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Push Pull Communication: Definition, Concept, Origins in Social Dynamics & Seduction

Cain Parish

In This Article:

In seduction and influence psychology, push pull communication involves the art of alternating hot(pull) and cold(push) behaviour to disguise intentions, attract people, and compel interest.

We see it often in game, business & marketing and general communication and social dynamics behaviour.

This article goes over definitions, how to recognise push pull communication, and how to understand the concept – in case it matters.

Let’s get started.

Push Pull communication demonstrated by a person holding onto a magnet being pulled somewhere

Push Pull Communication: Definitions and Concepts

Technically speaking, push pull communication is an intricate interaction strategy used to influence and engage others through a calculated mix of emotional and conversational inputs.

In plain English, it’s being hot and cold to someone to mess with their emotions – usually for attraction or influence purposes.

At its core, push pull communication involves alternating between metaphorically “pushing” someone away with a certain level of emotional distance or challenge, and “pulling” them closer with emotional warmth or intimacy.

We see this technique in various forms of social interactions where it’s being employed to generate attraction, maintain interest, and enhance interpersonal dynamics.

Understanding the Basic Premise

The basic premise of push pull communication lies in the balance and timing of interactions that alternately affirm and challenge the recipient.

This strategy is rooted in the psychological principle of tension and release, which keeps individuals engaged and interested. For example, a person might compliment a partner (pull), followed by a playful critique (push), creating a dynamic and unpredictable communication pattern that can intensify emotional responses.

The point of this is to keep the recipient on their toes – the inconsistency and unreliability makes it hard for them to understand your feelings towards them. This inherently makes them less secure and theoretically, more inclined towards chasing you and your validation of the situation.

To be clear – this isn’t a healthy communication strategy. This is black hat stuff – a close cousin of manipulation. It’s important that you know what it is and how to recognise it – so you can find a way to defend yourself or recognise if you’re the one doing it.

Basic principles of attraction and keeping someone’s attention state that we hold other people’s interest better when we think about them more or they’re harder for us to figure out.

By not being simple – not allowing yourself to be put into a bucket of ‘interested’ or ‘aloof’, you make yourself more of an enigma. One key principle of social dynamics is inference – the idea that simple external demonstrations like our presentation or our attitude towards someone infer things about our personalities or our inner thoughts and feelings.

Someone that chases and constantly begs for your attention can be inferred to be desperate, lowering their social status. We go so far as to assume the inverse is true – that someone that seems to not want your attention or actively push you away must be secure and valuable – higher status.

You can understand more about status and how it works here.

Push pull is a way to hijack this phenomenon of inference, to do and say things that make us appear to demonstrate high status whilst tempering our confrontational behaviour through pulling.

Origins and Development in Social Dynamics

The origins of push pull communication trace back to social and psychological theories surrounding human relationships and attraction.

Historically, this communication model evolved from early observations of social interactions where individuals exhibited alternating behaviors of engagement and disengagement to maintain relational dynamics.

We as a species began to notice that we dwelled more on people that were both hot and cold to us – that the emotional rollercoaster was captivating. It’s not good for us – but the truth is that we love drama. Consistency can be boring, especially when you’re looking for emotional spikes and thrilling chemistry.

Over time, these observations have been formalized into what is now recognized as push pull communication, a key component in understanding social dynamics and relational management.

Core Principles

Balancing Positive (Pull) and Negative (Push) Interactions

Effective push pull communication requires a delicate balance between positive and negative interactions. “Pull” strategies might include showing interest, giving compliments, or revealing personal details to create closeness. Conversely, “Push” strategies involve creating mild emotional distance or injecting playful challenges to provoke intrigue and engagement.

If you understand what a person likes and dislikes, as well as what balance of drama and safety resonates the best with them, you can adjust your push pull to their specific tastes.

Pulling creates intimacy and shows connection/shared values, where pushing creates independence and shows that you’re not desperate or chasing their affection.

As much as doing this kind of thing can be manipulative, the core concept of demonstrating non-neediness and independence will absolutely serve you well in your relationships.

Timing and Context Relevance

The timing and relevance of push and pull actions are critical. The impact of these actions largely depends on the context of the interaction and the emotional state of the individuals involved.

As much as it’s frustrating to hear that it’s always context-dependent, you can’t use a highly specific emotional technique like push pull without a fine understanding of the person you’re communicating with.

Too much push will drive people away. Too much pull will undermine the pushing component, and make it tough for you to seem genuine when you do eventually push.

Your balance will rely on things like:

  • Level of familiarity with the person
  • How much they’re used to being pushed away – more confrontational or combative people will respond better to more push than pull
  • What your objectives are – creating attraction temporarily through a spike in emotions is different to developing long-term intimacy
  • How much you want to artificially attempt to influence a person – the more you push pull for the sake of it, the less genuine you’re being

Objectives of Push Pull Communication

The main objectives of push pull communication include:

  • Creating Emotional Responses: By alternating between closeness and distance, this technique elicits strong emotional reactions, often leading to heightened interest and involvement from the other party.
  • Generating Interest and Attraction: This approach keeps the interaction lively and unpredictable, which can be particularly effective in romantic or persuasive contexts.
  • Building and Sustaining Engagement: Push pull dynamics ensure that no interaction feels too one-sided or predictable, fostering a more engaging and dynamic communication experience.

In seduction, push pull is a way to attract someone through non-typical behaviour – making yourself stand out through inconsistent and enigmatic actions and words.

In business, it’s often used to manage power dynamics – to juggle being able to assert yourself without coming across as bossy or confrontational.

