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Unpushing Our Buttons 36

Unpushing Our Buttons

OK, confession time.

I’m not perfect.

Whew! I’m glad I got that off my chest.

Seriously, I have a couple of buttons that when pushed, cause me to lose my objectivity. Well, let me rephrase that. There are scenarios where my reactions are out of proportion to the situation. I guess nobody is really pushing my buttons because the only “button” I have is a belly button and it would be pretty silly to think that someone was trying to push that.

Here are my overreaction scenarios. 1. When an injustice is being done. 2. When said injustice is being done to me.

OK, maybe that’s just one scenario. Nonetheless, I always seem to overreact when I feel that someone is treating me unfairly according to universal, time-honored standards of behavior. Let me give you an example.

At the airport a few days ago, two lines of passengers were passing through security and then merging into one x-ray machine line. After people in each line showed their identification, they would take turns placing their bags on the conveyor belt. You can probably guess where this is going.

When I got to the conveyor belt, I let a woman from the other line in front of me and then prepared to step up behind her. But before I could do that, the next woman in the other line placed her bags on the table at the end of the conveyor belt without even making eye contact with me.

My first and more generous thought was that she was simply resting her arms while she waited for her turn. Then I realized that she was going to cut in front of me.

My mind went into overdrive. I thought, I can’t believe this. She’s going to ignore the obvious sequencing pattern and cut in line. It’s not her turn. It’s MY turn. I mean, come on, we learned how to take turns way back in kindergarten. It’s not fair to cut in line. What crazy travel world does she live in where it’s OK to cut lines? Doesn’t she understand what “alternating” means? It means taking turns. And it’s not her turn. She better back up and step away from the table before I tell the TSA agent on her.

Did I mention that I tend to lose my objectivity in this particular type of scenario?

Well, before the offending woman could actually move forward, I stepped up and took my rightful place in line. She gave me a look as if I had just stepped on a kitten. Knowing that she thought I had done something wrong, I clarified my actions by saying, “I think we’re alternating.”

She said, “Well if you’re in that big of a hurry, then go right ahead.”

I said, “No, I’m not in a hurry. We’re alternating. In other words, we’re taking turns. See, I let that woman go before me and my wife will go behind you. We’re alternating. We’re taking alternations…uh, I mean, turns.”

She said, “No, it’s fine. Go ahead if you’re in such a hurry.”

At this point, let me emphasize that she clearly did not take responsibility for the fact that she was trying to cut in front of me. If there is anything that bothers me more than injustice, it’s people who fail to take responsibility for their injusticing. Plus, she was suggesting that I was the one who erred and that I was in such a hurry that I had cut in front of her. Are you kidding me? This is an injustice of the Nth degree (not sure what that means but I needed emphasis). I WAS NOT CUTTING IN LINE. I WAS ALTERNATING.

Pardon me for a minute while I take a Xanax.

I’m back—and It will probably come as no surprise to you that, in hindsight, I have a slightly different take on this unfortunate situation.

First, the woman in the airport line was in the wrong. She was not following the rules and clearly, I had the right to take my place in line exactly as I did.

But second, and this is more important, I did not have the right to engage in a verbal altercation with her in an attempt to force her to admit that she was wrong. That part of the equation was my issue, not hers. My goal went from taking my place in line to shaming her. And that approach may have been a worse offense than cutting in line (I strongly doubt it but I’m trying to win my integrity back here).

When I feel that someone has treated me wrongly or that someone believes something untrue about me, I want to correct them and make them repent. While I’d prefer that they admit their gross negligence and pledge to never disrespect me again, I’d be happy if they just took responsibility for their actions and offered an apology. But that’s just my neediness rearing it’s ugly head.

I can’t control anyone else’s behavior but I do have control over my reaction. The more mature, more evolved, and more compassionate reaction is to treat people with respect and dignity at all times. And when I do that, the result is almost always good.

In hindsight, when I saw the woman putting her bags on the table, I should have simply said, “Please, go ahead.”

Would that be adhering to the alternating rules? No. Could that suggest that others could cut in front of me too? Sure. Does it make me wait longer in line? Perhaps for a minute or two.

But, a kind and respectful approach would have created a positive vibe that is really needed in the world today. There are too many people who are looking for a fight—on social media, in customer service situations, and in airport security lines. I suspect this comes from stress, inner turmoil, or just a need to feel superior. But the fights just make things worse.

Believe me, I’m not perfect. I wig out when I should stay calm. That’s why I’m sharing this insight with you. If I process my own experiences here, and show you where I stumbled, perhaps it will help you see opportunities to change your own approach. Most importantly, however, it makes me accountable for my behavior.

So, the next time someone cuts in front of me in the airport line, I will try to change my reaction and look for the more dignified response. I’ll nod, let them go ahead, and then trip them as they pass by me.

OK, I still have some work to do.


  • Wendy says:

    OMG I so needed this inspiration today. I’ve had all my buttons pushed for the past 24 hours and was just at the end of my rope. Thank you for not letting my hang myself, and instead, adding more slack to my rope. Wonderful perspective!

