5 Ways to Deal with Tommy Touchhole

A touchhole is the small hole in early firearms through which the charge is ignited. Tommy Touchhole reacts to slight offenses with inordinate intensity.

Insignificant issues have disproportionate impact on touchy people.

You might be a touchhole if:

  1. Everyone dances around your feelings.
  2. Taking offense is an art-form.
  3. Everything you see and hear is a plot to undermine your credibility. Paranoia leads to taking offense.
  4. You focus more on receiving respect than giving it.
  5. Negative thoughts spiral in your brain at night.
  6. Negative feedback offends you to the point that you can’t hear it.
  7. You spend too much time worrying about what people think of you.

5 Ways to deal with Tommy Touchhole:

#1. When possible, respect Mr. Touchhole’s sensitivities – as long as they don’t significantly disrupt teams.

Most of us are Tommy Touchhole in one way or another.

#2. Explore advantages. I worked with an administrative assistant that was touchy about the way things were done. Her job required sensitivity to details.

What you call touchy might be a strength.

#3. Challenge Mr. Touchhole to get in touch with his compassionate self. “What does your compassionate self tell you to do next?” When Tommy tries to squirm out of compassion, hold his feet to the fire. “I hear your concern, but what would be true if you leaned into compassion right now?”

Anyone who argues against a reasonable course of action is trapped by self-affirming inaction.

#4. Clarify values. “I notice that you’re upset about this situation. What does your response say about you and your values?”

#5. Create replacement responses. “How would you like to respond when something sets you off?” “What will you do the next time you feel slighted?” for example.

Curiosity is often a useful response to strong emotion.

Bonus: Provide a coach or mentor. Growth happens in trusting relationship.

What signs indicate that your have a Tommy Touchhole on your team?

How might leaders effectively deal with Tommy Touchhole?

Bonus material:

Leadership Derailters: Taking Offense (Leadership Freak)

10 Tips for Highly Sensitive People (PsychCentral)