How to Use “Emotional Hot Buttons” to Be Interesting And Bond

emotional hot buttonsDo you sometimes struggle to have meaningful conversations?

Like, you get stuck in chit chat mode and just talk those trivial topics to death.

To the point where things start to feel stale…and maybe you’re looking for an exit.

(And you worry they are too.)

Don’t you wish you could make the vibe more exciting? More interesting? So maybe things could move to a deeper level with this person?

Well, a great way amp up interactions and bond with someone new is to introduce emotion into the conversation.

And a slick way to do that is noticing and commenting on “emotional hot buttons.” But you have to be observant to make use of them.

So in today’s article, I’ll give you an example of this technique in action.

Then I’ll explain how you can use it.

A Bond Forged in the Men’s Bathroom

You may or may not know I DJ. Mostly weddings with the occasional club thrown in here and there.

Well, at one wedding, I had an “issue” with the brother of the groom.

He kept badgering me to play some hard-core rap music for his brother.

The thing is, the bride’s family was very conservative and asked me to keep it clean. Needless to say, the groom’s brother wasn’t happy.

After the gig was over, I went to the men’s bathroom. And who should be there but the groom’s brother…

“You!”

He said it like I was his life-long nemesis. (Wheaton!!!)

Well, fortunately he understood why I couldn’t play his song requests. So we began talking about where we were from.

When I asked him, this was his response:

“Well, I’m out in Houston because I’ve been working so much there it’s crazy. But I’m really trying to get back here.”

At that point he turned the conversation back to me, but I could tell there was something more there…

There was slight pain in his eyes. He sort of shuffled his feet and diverted eye contact when he had mentioned it.

Plus, there’s just a story in there somewhere isn’t there?

I mean, why was he working so hard?

Why was he really trying to get back here?

What had happened?

So after talking a bit more, I casually asked:

“You mentioned you’re out in Houston, but you want to be back here. What are you doing in Houston?”

That opened the flood gates.

He began describing how he did construction work and all his business was in Houston. But his wife and young son were in Baton Rouge.

Of course he wanted to be with them, but he needed to pay the bills. Working with his hands was all he knew and he wasn’t sure he could do anything else.

From there we talked about all kinds of things:

We really connected on some core values, and it all happened in about 15 minutes. (And yes we DID eventually move out of the men’s bathroom…)

How To Notice and Use Emotional Hot Buttons

Life can be so repetitive and well, boring sometimes.

We get into our daily routines and the only emotion we experience is by watching TV or reading a book.

In addition, because so many people lack strong relationships, they don’t often discuss the emotions dominating their thoughts.

So when you give someone the opportunity to discuss something bothering them or that they’re excited about, you stand out.

You’re linked to the relief and/or joy they feel on releasing that emotion.

Now, it can sometimes be awkward to be “too emotional too soon,” but this is different. It’s different because it’s something they bring up.

The brother of the groom answered my question in the way he did because deep down, he wanted me to dig deeper.

He wanted to talk about it.

He may not have done this consciously, but emotions have a way of slipping out like that.

So how do you know?

How can you notice an emotional hot button when it surfaces and use it to have awesome conversations?

Well, my personality type lends me a gift of empathy. I usually have an intuition of when people are revealing subtle emotional clues.

But if you’re not naturally empathetic, here are some signs that might clue you in on their emotional hot buttons:

  • There seems to be more of a “story” behind something they say
  • They seem more excited or agitated
  • They mention the same subject several times
  • They have a slight change in tone of voice
  • They switch their eye contact to look away from you OR to look right at you
  • They start fidgeting by shuffling feet or wringing hands
  • They start talking faster OR slower than before
  • They start gesturing more with their hands

Hot Buttons Are Not Always So Obvious

The thing is, you may hear the term “hot buttons” and think the cues would be obvious.

Not necessarily.

It can be hard to spot.

So one way to start practicing your empathy is to observe your current friends and family. You know these people and what they’re passionate about. So bring up their passion and notice the subtle ways their communication changes.

This will help you subconsciously notice “hot button” cues AND give you practice being more empathetic.

Once you notice a possible hot button, you simply probe lightly. Ask them a question about it and see what happens.

In the end, we’re all yearning to feel something…

Whether that’s joy or excitement or the relief of knowing someone else understands.

By being more aware of the emotional hot buttons from people you meet, you can be that emotional outlet for them.

And you can bet that will make you stand out and seem more interesting in their eyes.

(“Elevator Button” by Michael Schubart is licensed under CC by 2.0)

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