not a pushover

Being labeled as a push over is one title you don’t want.

Sure, there are times where you will “take one for the team” but how for many teams and for how long?

At some point, you must draw a line, otherwise you fall victim to the potential of being called a pushover.

I have always been intrigued by this topic so I’m going to break it down like this:

  • How this type of behavior impacts your performance
  • What are the warning signs?
  • What you can do about it

I have yet to meet someone who has openly admitted that they enjoy talking to people who are actively ignoring them. Have you? The fact is: We all want to be heard and acknowledged. All of us.

You & The Story You Keep Telling Yourself

Human connection is part of our DNA and so is our fragile egos. We all want to be liked, accepted and for some – adorned at the greatest lengths possible. Many people go about their lives unaware of how deep their need for approval runs. This need can easily derail your professional career and overall performance.

For some it’s about doing too little due to an overwhelmingly fear of failure while for others the need for approval is so high that you take on too much exercising less perspective and focus potentially leading to poor results and execution.

Before you go debating with yourself to what degree this may or may not be true, there is some neuroscience research that suggests why some people may fall in different bands of the spectrum when it comes to agreeing or disagreeing with another person. A new studyin Frontiers in Human Neuroscience led by Dr. Juan Dominguez of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia suggests:

  • People have a network in their brains that is attuned to disagreement with other people. When this network is activated, it makes us feel uncomfortable (we experience “cognitive dissonance,” to use the psychological jargon) and avoiding this state that motivates us to switch our views as much as possible. It appears the network is more sensitive in some people than in others, and that this might account for varying degrees of pushover-ness.

Still not sure? Read on, it gets better I promise.

The Warning Signs

One could take away that it’s not about “if” you are pushover but rather “when” and more importantly are you even aware of it. There are some very real warning signs to help you navigate this topic. Here are some of the obvious to spot, but be warned – you may spot them in others first before realizing you are doing it as well.

  • Constantly pleasing others in fear of disrupting the status quo.
  • You run from the first sign of confrontation.
  • Feeling put out or experiencing a repeat of amount of uneven exchanges.
  • You find that your second job is apologizing to others.
  • You find yourself in a loop of bad situations with similar circumstances.

Although I fear the list is (much) much longer, the one commonality amongst all the research I did was a supreme lack of boundaries – both personal, professional, emotional and physical.

Boundaries exists to keep the unwanted things out, while keeping the stuff you do want in. The same principle that would apply to your home, applies to your professional life. Think of it like a security system, most of them are not visible but the warning signs are letting other people know to be aware and to think twice. If you create boundaries for yourself but don’t speak up to let others know they are there, what do you expect will happen…exactly, they will be crossed because there was no sign to deter them.

According to Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., Associate Editor at Psych Central – you should consider these six things when defining your boundaries. I invite you to read the full article:

  • Know your values.
  • Communicate clearly.
  • Bring up a boundary or violation right away.
  • Create structure.
  • Focus on concrete explanations.
  • Prepare for violations.

Getting clear on where your personal and emotional property line exists is key to being happier at work and not allowing others to push you over. If you allow one person to step on to your property without a warning, what message do you believe it sends to your neighbors?

What To Do About It

Here is a great list of actions you can start taking today which will hopefully have you stop staying yes to others while saying no to yourself.

  • Identify the stuff that doesn’t work for you. Sure, there are times where saying no is not an option but for the countless others that arise, start asking yourself if these are things you really want to take on.
  • Start speaking up no matter how quiet you begin. Don’t expect others to read your mind – communicate. If people don’t know how you feel, how do you expect them to change. Many times, people are simply unaware they have crossed onto your personal property.
  • Learn to say no. This one is often listed as a must to breaking the cycle of being a pushover, however the problem lies in not saying these two letters but rather “how’ to say them. It may begin for you as a ‘no, not now’ which could be a great improvement.
  • Accept the silence. When you begin to say no, especially if people aren’t used to it – be prepared to be with their reaction. It may take people by surprise but no matter what, no matter how big the urge – don’t break the silence with an unwavering yes or anything else that diminishes the impact of your no.
  • Know your worth. Somewhere down the road, you may have forgotten who you are, what you stand for and what makes you happy. Go find that person you lost and reconnect with them. You can stand for what you don’t know and it’s one journey worth taking some PTO for.
  • Take a moment to feel the impact. The continuous need to please others is costing you a lot but until you slow down and list out just how much your actions are impacting your life – you probably won’t change.
  • Learn to love yourself again. Practicing self-acceptance is a critical piece to this puzzle. Feeling good about yourself and what you believe in is important to building a healthy emotional core. By building your self-esteem, you will also be strengthening your ability to speak up for you – by you.
  • Start small. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the loss of your self-confidence. This will take time, but it’s completely reversible. It depends solely on how badly you want change. When starting to say no, maybe practice with a stranger versus someone who already has a way of listening to you as someone who will agree.

Final thoughts: We all suffer from some level of self-doubt or lack of belief in our ability to show up in life. The problem is that until you believe in yourself, it doesn’t matter what someone else says because the most important person doesn’t believe it…you. The approval you are really seeking lies within yourself and this can only be found once you stop searching for the approval of others.

The floor is yours: How important is standing up for yourself in the workplace?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

Joshua /

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