In my coaching experience, one thing that particularly concerns some people is having to make a decision under pressure. Especially when someone is pushing them to say ‘yes’ and to do so right now!
It often feels easiest to give in. Doing so is, of course, a decision in itself, though it might not feel like one.
Making a decision usually feels empowering and energizing, whereas deciding to give in provides, at best, a feeling of relief – “thank heavens that’s over”.
Escape the Pressure
It is much better, of course, to escape the pressure not by giving in, but by buying time. The easiest way to buy time is simply to ask for a moment in a polite, straightforward way. This has two advantages.
Firstly, it usually works. Secondly, if it doesn’t work, it tells you a lot about the other person. If they refuse to allow you the time you need, how much respect do they really have for you? Does it seem like they are willing to put your needs on par with their own? Do you really want to be dealing with them?
It may be that they really can’t allow you the time you want – in which case, you have at least learnt more about their situation. Ultimately, if you have something they want, other people will probably want it, too.
If they are being pressurized by someone else, can you go ‘over their head’, and buy time from this third party instead?
Invent a Third Party
You can also invent a ‘third party’ of your own to buy time. “I have to speak to my partner before making this decision.”
More devious ways of buying time include hijacking the conversation and going off on a seemingly random tangent, so the person applying the pressure gets ever more exasperated and finally agrees to a later decision time – anything to get away. But this is a tactic of desperation.
How did you get into such a place to start with?
Dealing with Dilemmas
These high-pressure situations often create dilemmas. On the one hand we want to please the other person, or at least to avoid conflict.
On the other, when we agree to things we don’t like, we tend to resent the other person and may end up expressing this resentment in underhand ways. ‘Passive aggressive’ people have turned this into a way of life.
Difficult decisions often create a conflict in values. In this case, it is best to go back to basics and look at your values.
Using Values to Help Dilemmas
I find it a useful exercise to copy Ben Franklin and write down your values. He listed 12, plus an extra one added on the advice of a friend, which he later dropped from the list: keep the number low-ish and don’t put things in because you think other people think you ‘should’.
Then try putting them in order: put the one that is most important to you first. This is an illuminating exercise in itself, but will help when faced with dilemmas. In the end, is it more important to you to please other people or to get your own way? Only you can decide.
Ideally, of course, dilemmas can be wrought into outcomes where both sides win a little: the classic ‘win/win’ outcome.
This can take time – all the more reason for buying some.
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