When You Need To Push Back
Whether you are an accounting employee or an accounting entrepreneur, it’s nice to be considered the person that other people can count on. When others know that you can be relied on to do great work in a timely fashion, that definitely helps you get noticed, whether you are looking to move up in your company or you are looking for client referrals.
Unfortunately, saying yes to every request might make you the “go to” person, but it can also make you incredibly stressed, overwhelmed and burned out. For a hardworking mom like yourself, it can be tricky to push back when requests from bosses, coworkers or clients start messing with your schedule and making you feel like you’re being pulled in too many directions.
What often happens to a lot of accountant moms is that you work so hard to prove that you are capable and valuable, that you wind up being the person that others turn to in order to get a lot of the work done. You’re trying to do your job so well, that you then can become the “dumping ground” for work that others, who aren’t necessarily pulling their weight, haven’t done.
It doesn’t even have to be when you are amazing and everyone relies on you. It can also be just the normal “I need this by the end of the day” unexpected request from your manager, the phone call from the client that they forgot to tell you their bank needs their latest financials for a refinance, or your spouse telling you that their dry cleaning needs to be picked up as they walk out the door.
Saying no can be very challenging for a lot of women, especially when you’ve been taught to make others happy by saying yes. The need to please is difficult to override, whether you’re dealing with work demands or personal requests from your spouse, your children, or other people and situations in your life.
The fear of not being liked, not being valued, or worse, being rejected, can be so powerful that you may find yourself waking up at 4 am in order to get everything done. Not only are there not enough hours in the day to get it all done, but then you can’t even figure out what to do next, what’s a priority, and how to balance it all while still maintaining your sanity in the process.
Learning how to push back in a way that doesn’t jeopardize your career, your business, or your relationships, offers you the opportunity for a discussion as opposed to a disagreement, and gives you the ability to set boundaries around your time. If you want to have more autonomy over your schedule, and decrease your overwhelm, while still maintaining healthy relationships, you need to learn a better way to push back.
If you’ve ever found yourself in a meeting getting defensive about requests being made of you, hanging up from a client call with a feeling of dread, or battling with your children because of their demands, then this episode is going to be really helpful. There is a better way to be an amazing working mom, but not lose yourself in the process.
This week I’m going to discuss a method for how to push back and give you examples of when and how to put this method to use.
The method for how to push back
Whether you need to push back at work or at home, it can be challenging to make sure you’re not a doormat that other people walk all over, but that you’re also not combative and difficult either. The issue is finding that balance between giving others what they want, but not at the expense of what you want.
First, it’s important to understand that when someone hears “No”, their brain starts to go to battle against the other person, wanting to convince them to say yes. If we put you in an MRI scanner and flashed the word “No” for less than one second, you’d see a sudden release of dozens of stress-producing hormones, interrupting the normal functioning of your brain, impairing logic, reason, language processing and communication.
That sounds like a lot for just one simple word, but that’s how powerful our words and our language are to our brains. Interestingly, both you, the speaker, and the other person, the listener, will have a physiological reaction to the word “No”, causing the release of those stress-producing chemicals in both of you.
As a mother I’m sure you’ve experienced the effect of saying no to your toddler; that total meltdown and temper tantrum that can wreak havoc in the peaceful, non-combative home you’d like to have. Although a toddler temper tantrum can be challenging, it’s also completely normal since hearing the word no just floods their little bodies with the same hormones that you experience when your boss says no to your request for more paid vacation time.
So how can you push back and not become a pushover? I was just listening to a podcast where the host shared a method for pushing back that allows you to have a conversation rather than a confrontation and I just knew this was something that The CPA MOMS podcast audience would benefit from learning.
The method is simple – when replying to a request you would say, “Yes (a version of what the other person wants) AND (a version of what you want)” as in “Yes I will do that thing for you AND when and how it works for me. The reason this works is because when someone comes to you with a request, by saying “Yes” initially, it shows that you’re willing to do the work or make good on the request, and when you say “Yes….and…” it opens up a two-way conversation as opposed to a conflict (I’ll share some examples in the next section).
So instead of being on the defensive and putting a wall up when someone comes to you with a request, you are allowing for you and the other person to hear each other and for a negotiation if necessary. When you’re defensive or trying to say no, what often happens is that neither person is really actively listening to the other person.
Remember what happens to your brain when you hear no; it interrupts the normal functioning of your brain, impairing logic, reason, language processing and communication. Therefore, both of you are listening for a break in the conversation or a way to prove yourself right and the other person wrong.
When your brain hears no it isn’t openly or actively listening in order to be curious; it’s listening to find out how it can build the strongest argument in order to fight and win. But when you learn how to create a discussion or a dialogue, both parties benefit because you can be genuinely curious and potentially see things from a different perspective.
By initially saying yes, it shows the other person that you’re on their side and that you do want to reach the same goal that they do. Also, by initially saying yes, you make it possible for others to put down their defensive sword so they are open to hearing the “and” part of this push back method.; the “and” is where all your power is and where you avoid being a pushover or a people pleaser.
