Did you watch the Presidential Debate last night? Whether you did or not, you have probably seen at least one political commercial as well as had a conversation with someone about the upcoming election.

It’s always interesting to watch how people handle themselves when we are in the midst of an election. Some people get extremely passionate when they talk about politics. Nothing can set off their anger or ignite their convictions more than discussing presidential candidates. Politics is one of those topics that we’re told NOT to discuss with others because it can easily turn into conflict. You see this conflict happening all the time on social media like Facebook or Twitter. Friends have parted and families have become divided over politics. Even in my own family, I have seen tension rise when the subject of politics it approached. I’ve watched my siblings go from calm to yelling at each other during conversations about the political parties. Politics seems to be a “hot” button for many people and once it’s pushed, the outcome isn’t pretty!

I’ve asked myself why it is that people are so passionate about the topic of politics and why they are so willing to lose friendships over a disagreement. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is about the values and central beliefs that people hold. A conversation will go from a friendly debate to verbal assault of a person’s view on life within a matter of 5 minutes.  The “hot” button is connected to the person’s feelings about what they value in life. Suddenly, instead of talking about national security and what should be done about it, they are discussing whether their beliefs are valued.  It becomes very personal very quickly. In addition, each person keeps at the debate to try and convince the other person that they are right. Most of the time, the only outcome I see is offense and frustration leading to disconnection between the people.     

I see this same thing happening in marriages. We all have “hot” buttons that can be pushed by our spouse. The “hot” buttons are connected to our values and beliefs and sometimes, our life experiences. We can be having a pleasant, meaningful conversation with our spouse and suddenly, hit that “hot” button and before we know it, we are in heated conflict. We may have started communicating about the weather and end up arguing about why we live where we live. I bet some of you would say that you have had your share of disagreements with your spouse and you aren’t sure how those fights ever got started.  Hitting a “hot” button launches us into arguments that sometimes make no sense. We are willing to keep arguing with the hope of changing our partner’s mind. This only escalates the situation and we find ourselves saying things we wish we could take back. Once a “hot” button is pushed, continuing to press the issue only makes it worse.

The next time you hit your spouse’s “hot” button or the next time yours is launched, step back and take a minute to breathe and calm down. If you hit the “hot” button, use active listening to lower the emotion and hear the other person. “So, if I hear what you are saying…….” Active listening has the ability to reduce the level of emotion. If you are the one who’s “hot” button was launched, then request a short time out to cool down and think about what you want the outcome to be from your discussion. Return to the conversation when you feel you can discuss it in a way that will be healthy. We will always hit each other’s “hot” buttons; that is normal. HOW we handle it after it happens is the key.