to you.