Managing Your Triggers

The role of the mediator is to help parties reach a solution to their problem and to arrive at an outcome that both parties are happy to accept. Mediators avoid taking sides, making judgements or giving guidance. They are simply responsible for developing effective communications and building consensus between the parties. The focus of a mediation meeting is to reach a common sense settlement agreeable to both parties in a case.

For a mediator to be successful he or she must possess a wide range of skills. One of the most important, but perhaps least appreciated, is the ability to actively listen to what a party is saying and to note what the party is not saying. All too often we hear what we expect someone to say rather than what is actually said. It is a fundamental principle that mediators must not prejudge the case nor impose their own prejudices on the parties. Furthermore, a mediator has to be able to tune into “where the speaker is coming from” and read the “sub text” or hidden messages given out by the parties.

Our thoughts affect our feelings, and these feelings trigger our reactive behaviour. This can happen both positively and negatively. Triggers are the events, situations and people that create strong emotional behaviours in us; rage, frustration, fear and intimidation etc. The extent of the reaction depends on a number of factors but they initiate from the thoughts we have of ourselves and/or the other person. These thoughts need a trigger for them to turn into a strong emotional reaction that leads to our reactive behaviours. These reactions may take less than a few seconds to occur but they stem from past experiences that create the mechanism for our actions.


You work in IT support and you feel that most people should be able to fix problems for themselves and not bother you with trivial things. This afternoon is the fourth time you’ve visited this colleague for the same fault and you’re sure his problems are of his own making as he’s been fiddling with the system. You are angry and you snap at him when he accuses you of not fixing it right in the first place.

If you were to manage the above situation more effectively you would have to find a way of breaking the pattern that you have built up within yourself. You would need to do one of the following

1.  Avoid the situation that causes the trigger – difficult in this case as it’s your job to deal with faults

2.  Control the thoughts that create the triggers – i.e. realise that not everyone is able to fix problems and what may seem trivial to you is important to them

3.  Manage the emotions – tell yourself that you will not get angry if confronted by this person again

4.  Change your behaviour to your triggers – ensure that you do not snap in this situation in the future


Think of a situation in which you felt one of the following emotions: rage, anger, frustration, irritation, fear, anxiety, inhibited, intimidated or embarrassment. Next, try to identify the thoughts you have about this situation or person that produced these strong emotional reactions. Then identify the triggers needed to produce this reaction and finally what behaviour results from this. Finally, to better control your reactions, identify which part of the reaction you would need to modify for you to be able to manage the situation more effectively.