  • Rentlady says:

    I saw you at a convention in Columbia SC. I bought your book and I look so forward to receiving your emails. You are great! I am a Regional Manager for a portfolio in 3 states. I tell my managers and my daughter all the time that you can kill somebody with kindness. When I get a call from an upset resident, I just listen….then I “Bless their heart”. Thanks for keeping it fun!

  • CF says:

    This email came at the perfect time.
    Thank you for helping keep the perspective clear.
    Even the last part about the tripping made me laugh out loud!
    Keep strong and safe travels!

  • Ryan Miller says:

    Thanks, Ron. In scenarios like the one you describe, my innate reaction is to want to say something or at least shoot a dirty look (to let them know that I know that they know they are wrong). I’ve tried to get better at doing a quick self ask of “Is what I’m about to do or say going to make the situation better or worse?”

  • Martha W Suss says:

    I love this. Especially your ending. It’s just hard out here and we just have to do our best NOT to Wig out…which is what my son used to love to see me do and now he just reminisces…since he no longer lives with me and therefore doesn’t get to push my buttons as often. He now works in a restaurant in Baltimore and loves to tell stories about his boss who wigs out! He says: “Mom! I used to think you would wig out…but this lady has you beat!”

    Ill keep killing peops with kindness and you do the same. Best Wishes

  • S. Averett says:

    I agree. We have a tendency to react first. I will share this with my customers good information.

  • Kathy says:

    Although everything you said is true, it is extremely difficult to adhere to. Especially if you have an individual that you work with that never takes responsibility for their actions and always blames the other person, when it’s obvious who is in the wrong. By unpushing my buttons, I feel like I am allowing their behavior to continue and empowering them in their behavior that they are always right.

  • Maureen says:

    Haha, that was great! I laughed out loud a few times. It’s a great message, too. I would love to be this clever and funny in my occasional blogs -nice job!

  • Mary says:

    I think that something happens to us when we travel! I don’t know if it is as simple as being stressed or if we are tired or anxious or all three. I only know that a lot of people are “not themselves” when they travel. Neither am I. I have experienced the same reactions myself to what I view as unfairness. Next time I will tell myself to be more kind and understanding instead of being impatient and grumpy:)

  • Setu says:

    Thank you for the much needed laugh! I saw you in July at the APhA Student Leadership Institute. It was amazing to experience the the way you captivated the audience and kept us all engaged for the entire day! In certain situations, I find myself thinking “how would Ron look at this situation.” Thank you for sharing your experiences, and look forward to reading future emails!!

  • Heather Eastwood says:

    Such a good read. I saw you at Memorial Healthcare system conference in David, Fl. You had us engaged all day. Thanks for your perspective!
    Heather E

  • Debbie says:

    Thanks for sharing. It seems as though everyone is trying to push my buttons and this made me take a breath and re-evaluate my responses. Thanks. I just saw you at the VHCA Convention and Trade show in Virginia and loved your talk. Many of us believe in the healing power of humor. Thanks again.

  • Gwen says:

    This could not have come at a better time. What I know is that perceptions are reality. So when someone feels wronged by me, I can’t convince them that what I was doing was right. Their perception of what happened is their reality. I too struggle with this but have had some interesting conversations when this has happened which led to both parties feeling better even though no one’s mind is really changed because what we feel because of what we perceive is a real feeling and “splaining” doesn’t really change that. Or, on days when I’m not so “enlightened” I prefer to say to myself “You can’t fix stupid.” Just sayin . . . :)

  • Sarah says:

    Your articles are always spot on. I have shared many of them with others and have forwarded this one to several people and I have just printed it off to take to a business where I am a chaplain. One of the employees was complaining about people who do things a certain way that causes her to have to do more work, etc – typical griping that I hear most every day. I am certainly hoping this will speak to her! Thanks again for a great inspirational read!

  • Rich says:

    I do love your honesty! FYI …. I just installed a cattle pusher on the front of my BMW for the next ass***e that cuts me off.

    Look for my photo in the newspaper ……… peace/love!


  • Dan Dorman says:


    I had an “angel” teach me a lesson about this not too long ago. I was waiting in line at a store register – about three people back. A woman walked up to the man ahead of me and asked if she could cut ahead as she was in a hurry. My irritation was exacerbated by her tone and the frown on her face – and hey, she didn’t ask how I felt about it! However, the man ahead of me (who appeared to be a gruff/tuff customer) suddenly smiled and said to her, “Why of course! Step right in madam!” with a loud but friendly voice and a large sweeping motion of his arm. For a half a second I thought the drama of it meant he was being sarcastic – but no, he was genuine and friendly as they exchanged pleasantries. The lady’s face lit right up – he really made her day. I was taken aback by my own initial irritation and humbled by the man’s choice. It was the perfect example that we all have opportunities to be generous and magnanimous, and make the world a better place.

  • Marjorie Modlin says:

    All this is true and humbling. It made me remember how much my husband Charlie was amused and charmed when in London to stand in a “queue” where the rules and expectations were silently observed and all went smoothly. Back in the US when he saw or had such annoying injustice happen he’d lean over and whisper, “They are not observing the rules of the queue”. Somehow it made everything easier to smile about and just go on. Wins all around for everyone. Marjorie Modlin

  • Joel says:

    Nice article and nice insights. They were helpful and I can certainly relate. Just don’t drive slow in the left lane on your way home, or we might have gestures. Lol.

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