trigger points

7 Common Trigger Points That Make People Prickly

In “Confession: I Am a Porcupine,” I shared how I can be a real porcupine at times, especially with my family and at work. Maybe you know someone like that. Porcupines do have a tender side, but these temperamental creatures have trigger points that cause them to lash out. Well, just like a porcupine, wouldn’t you know it—I, too, have trigger points that put me into “rear-end out, quills out, lash out” mode. Sometimes, especially in my younger years, I have gotten easily irritated or lashed out when things haven’t gone my way, when my expectations have not been met, when I’ve felt disrespected, or when I’ve been lied to.

We all have our trigger points. Being aware of them can help us guard against automatically shooting those quills at our family members or teams at work. And being able to see them in others can help us deal more graciously with those prickly porcupines. So let’s look at 7 common trigger points.

1. Having Unmet Expectations

I’m the kind of person who expects a lot from himself—and I expect a lot from others. So, when people don’t do what I expect them to do, I can get a bit frustrated. If the vacation doesn’t go smoothly, the dinner date ends in an argument, the kids don’t behave, or the movie disappoints, I find myself feeling prickly.

2. Being Tired or Sick

My wife, Susan, never complains when she’s sick. But when I have even a minor cold, watch out! Porcupine city! Knowing this to be true helps me and my family to be more guarded and more gracious. Keeping the “quills” under control is tough when you don’t feel normal, but it’s important, especially when others are trying to help.

3. Not Being Heard

Prioritizing good listening skills and communication is important to avoid defensive outbursts.

It’s a common human desire to be heard and understood. When someone I’m trying to communicate with isn’t really hearing what I’m saying, that can drive me crazy. But it can be worse to be heard and not understood. Prioritizing good listening skills and communication is important to avoid defensive outbursts.

4. Not Being Appreciated

When we don’t feel appreciated, we don’t usually feel valued. And when we don’t feel valued, we question what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. We think, “What’s the point?” If no one is noticing all our hard work, don’t be surprised if some sharp barbs make our presence felt.

5. Feeling Disrespected

It’s one thing to challenge me about an issue or a decision. But if someone questions my judgment, ability, or integrity, I can get quite irritated. While this can be a trigger point for both men and women, I hear of it more often in men.

6. Being Treated Rudely

It seems we are living in an increasingly rude society. Rude drivers. Rude moviegoers. Rude cashiers. Rude coworkers. The list goes on. And I know I’ve been rude at times in my life as well. But when I’m treated rudely, it can knock me for a loop. And because I’m often not with the rude people long enough, those who are nearest to me—my family members—are usually on the receiving end of my frustration. It’s good to remember that the family and friends and coworkers around us shouldn’t have to be picking the quills out of their noses because of someone who cut us off in traffic four hours ago.

7. Being Lied To

This is a big one for me. If someone lies to me, all quills are up—so watch out!

Sound off: What are your trigger points?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is something that makes you mad? How do you handle it?”