Managing Our Pinch Points

We all go through life with certain sensitivities that wax and wane according to how we evolve. Sometimes, these sensitivities arise from our experiences, others simply burble up as a result of our individual temperaments. What bothers me isn’t necessarily going to bother you and vice versa, and we don’t always realize what those triggers are—for ourselves, let alone for others. I’ve found myself in situations where I unintentionally stepped on somebody else’s hornet’s nest, and boy, did I get stung! Yowza.

The other day, I was at the gym adjusting the hamstring machine when I noticed a warning illustration about pinch points. It depicted a finger, pulsing red, caught between two unpleasant looking disks. While I’m pretty careful about operating pieces of machinery, the same can’t be said for all of my interactions with people. I don’t go about trying to ruffle feathers or upset apple carts, and yet it occurs on occasion. My high school reunion is approaching and although I’m not totally ra-ra about it, I’m excited to have a chance to see some of my classmates, so I spontaneously offered to host a casual cocktail party on the first night. The response has been less than overwhelming with a couple of reply-alls encouraging our classmates to attend another event, instead.

It amazed me how fast I felt thrown back into the pit of high school popularity contests. I tensed as I read a couple of the emails sent back and forth to the group, ignoring my offer and cajoling others to go elsewhere. Once I recognized that I was worrying about the fact that people I haven’t seen in decades may prefer to do something else with their time, I told myself to get a grip. Pinch Point! Who knew?

While we can’t do anything about other people’s pinch points, we can control our own. A significant advantage to not being an insecure and ambitious seventeen year old is that we don’t have to react that way, either.

I have watched untold numbers of grown adults slip into defiant, petty personas when their pinch points get hit. Men who refuse to respond because the woman’s tone of voice reminds them of their mother. Women whose snark factor ratchets up exponentially after they detect some note of disrespect in another’s comment or behavior. Our pinch points are equal opportunity targets: we can get hit by people we know all too well or total passing strangers. These offenses can be about anything, but what they have in common is their ability to send us into a foul mood that sends warning signs throughout our system—our stomachs tense and our eyes widen, we set our jaw or clench our fists. Any of this sound familiar?

When was the last time one of your pinch points was hit? Do you remember what it was? Do you remember how you reacted? What did you do next?

The reason I bring up my high school reunion example is because it’s so universal. We all know what it’s like to face the competitive herding instincts of our classmates. Ugh, it makes me glad I’m not back in high school. As a determined re-booter, what I did in this particular instance was remind myself to slow down and not read so much negativity into the emails I was seeing. The lackluster reaction of a few doesn’t translate into universal condemnation, and even if my idea of hosting a cocktail party was the worst idea in the world, SO WHAT? How could anything be less important? Now, my panic makes me laugh. What a waste of time and energy to fret over this—good thing I nipped it in the bud.

It’s the nipping I want you to think about. What strategies do you employ when irrationally upset? (Deep down, you know if you’re getting upset over something inconsequential.) How often do you find yourself fuming over a hill of beans? Just to be clear, neither gender is immune to this inanity.

One of my default reactions—and, thank God, I have this instinct—is to search for the funny or ridiculous in any situation. I’ve mentioned this technique before, but when you find yourself irrationally upset, think about how Saturday Night Live might perform the scene. How might the actors carry on, exaggerating your thoughts, expressions, and reactions to whatever has just happened? If you try this out, I promise you’ll laugh and start to feel differently. Laughter is an excellent diffusing technique—it provides perspective when we are sorely lacking any, it distracts us from our foul mood, it lightens our energy. And, yes, you can be every bit as ridiculous as I.

The other side of this coin, of course, is to recognize that when someone flips out on us, their pinch point has been hit. It’s their finger that is throbbing. Recognizing this enables us not to overreact to their overreaction. All too often, we forget to give others the benefit of the doubt. When was the last time someone didn’t give you that benefit? It didn’t feel too good, did it? Do unto others… Even we, re-booters, are not vulnerable to pinch points, but we do a much better job at managing the pain.

 Pinch point

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One Response to “Managing Our Pinch Points”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    Very common in most people’s experiences. I think it relates more to our desire to be accepted and hope what we offer is valued by others.

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