3 Confident Comebacks When Pressured, Pushed, and Put on the Spot

woman with leadership blues

I’m normally a pretty confident leader. I feel good about the strengths, skills, and experiences I bring to the table.

That is, until I’m pressured, pushed, or put on the spot.

In those scenarios, I sometimes become a less confident version of myself. I second guess my sound judgment. I question my decision. I fret to meet others expectations.

Ever been there, leader friend?

Over the years, I developed some tried and true responses for when I feel cornered. Next time you feel pressured, pushed, or put on the spot, try one of these 3 confident comebacks:

1. When you feel pressured: Try offering a choice.

How many times have you been cornered by a team member and their emergency request?

“I need your approval on the colors for our new logo within the next 15 seconds or the whole company will be doomed forever!”

Early in my leadership, I would feed off their frenzy and respond in kind: “Oh no! The clock is ticking! Purple Passion and Assuming Avocado as our new logo colors or not?! OK…yes! No! I mean, maybe! Absolutely yes! Whew – did we make it in time?”

Now, when a team member, boss, client, or child pressures me with their emergency approval, request, or demand I offer them a choice: “If you would like my answer right now, my answer is no. If you would like to give me until tomorrow afternoon to think it over, my answer might be yes. Your choice.”

When you make it clear to those who work with you (and live with you) their emergency is not yours, the number of super-urgent demands brought to you will exponentially decrease.

2. When you feel pushed: Try “asked and answered.”

I wish I had known about this response when I worked with a persistent, smooth-talking leader named Leon. Leon would regularly ask my opinion on projects. When I disagreed with him or offered a perspective he didn’t like, he would ask again: “But don’t you want our logo to communicate our passion for our product?” And then again, “Surely you don’t disagree with the global logo experts who say Purple Passion is the best color, do you?” And again, “Don’t you remember that one time you said Purple Passion was a fresh logo color? Don’t you want our logo to be fresh?” Over and over he would push, push, push me to feel bad about my response and ultimately change my mind.

What I should have said to Leon is what I now say to my children when they ask me for dessert right before dinner over and over (and over). “Asked and answered.” As in, “You’ve already asked me that question and I’ve already answered it.” Period. End of discussion. And when they try to ask “But why?” just one more time I say, “Asked and answered.” (Again.)

Eventually, my children get sick of hearing my broken-record response. Your smooth-talking Leon will get tired of hearing you say, “You’ve asked me the same question five different ways. I’ve answered you each time. My answer will not change. Please don’t ask again.” 

3. When you feel put on the spot: Try turning the tables.

While I like to think I’m pretty good on my feet, I absolutely hate having important things sprung on me. Especially in front of other people. It seems team meetings and conference calls are fertile grounds for these kinds of sticky situations.

A few of the best responses I’ve heard (and used myself) when put on the spot are:

“That’s a great question! What do you think?”

“I’d really like to hear what someone else has to say.”

“I don’t know but I would be happy to find out.”

“I would really like to speak with someone who has expertise in this area in order to offer an informed response.”

What about you? How do you respond when the pressure is on?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “3 Confident Comebacks When Pressured, Pushed, and Put on the Spot

  1. Years ago my responses when pressured would be one extreme or the other. Sometimes I would totally clam up and waste the great opportunity to share my thoughts or show the people around me that I am a strong person who will not be bullied. Other times I would run my mouth and often risk saying something that would later have me making amends. Through this blog and many other educational opportunities, I’m learning that I don’t always have to speak up, but when I do, my words need to be measured, thought out and kind. I don’t always have to have the answer right then to be a valuable member of the team.