Putting Pushy People In Their Place
By Beth Levine
My friend is hosting another one of those parties where you're supposed to
buy a bunch of kitchen gadgets you neither want nor need. She cajoled me into
attending, and now that I am here, she is pushing me to buy. "C'mon,
there's got to be something you could use," she urges brightly. Wimp that I
am, instead of just saying no, I select the least expensive thing-a wooden
something-or-other that apparently can be used to shape mini tarts. (Because,
heaven knows, you can never have too many wooden mini-tart shapers.) I go home
irritated with my friend, but even madder at myself. Why did I let myself get
It's hard to stand up to pushy people. And the holiday season seems to bring
out their pushiness even more. Often, it's easier to cave than to confront;
these assertive types can be intimidating. But there is a downside to giving in
too often. Beyond the obvious stress and inconvenience, there may be
consequences for your physical and emotional health, says Linda Hatzenbuehler,
Ph.D., a professor of clinical psychology at Idaho State University. These can
include stomachaches, high blood pressure, and lower back pain, as well as
So if you don't know what to do the next time your neighbor is sure you
wouldn't mind watching her kids, follow these instructions.
Defer the decision: "Gosh! Gotta go!"
When my kitchen-gadget friend approached me, I said yes because I couldn't
think of an excuse quickly enough. If, like me, you're not so fast on your
feet, arrange to talk later, after you've figured out what you want to say.
"You have competing pressures when asked to do something you don't want to
do," says Mark R. Leary, Ph.D., director of the social psychology program
at Duke University. "One part of you wants to please the other person;
another part wants to meet your own needs. You need time to weigh the pros and
Assertive answer: "Sounds like fun, but I have to check a few things.
Can I call you tomorrow?"
Have a plan: "What if we do it this way?"
Carla Ann Mowry, 46, a stay-at-home mom from Omaha, Nebraska, knows to
expect the full-court press from her in-laws whenever a holiday rolls
around-Fourth of July, Christmas, you name it. "They expect us to spend the
entire day at their house, from 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m.," she says. If,
like Mowry, you know that someone has certain expectations of you, prepare in
advance. "Review situations that have gone badly in the past and practice
how you will respond next time," says Hatzenbuehler. "This may feel
stupid, but it works: Write a script and try it out on a friend. State politely
what part of the request you can meet and what you cannot-and promise yourself
that you won't back down."