Examples of Push and Pull

Sample Scenarios in Communication

Examples of push pull dynamics include:

  • In a friendship, one might offer support and understanding (pull), followed by asserting the need for personal space (push), balancing closeness with independence. This can allow you to assert boundaries or a need for distance whilst allowing you to be there for a friend.
  • In sales, a seller might highlight the limited availability of a product (push), followed by offering a special discount to the buyer (pull) to create urgency and drive sales. This allows you to demonstrate exclusivity and mitigate how ‘salesy’ you come across, whilst still using sales tactics to increase buyer desire.
  • In a romantic setting, a person might show affection and attention one day (pull) and then appear less available or responsive the next day (push), which can intensify attraction and interest. In a professional context, a manager might praise an employee for good work (pull) and then challenge them with a new task or a higher standard (push) to promote growth and engagement.
Two people across from each other at a table using push pull communication

Real-life Applications in Different Settings

Push pull communication is versatile and applicable across various settings:

  • In leadership: A leader might empower a team with autonomy (pull), but set challenging targets (push) to motivate and drive performance.
  • In education: Teachers can foster a supportive learning environment (pull) while also setting high expectations and challenges (push) to stimulate student engagement and learning.
  • In seduction: Like it or not, we’re attracted to people that challenge us. Complimenting someone (pull) and then using humour to mention how you two wouldn’t work out (push) can be very attractive under the right circumstances. In heightened environments like bars and nightclubs, this works better, as we tend to get bored of people very easily when we have them figured out. I wouldn’t recommend it on a date or somewhere more stable and serious.

Components of Push Pull

Verbal Components: Phrases and Statements

Verbal tactics in push pull communication are designed to intrigue and provoke thought. These can include:

  • Compliments that make the receiver feel valued.
  • Playful teasing that challenges or playfully criticizes.
  • Ambiguous statements that keep the listener guessing and interested.

Non-verbal Components: Body Language and Actions

Non-verbal signals are equally crucial in conveying push and pull dynamics. These include:

  • Mirroring to create a feeling of rapport and connection.
  • Slight withdrawal or turning away to introduce a sense of challenge or distance.
  • Controlled use of eye contact to either connect deeply or create a sense of mystery and detachment.

Mechanisms of Action

The effectiveness of push pull communication often hinges on its ability to activate certain psychological triggers such as:

  • Need for Approval: Fluctuating between approval and mild disapproval can make individuals strive harder to regain approval.
  • Fear of Loss: Intermittently pulling away can trigger a fear of loss, making the other person more eager to close the gap.
  • Desire for Reward: The unpredictability of receiving emotional rewards makes the interaction more compelling.

Psychological Triggers Involved

At its core, push pull communication taps into fundamental psychological needs and desires:

  • The need for emotional connection and validation.
  • The thrill that comes from unpredictability and challenge.
  • The desire to resolve emotional tension, which can deepen engagement.

Impact on Perceived Availability and Desirability

The strategic alternation between availability and scarcity in push pull communication significantly affects how individuals perceive each other’s desirability and commitment. This perception plays a critical role in deepening interest and investment in the relationship or interaction.

You can see how basically everything – from your presentation to your actions, factors into whether your behaviour is deemed a push or a pull – and how a combination of both can create the most intrigue.

Analyzing Effectiveness

Criteria for Success in Communication

The effectiveness of push pull communication can be measured by the level of engagement, emotional response, and ultimately, the achievement of the desired outcome, whether it’s deepening a relationship, closing a sale, or maintaining interest.

Success in this communication strategy is highly dependent on the communicator’s ability to read and adapt to the emotional cues and contexts of their interactions. You’ll know it’s working because the other person will be increasingly receptive to you.

Measuring Response and Engagement

Feedback and observable responses are essential metrics for assessing the impact of push pull communication. Increased interest, emotional investment, and proactive involvement from the other party are indicators of successful push pull dynamics.

Adaptation and Personalization

Adapting push pull techniques to fit individual personalities and specific contexts is crucial for their success. What works in one scenario may not work in another. For the best results, personalise things to your recipient. Some people really don’t like certain tactics – push tactics in particular.

Test the waters before doing anything crazy – start small and see how receptive someone is before jumping in with crazy rapport breaks.

Learning from Feedback and Interactions

Continuous learning from past interactions and feedback is essential to understand push pull techniques and if they worked.

You have to watch closely – calibrate yourself and your efforts to how you see the other person react, and understand what changed to make a positive or negative difference.

A wide angle shot of two people engaging in push pull communication


As much as it can be used for both good and evil, push pull communication is an effective tactic to build rapport and demonstrate status. By understanding and implementing the principles of push and pull—balancing emotional proximity and distance, and timing interactions with precision—individuals can enhance their communication skills and foster deeper connections.

Mastering communication like this allows you to control how you’re perceived – a powerful tool for influence. For additional resources on influence, I recommend the book Influence, by Robert Cialdini.


What is push pull communication?

Push pull communication is a strategy used to engage and influence others by alternating between emotional warmth and distance. This technique creates a dynamic interaction that can enhance attraction and maintain interest.

Is push pull communication considered manipulative?

While push pull communication can be used effectively for positive interactions, it is often seen as manipulative because it involves playing with someone’s emotions to elicit a desired response. It’s important to recognize and understand this to either defend against or responsibly use the technique.

How can push pull communication be identified in everyday interactions?

Push pull communication can be identified by observing fluctuations in emotional engagement and disengagement in interactions. Signs include inconsistent responses, alternating between compliments and criticisms, or changes in physical closeness and distance.

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Cain Parish

Cain Parish is the owner of A prolific writer, educator and relationship coach since 2019, he specializes in dating, relationships, emotional intelligence and social skills. He is also the author and creator of the world’s largest and most comprehensive database for dating and relationship advice, which can be found on his website. His first book, I’m Sorry I Egged Your House, is due to be published in 2024.

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