Once upon a time in whatever-the-fuck-that-land-is-called, people went about their jolly good ways, greeting each other with enthusiasm, helping one another with everyday tasks, and generally being abnormally kind and loving to everyone around them. People would help their neighbors out, and once the hard work was done, they’d sit down over some beers and enjoy each other’s company. Advice would be swapped, lives would improve, laughter would be shared, and society would be generous, happy, and whole. You’re probably thinking this is some absurd fantasy land, and you’re not far from the truth. Today, you generally don’t get the help you need when you want it. Instead, you get told the way you should run things when you frankly don’t care or didn’t ask for it (or likely both). This is undoubtedly highlighted in the work environment, where people are constantly collaborating together to get things done and everyone has their own opinion on how it should be accomplished. We live in a world of people who push their opinions. So how do you deal with pushy people, especially at work?
Recognize You’ll Have To Deal With Them
If you had a perfect version of life, it would go something like this: when you needed help, only those closest to you would meddle in your business to lend a helping hand, and they’d stop short of actually telling you what to do, because frankly, no one likes being told what to do…especially in that passive aggressive way pushy people love to use.
Since there is no perfect version of life, there’s two facts you should probably understand:
- People have opinions, and they have a lot of them, and
- People will inevitably push their opinions (of which they have many) onto others, including you.
Like you know, the Karen’s of the world.
We don’t live in a perfect world, so people will meddle in your business and push their opinions on you. How can you avoid this altogether? You can’t – but you can look at it as an opportunity to learn.
Pushy People Tend To Have Insecurities
People who push their opinions on you have insecurities roiling inside. Everyone does actually. But when someone’s insecurities get them to tell someone else what to do, it’s more than just harboring some general insecurities. There’s some innate need to feel superior. Pushy people let their insecurities get the best of them, enabling them to view things from filtered glasses that highlight those very insecurities. So in an effort to control their surroundings and get around their insecurities as best they can, they push themselves around.
No matter what, opinions will be pushed on you from all directions and generally two groups – those who know you, and those who don’t. Friends and/or family will notoriously try to push their views in a half-hearted attempt to steer you in a certain direction. This is especially true if they think your cheese is about to slide off your cracker.
They’ll tell you like it is sometimes, and there’s nothing wrong with it since it can lead to healthy discussions. The key difference is that when something is pushed or forced on you, the intent is different. Every action, good or bad, has intent behind it. And it’s fairly easy to tell when the intent is misguided in nature, which usually comes from the second group.
That second group is opinions pushed from people who you don’t know well, like a colleague or even someone completely random. The kind that will tell you in passing that your hair would suit your face better if it wasn’t so red, that being vegan or a meat-eater is wrong, that you should smile more often, or that you should do these work reports even if they aren’t part of your job.
If Someone Who Isn’t Your Boss Tells You What To Do
“Hey, knock out these reports for me.”
If it’s your boss asking, it’s part of the job. But if it’s not your boss, it’s probably pushy people trying to flex on you by asking for help with their work. Why? Because they think they can. Recognize the difference between your boss and someone bossy. When it’s not your boss, the inevitable answer should be no, but how do you say it when dealing with a pushy colleague?
You’ve got a few options.
First, you can always start off with the preemptive compliment. “Thanks for thinking of me, …“. Instead of being passive aggressive, this helps set a better tone. The next step is then giving the reason why you can’t. One option is to say you’re saddled up with enough work and can’t take it on. This skirts around being direct and gives an excuse to avoid any sort of confrontation. Another similar option is to ask them to speak to your boss for approval, layering in another step for them to go through for your help. Many times, a pushy colleague is demanding your help for an easy win, so they’ll never take the bait and actually go to your boss. They’re not stupid; they more than likely know the “help” they want isn’t part of your job.
A more direct approach is to say it’s not in your scope of work responsibilities, and if they really need help, to please ask your boss. You’re still pegging it on your boss, but you’re also being a little more forceful and letting them know the work they want is bullshit and not part of your job.
If Someone Crams Their Opinion Down Your Throat
You know what happens a lot?
People feel the need to express their strong opinions over complete asinine things. Pushy people are the best at it. You’ll inevitably run into it while you’re out minding your own business, like grocery shopping. “Love your hair, it would look even better a little longer!”. Sometimes, they don’t even preface it with a compliment. “Your hair would look better a bit shorter.” As taken aback as you are, you move on and never see them again. When it happens at work, you can’t really escape anywhere.
So what do you do when a coworker or colleague tells you that you should get more rest because you look tired? Or that you should put your kid into private school for their own safety?
You’ve got multiple options. You could always start again with a simple “Thanks, but …”. If you’re looking to avoid confrontation or conflict completely, and you figure this is just a one-off comment, you could take it even further and say something along the lines of “Thanks, I’ll take that into consideration” with a smile and drop it there. Now, if whatever this pushy colleague said was actually inappropriate or offensive, another option is “Thanks, I’ll take that into consideration but I don’t think that’s ideal/in my best interest.” You can always take it to your boss or HR later, if warranted.
But if you figure it’s not a one-off (either because you expect more or already experienced previous attempts), it may be time to be more direct. The side effect of being more direct usually comes with the potential of confrontation. But as long as you’re ready for it, you always have the option to use something along the lines of “Thanks, but I would appreciate if you don’t comment on my sleep levels/childcare/whatever the fuck else.”
Sometimes, this jolt of pushback from you makes them realize you’re not the best target for their bullshit, and they’ll move on. Other times, they may snap back or get passive aggressive, in which case you should never engage — always just smile and repeat the more indirect approach above. “Thanks, I appreciate it” and move on.
Dealing with pushy people is more of an art than a science. This is usually the case with human interaction; some people are better at reading others and assessing how to approach things than others. If you aren’t a pro at it, then it’s in your best interest to prepare ahead of time for when the situation arises. Because inevitably, at some point, you’ll have to deal with someone’s pushy nature.