Navigating Saboteur Contagion: Don't Let Them Push Your Buttons

Mar 26, 2024

Have you noticed it’s often the same people in your life who repetitively trigger you? Some people just easily “push your buttons”. In the intricate dance of human interaction, our saboteurs typically find their partners, triggering a cycle of back and forth negative thoughts and behaviors. Positive Intelligence refers to this as saboteur contagion.

Understanding this dynamic can pave the way for healthier and more productive interactions both professionally and personally.

Let’s take a closer look at navigating saboteur contagion and learning to shift from stress and frustration to more harmony by leveraging the power of Positive Intelligence.

First, take a moment to reflect on who triggers your saboteurs the most. Is it usually in the same way? Understanding these patterns can provide valuable insights into your triggers and reactions.

Whether it's a colleague's criticism triggering your Pleaser saboteur, a friend's passive-aggressive remarks causing your Controller saboteur to flare up, or a family member’s complaining bringing your own Victim saboteur reaction, recognizing these triggers is the first step towards managing them effectively instead of letting your own saboteurs respond.

You might find yourself expecting the saboteur dance in your interactions, possibly even helping them become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once you catch on to these patterns, Positive Intelligence practice invites you to not let that overshadow the chance for positive outcomes. Stay curious and open-minded.

Think about what might be driving the behavior of those who trigger you. Each of the nine saboteurs outlined in Positive Intelligence has its own negativity-driving forces. Whether it's the Judge sowing seeds of self-doubt, the Victim perpetuating a sense of powerlessness, or Hyper-Achiever pushing for better and higher performance, recognizing when a saboteur is at play can help you stay one step ahead and prevent your own saboteur-driven reaction.

To help counteract saboteur contagion, leverage one or more of the five Sage Powers. Lead with Empathy to create a sense of understanding, access Explore to cultivate curiosity, or help them feel valued for their thoughts and ideas by using the Innovate Power to find at least 10% you can appreciate about their perspective. These and the other Sage Powers can help you stay grounded and resilient in the face of negativity and help the other person feel more heard, acknowledged, and valued.

In addition to Sage Powers, there are other techniques to put in your toolbox. Mindfulness meditation can help you cultivate presence and resilience, and reframing can shift your perspective towards positivity.

Releasing the need to fix or problem solve and instead ask questions such as…
• “What are you experiencing/feeling and what do you want to experience/feel?”
• “What would help you move in that direction”
• “How can I support you?”
or any question that comes from curiosity and compassion while keeping the responsibility to solve the problem with the person who has the power to do so is a great place to start.

Setting intentions before interactions can help you stay centered and balanced and remember to apply the above practices. As you engage in interactions where saboteur contagion may be at play, pre-empt a different outcome by visualizing yourself in the situation.

See yourself practicing active listening, seeking common ground, and keeping your own saboteurs at bay. By choosing a different path, you disrupt the saboteur dance and the other person is more likely to step out of their saboteur mode. The saying “it takes two to tango” is very on point.

It only takes one person to shift the dynamic. Let it be you!

The Positive Intelligence Mental Fitness Training Program combines neuroscience, positive psychology, and performance science for a complete toolkit to raise emotional intelligence and navigate conflicts like a pro.

By understanding your triggers as well as those of others, leveraging Sage Powers, and adopting proactive techniques, you can break the negative cycles. Take the free quiz to learn your own saboteurs, HERE.

In a nutshell, spotting saboteur triggers and staying cool under pressure takes commitment and practice. But with tools like Sage Powers and a positive mindset, you can break free from the cycle of negativity and cultivate healthier, more fulfilling, constructive, and positive relationships in work and life.

That could lead to more peace and happiness, so why not give it a try?