Hot Buttons or Anchors

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We did an online poll some time ago asking ‘what make you angry – what presses your Hot Buttons?.

It ran for a few years and top spot for irritability – for people’s ‘favourite’ negative anchors has always been “being spoken to in a patronising manner”.

Recently the score for this ‘hot button’ was 517 – way ahead of

  • being tailgated while driving (193)
  • automated telephone switchboards (192).

Compare these with Queue Jumping, often claimed by people as their pet hate – yet it gets 122.

(By the way the anger poll is no longer running.)

Being respected?

This illustrates the importance which we attach to being respected – or to feeling that we are not being respected.

Being spoken to in a patronising manner impacts us at the Identity level of the NLP Neuro-Logical Levels or Personality Map. The other buttons mentioned above simply transgress our standards – our beliefs about how things should be – and so come in at the next level below Identity which is Beliefs & Values.

Incidentally, for those who haven’t come across the Logical Levels, first developed by Robert Dilts & Todd Epstein, it’s a model with which we can identify what makes people tick. With it we can identify, for example, which level of their personality a person is talking about and therefore how best to respond to them.

From the top down the levels are:

  1. Mission and Vision: the big picture for our life, where we’re going with it, who fits into it, etc
  2. Identity: our self-image and how we interpret events around us in terms of this
  3. Beliefs & Values: includes beliefs about what is possible or impossible, what should or should not happen, and the values or feelings which we want to have more of and less of our lives
  4. Capabilities & Skills: how we think, the skills we learn and our innate abilities
  5. Behaviours: how we act
  6. Environment: how we interact with our surroundings and with other people.

By the way, this is a very brief thumbnail sketch of what is arguably one of the most important and valuable NLP models.

“I don’t agree with your views”

People complain about being “dissed” or not being respected when they feel they are self-esteem is being attacked or is not being properly respected.  And, for most people, this negative feeling are anchor can be quite powerful.

Let’s say, for example, that a work colleague says they don’t agree with your views on the environment or with your political views.  If you identify very strongly with environmental issues or with a particular political party the strength of your response to their comment may catch them unawares.

Yet you are feeling disrespected. Why? Because you link  self-esteem with either of these two issues.

But, let’s say on the other hand, that you have only quite mild or tentative views on environmental issues or on politics.  In this case you’ll probably perceive their disagreement as being merely a difference of opinion and shrug it off with a smile.  In this case it’s not an identity-level issue – your self-esteem is not at stake

So next time your anger hot buttons get pressed – next time you feel wound up or put down – check which of the upper two levels,Identity or Beliefs & Values, is being impacted. It may not reduce the impact of the event but it will give you insight into the intensity of your reaction; anything which implies that we aren’t being respected as equals will always evoke a very strong reaction.



There is more information about NLP and Anchors  here

The Swish Technique is one of the best way of defusing a negative anchor

How negative anchors operate in families and close relationships

Why ‘positive thinking’ doesn’t work with negative anchors

NLP and anchors in the supermarket…

An NLP technique for regaining your sense of perspective

Negative anchors – they are not our fault

Other articles related to NLP Anchors

Negative anchors and self esteem

Poor weather can be a negative anchor for some people

Anchoring and brands – how marketing uses anchors

Insomnia: the part anchoring plays in staying awake instead of being asleep

5 thoughts on “Self Esteem and ‘Hot Buttons’”

  1. Hi Reg, A great reminder of the Logical Levels thanks. At times when I feel disrespected or at the mercy of others, it also helps me to remember the NLP Principle that “Behind every behaviour lies a positive intention”. Coupled with an adherance to one of Don Miguel Ruiz’ four agreements “Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the vicitm of needless suffering.”

  2. Hi,
    I’ve been accused of being patronising from time to time and have been quite confounded by it.
    Nevertheless, communication is the response you get, so it is up to me to work out where I went wrong. My current conclusion is that I need to improve my pacing skills. Pacing seems easy at first sight, but I’m realising that to do it gracefully requires a lot of sensitivity and practise. And if ‘patronising’ is such a hot button, then that’s all the more reason to do pacing well.

    Thanks for the post – like everything else here it is very helpful.


  3. The experience of being patronised often results from how the other person reacts to our mannerisms such as quality of eye contact, voice tonality (especially important), and our ability to match their communicating style.

    These are mannerisms of which we are probably quite unaware.

    So, rather than do the normal thing of getting defensive, proclaiming our innocence or justifying ourselves, we could get curious about it – and gently engage the other person to discover what it is about how we are communicating that they find patronising.

  4. Thanks Reg,

    Getting curious about things is, I think, a state of mind that helps deal with all kinds of difficult situations. My motto for a long time has been ‘There’s always a way’ and I’m thinking that I should add underneath ‘Get curious’.


  5. Curiosity is central to the NLP ‘modelling’ approach i.e. to walking the Talk of NLP, I’d say. And having ‘how is it possible?’ as a first reaction to things is a great way of developing this attitude. 🙂

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