If It Feels Like You’re Pushing, Use This Tip

Many of us have felt this – whether we’re networking, in a sales meeting or needing to convince a client – sometimes we don’t like what we’re doing or saying but think we need to continue, and it shows. It feels like we are pushing ourselves while all we want to do is stop.

Rather recently the situation that happened to me was needing to gracefully bow out of a lengthy, one-directional conversation. The person I was with is high maintenance. You know the type – loves talking about himself, wants recognition, easily goes dramatic and for many of us, drains our energy.

I had been listening to a one-focused conversation (all about him) for an endless 17 minutes and I simply wanted relief. I started looking around me for a distraction, was planning a “time-out” when I could get a word in to announce it and couldn’t stop my mind from checking out, even though I continued to nod. I soon realized I hadn’t been listening. Instead, I was pushing him away. My body language said this, my distracted behavior said this and my nervous mannerisms of nodding and possibly even tapping my foot or fingers, said this.

This type of communication may not happen to us everyday, but it is a regular part of life. A part that we don’t enjoy. But a part that, with respectful and purposeful handling, we can turn into a real winner.

Sure, it tests our abilities to deal with these “pushy” moments, but that is precisely what our abilities need – regular testing.

When we’re ready to be purposeful, we all want to be tested. So here’s a tip I have learned and continue to remind myself of, especially if respect and purpose are important.

Instead of pushing, pull.

We’ve heard this before, but what does it mean? Here’s what I take this directive to mean.

If you are the speaker who is so into what you’re talking about, and you notice people getting antsy, lighten up. Say something like, “I can see I’ve gone on too much. What would you like to say?” The pulling part for the speaker is engaging them in asking questions or contributing insight to your conversation. Chances are, listeners will respond, “Oh, no, I just have to get more coffee” or “That’s fascinating. I just have this question…”

Now, you’ve opened the door and invited them through. Don’t keep them there long unless they seem to enjoy the space. Then, invite them to take you where they want. “What did you want to talk/ask about?”

If you’re the listener, it will require more effort for you to pull, but do it. Say something like, “Dave, I need to interrupt for a moment, do you mind?” or “my mind is pretty full with all you’ve shared and I’d like to process it/clarify it/make sense of it, can you give me a moment?” The pulling part is about asking permission to regroup or offering a related focus, even sharing about yourself in a similar fashion.

Pushing is reactionary, and while it is necessary with bullies, it can take a relationship hit with others and just feels rebellious. Pulling is attractive and helps us feel purposeful even when the topic may be uncomfortable. So when you’re communicating, pay attention to the responses of those around you and Pull instead of Push.

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