Friday, September 17, 2021

Review of Hot Buttons: How to Resolve Conflict and Cool Everyone Down by Sybil Evans, Sherry Suib Cohen

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Short Description

“Even if times are more sensitive, you still have a choice.  It’s your call.  Attitude is a choice.  If you choose to react to your own pushed buttons with an attitude of blinding anger, you’ll get nowhere.  If you understand why people incite your rage and what you need to do to turn off your (and their) anger, you’ll react another way and find a solution.  Choose to diffuse – diffuse the read heat and move on.” – Sybil Evans and Sherry Suib Cohen, Chapter 1: What’s A Hot Button, Page 8

“People who compromise often end up feeling they’ve made more concessions that the other.  Finally, agreement tend to be temporary – no one really commits to the compromise because the solution is a far cry from what each really wanted.” – Sybil Evans and Sherry Suib Cohen, Chapter 1: What’s A Hot Button, Page 15

“When you clash, it can be an opportunity for increased intimacy and a new sense of aliveness, instead of feeling of hopelessness.  Hello, conflict – thanks for dropping in.” – Sybil Evans and Sherry Suib Cohen, Chapter 5, Page 91

Excerpts with permission from publisher

Elaborate Description
Hot buttons are emotional triggers.  They are everywhere.  The question is not how to avoid them as they cannot be avoided, but how to handle them.  To recognize that the way we think about others and communicate can press hot buttons.  After recognizing how others and ourselves push and respond to hot buttons, we can start to consider how to change the responses.  To prevent exacerbating the situation, and to calm everyone down.  Words do hurt and have physical health consequences.  But words can also heal.  Conflict can be a gift of energy that allows development and fulfilment, but conflict can also put up barriers to progress and cripple individuals.  It is the damaging conflict that needs to be resolved.  Communication is vital for conflict resolution.  

If a hot button is pushed, the individual feels brutalized without physical attacks.  It can impair judgment about the situation and decisions on how to reaction.  That emotional driven self can make a lot of mistakes that cannot be taken back.  There are many expressions of emotions when a hot button has been pushed, which vary from explosive rage to becoming more passive.  To turn off hot buttons, what is needed is to understand what turns them on and the probable reactions. 

Choosing what to do after a hot button is pressed matters.  There are ways to make the situation worse, or to facilitate an appropriate resolution.  The ask of this book is to diffuse the anger, to find an appropriate solution.  To this end the authors have created a 5-step formula, but it needs to be tailored to the context as each confrontation will have different aspects.  The steps are: 1) watch the play, 2) confirm, 3) get more information, 4) assert your own interests and needs, 5) find common ground for a solution.  Watching the play means to create a mentally detached and objective state where you can take in what is happening.  A good way to diffuse a situation is the next set, to confirm the validity of their view, as this allows communication to proceed.  By asking open-ended questions, you can get more information about the situation, which is essential to understand what the actual problem is.  Conflict resolution needs everyone involved, which includes you as you assert your own interests and needs.  After understanding issues of mutual concern, comes the transition to problem solving by finding common ground.  

Problem solving the conflict does not mean to compromise, it means to collaborate.  To understand how each can help the other.  Compromise tends to be temporary because often no one gets what they wanted.  With strangers its best to prevent blame or offence, and to retain dignity and niceness.  Some isolated situations can get hostile, in which case walking away is the appropriate tactic.  But unresolved conflict with relationships can make a person very angry and make them sick.  Conflict can be very stressful which sends many hormones racing that can negatively impact health.

Part of what can push a hot buttons is having wrong assumption about other people’s beliefs and motives.  There are many different ways to have better communication without accusing others with false assumptions.  Another is being pressured to change, as that often makes people defensive, while acceptance and understanding facilitated the ability to change willingly.  A diffusing skill of reframing what has been said is a good way to let the other know that they have been heard.  Dialogue-killers prevent communication and turn hot buttons on.  

The book is eloquently written and provides a variety of important examples into how to make communication work between people.  The problem is that in many cases, the resolution seems way too unrealistic.  That the major problems can disappear with short conversations.  That people can actually express their problems and vulnerabilities to those that they have a conflict with.  The author makes conflict resolution seem too easy.  It seems that there is a lot of long-term conversations that are left out of the conversations.  

Another problem is that some of the solutions to conflict resolution, given the context, can make the problem worse.  The author makes a point that a conflict strategy of problem-solving is best, but that attitude can make things worse.  Even with these shortcomings, this book does a wonderful job at highlighting many common tendencies and complexities of hot buttons. 

Questions to Consider While Reading
•What is the book’s raison d’etre? For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What are hot buttons and where do you find them?
•Why is recognizing hot buttons important? 
•How do hot buttons change behavior? 
•Why does it matter how individuals communicate with each other?
•Why do words hurt?
•Are there anything benefits to conflict?
•Why is there a need to diffuse a hot button?
•What is the 5-step formula for conflict resolution?  Describe each step. 
•What is the difference between a compromise and collaboration? 
•Why is communication is important for conflict resolution?
•What are dialogue-killers?
•Are there some conflicts that need to be avoided?
•What conflicts cannot be avoided?
•What do false assumptions do to communication?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780060196998
Pages to read:   335
Publication:     2000
1st Edition:      2000
Format:            Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5