I think the best way to explain this is to offer examples so that you can see the power of this method when you need to push back.
Examples of when and how to put this method to use
Before I share the examples, remember that you are not trying to please people, to have constant battles or to be taken advantage of; you are looking to partner with others so that you both win. When a situation comes up that you need to push back, it’s important to learn how to create a discussion so that you will have better control over your time management as well as improve your relationships, both personally and professionally.
As a reminder the method is – “Yes (a version of what the other person wants) AND (a version of what you want)”.
Example #1 – you’re getting dinner ready and your child asks if they can have some candy before dinner. Most mother’s normal reaction would be to automatically say no, leaving the child to argue or throw some version of a temper tantrum, just before you’d like to sit down and have a nice family meal together.
Using the “Yes…and” push back method, you would say something like, “Yes, you can absolutely have some candy AND as soon as we’re done with dinner you can pick one out”. As you can see, they’re hearing yes first, decreasing their brain’s reaction to the word no, but the key is that you are also adding an addendum that makes sense to you, creating a win/win situation.
There’s no flood of stress hormones that come from the word no, and you’re both on the same team. Even if your reply is something they’ll have to wait longer for like, “Yes, you can absolutely have some candy AND Friday when we watch a movie together, you’ll be able to pick a few pieces of candy to go with the popcorn”, you’re still giving them a yes that their request will happen.
Example #2 – this is something that happened to me before I listened to the podcast that taught this push back method. What happened is that I am on the east coast and I have a client on the west coast that was trying to schedule a four-way call between my boss, another party, myself and him, and he mentioned doing it in the evening in my time zone, after my work hours.
In order to have a very balanced life, I am diligent about the boundaries I set when it comes to my time so this was not going to work for me, and frankly it wasn’t necessary to have the call on that particular date, at that particular time. My knee-jerk reaction to the request was to automatically tell my boss no, and point out that that wasn’t the only option for this call.
While my boss did not give me a hard time about me saying no, I now know I could have handled that situation better, having learned this new method for pushing back, while also letting my boss know I was a team player. In this scenario, I could have said, “Yes, I absolutely want to have this four-way call because I know it’s really important AND I’m going to give the client some options that work better for my schedule and might be better for everyone involved”.
In this situation, handling it this way, instead of automatically saying no, would have helped my brain to not flood my body with stress hormones, it would have not triggered more thoughts like “What is he thinking trying to schedule something after hours”, and it would have made it look like I was willing to work with my boss and the client, rather than making them wrong for suggesting the date and time that they did. This gentler push back would have made it easier for all parties involved.
Example #3 – a potential client wants to hire you but your book is full. It can be so challenging to say no to an opportunity for more work or more money, especially if you are a mompreneur and may have some fears around money.
In this example, you don’t need to say, “No, I’m sorry. I’m completely full and can’t take on any more clients”, instead you can say, “Yes, I absolutely can help you AND as soon as there’s a space available, I can let you know right away”. You could also add, “In the meantime, why don’t you tell me a little bit more about your business and your needs, and I’ll share my terms, conditions, and how I can help you”.
Again, using this push back method opens up the chance for a dialogue. Even if this client never works with you, you have left them with a positive impression that they might share with others, leading to client referrals in the future.
Example #4 – your spouse makes a request of you and you’ve already got too much on your plate. If you’re like most women, you’ve been taught to say yes to make others happy, often at your own expense, making it appear as if you can handle it all with a smile.
In this situation, instead of being frustrated or annoyed and saying no to the request, you also have the option to say, “Yes, I would like to help you pick up your dry cleaning AND the only time that works for me is Friday at 4 pm”. In this scenario you are giving your spouse a chance to appreciate your offer and to work something else out if they need the dry cleaning beforehand.
Whenever you have the opportunity to frame your approach to pushing back in this way, it shows others that you’re on their side, but it allows you to create boundaries and not overcommit yourself. When you can show others that they’re not wrong for making a request, and that you are willing to work with them in a way that also works best for you, you both win.
As author Byron Katie shares, “Defense is the first act of war”, so by not putting yourself or others on the defensive, you open up the opportunity for more dialogue than disagreements. When you need to push back, the “Yes…AND…” method is a gentle, yet powerful approach.
- What often happens to a lot of accountant moms is that you work so hard to prove that you are capable and valuable, that you wind up being the person that others turn to in order to get a lot of the work done.
- Learning how to push back in a way that doesn’t jeopardize your career, your business, or your relationships, offers you the opportunity for a discussion as opposed to a disagreement, and gives you the ability to set boundaries around your time.
- The reason this “Yes…AND” method works is because when someone comes to you with a request, by saying “Yes” initially, it shows that you’re willing to do the work or make good on the request, and when you say “Yes….and…” it opens up a two-way conversation as opposed to a conflict.
- Whenever you have the opportunity to frame your approach to pushing back in this way, it shows others that you’re on their side, but it allows you to create boundaries and not overcommit yourself.