How to deal with push back statements

Ever experienced a push back moment?

You’ve no doubt been in a meeting or workshop when you hear someone saying, “we can’t”, “you can’t” or “it won’t”.

My Gen Y buddies tell me these are push back statements.


They’re often used as a strategy by meeting participants when things haven’t gone according to their script.push back

Sometimes people use them when they feel they may be left behind or are losing relevance to their group or community.

If you anticipate some ‘pushers’ at your next meeting, here’s a swag of ‘Plan B’ options for you to respond with.

Push back Response
We don’t have enough money in the budget How can we share the expense?

How can reallocate funds within the existing budget?

They never do what they say they’ll do Are there any times they do?

What would it take to make it work?

How can we make this happen?

We’ve tried that already What was the outcome?

How can we try it again with modern tech?

What did you do?

But they won’t be engaged or they’ll lose interest Why don’t we ask them what they’d like?

What do we need to do to get them engaged?

Why do you think they won’t be?

You won’t understand How can I get a better understanding?
It’s too expensive In comparison to…?
They keep saying they’re going to…. I can’t talk about what’s happened before, it’ just that…
You’re too young and inexperienced How can I get the experience you need?

How old do I have to be?

We haven’t got enough time How long will this take?

What can we prioritise?

Let’s make a plan for the time we do have.

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PPS – send me through some of your own responses to a push back statement (by leaving a comment below) and receive a 20 minute coaching call (valued at $100.00)

Andrew Huffer

Andrew Huffer has over 25 years experience in working with organisations, businesses, managers and communities and at a state, national and international level. He designs and delivers specialist engagement processes, with a focus on facilitating open decision making processes and skill development of clients. He has delivered presentations and workshops at a number of state, national and international conferences.

Reader Interactions


  1. Michael Cheffins says

    They keep saying they’re going to…. I can’t talk about what’s happened before, it’ just that…
    If I understand this as meaning “going to… but never starting”
    then the push back lines are either (time related)
    Were realistic deadlines set?
    When deadlines were not met, what was the response?
    or (people related)
    Can we be specific about who “they” are?
    Is it a matter of getting “them” to make their action commitment to someone whom they respect?

    • Andrew Huffer says

      Hi Michael,

      These were all real-world examples and your insights are spot on.

      ‘Going to.. but never started’ was indeed the issue, along with not keeping people properly informed of reasons why.

      And I think that’s the driver here – people are not hearing about or aware of the reasons why something hasn’t happened or didn’t ‘work’.

      Sometimes this becomes a convenient shield to hide behind when heaping criticism without providing alternatives or refusing to participate or be part of a solution.



  2. Rachel Apelt says

    Thanks Andrew – great to have a fresh approach to breaking down the ‘absolutes’ into workable pieces. I use this type of reframing to get people to think more creatively and positively:

    When people tell me that they don’t have the resources or time to do something, I ask: What can you do with the resources and time that you do have?

    When they tell me they couldn’t possibly do something because it is too hard, I ask: If you scale it back, what would a more manageable version look like?

    When they tell me something is unrealistic and impossible, I ask them to humour me for a minute and tell me their ‘magic wand’ version – what would they do? That can open creative thinking that in turn, yields possibilities. It also gives them a space to be both playful and frank, allowing them to acknowledge what’s causing them grief – for example, some shonky political or administrative situation.

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