These two, simple four-letter words with opposite meanings "push" and "pull" are often used interchangeably. They produce different results, however, so why would they be confused?

Let's make this simple: By pushing something, it goes away from you; by pulling, it comes closer to you. As simple as this is, I have used both methods to try and achieve the same result. And, I do consider myself to be intelligent enough to understand the meanings of the two words. Still, I have fallen prey to trying a shortcut approach when I am hurried.

The "push" and "pull" usage I am referring to is with people. Management pushes an agenda downward through an organization and demands compliance.

This action in no way means the end results are what was intended or desired. Employees have enough intelligence and savvy to know how to comply with management agendas without hurting themselves or getting in trouble.

Management is left wondering how the agenda could have been pushed harder to attain total compliance. The more management pushes, the more the employees pull away.

This gets deep into human nature. I will not play Dr. Phil. Honest.

A more rewarding approach, which is easier on everyone, is to have all the organization involved in developing the agenda or project. This gets into human nature also, in the area of ownership.

The people involved in developing become "owners" of the agenda, and are therefore more excited and determined to see it successful. The responsibility for success belongs to everyone and all share (pull together) in the implementation and workload to achieve desired results.

In the above example, management is happier, employees are happier, and the end result is the one desired. Pulling together is a natural act in everyday life, yet when management and employees see each other as combatants, the push turns to shove - not pull.

Pushing Sales

In the everyday sales world, push is used in place of pull constantly. The sales representative pushes for a "close" and the "sale," while the prospect pulls in the other direction. The prospects are not looking to be pushed into doing anything that is against their will.

However, more than likely a prospect will be pulled into a conversation that addresses something that has value for them. Again, the push is used in the place of the pull when desiring a completely different result.

Everyone has their own interest uppermost in their mind at all times. This seems to be why it is natural for a salesperson to push for the sale. The salesperson has self-interest in the priority spot instead of the prospect's interest. This naturally causes the prospect to pull away! (It is human nature, you know.) In this instance, both parties have their own interest at stake because it is the natural tendency of human beings. (OK, I probably owe Dr. Phil for that sentence.)

Here is a novel idea: Why not have the sales representative concentrate on what is in the customer's best interest? (All of my clients have heard this repeatedly.)

This would mean going against human nature and putting one's self-interest behind another's. Just think - what if that caught on in the workplace? Heck, that might even work in relationships - maybe, just maybe, reducing the divorce rate, too? It might even eliminate a lot of stress in daily lives. (Move over Dr. Phil, and pay me for that one!)

Bottom Line

Remember back to the dating years of your youth. (For the ones that are still in that age group, you should not be reading this article.) How many times did you try to push the other person into accepting a date? That just does not work very well.

Using the pull approach will allow all parties involved in any decision to receive, at least partially, the desired result. That is referred to as a win-win.

The bottom line - after all, this is a capitalistic society- is to get others to help us achieve our goal. Guess what? The others are most likely trying to do the same.

New guest columnist Mack Heaton has assumed the seminar and consulting practice of the late Tom McCart, No Secrets Inc. He can be reached at 803-318-2383 or Heaton will host a one-hour "Pricing for Profit" seminar live on the Internet on Sept. 9 at 2 p.m. (EST). To register, go to

Publication date: 09/06/2004