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Push principle

Principles > Push principle

Principle | How it works | So what?



I force you to act, whether you want to do it or not. You feel no option but to obey.

How it works

No choice

Many forms of persuasion seek to change what people believe such that they act through their own free will. In a push approach, although physical force may not be used, the people feel they are obliged to comply even though may be against their better judgment.

Non-physical push

For non-physical pushing, you need power or authority that impacts the needs that the other person. The level of threat needs to be high enough that they feel obliged to comply with your request. In a company this can be the power to dismiss, demote or sideline them.

In business, pushing appears when managers tell their subordinates what to do (as opposed to creating pull by selling them on the idea).

Physical coercion

For physical coercion, all you need is to be stronger than them. In countries, the police and military forces have a high coercive capability and are the ultimate tools of government for assuring order in their country. Within companies, security organizations play a similar role. With children, adults physical size gives that power. Between individual adults, coercion can be carried out with physical size, strength, knowledge of martial arts or the use of weapons.

Companies need coercion to eject intruders and the occasional employee who lose control of themselves. In practice, it can be bad publicity and companies will do their best to avoid any form of direct force.

Governments use coercive methods to control and contain criminals (who themselves tend to push more than pull). They also use it in war with their neighbors and enemies, whether they are the aggressor or the defender.

So what?

Although not the best moral approach, sometimes push methods are necessary and sometimes it is used as the easy short-term option. Everything has its price, however, and pushing can cost more in such as the longer-term betrayal effects.

Generally speaking, pushing should be minimized wherever possible. Use it only where the greater effort of pulling is inappropriate.

If your child is about to run out into traffic then grabbing them is a prudent form of physical coercion. Parents also face endless dilemmas where pushing may seem necessary. Teenagers tend to listen to their peers more than their parents and parents sometimes fall into push methods to hopefully keep their hormone-ridden children on the straight and narrow.

Pushing works best in situations where you want people to move from their current positions if you use it just to get them moving. For example, you may show them how they will lose their jobs if do not engage in the change activities.

See also

Theories about power, Pull principle, Attraction vs. avoidance preference


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