Pushing and pulling are usually things we do after we make contact. A push without previous contact is often regarded and treated as a strike by the mind although it is pretty much the same. Work to clean yourself of this clarification by playing with the speed angle and introduction of the push/pull.
Start by placing the fist or hand on the body and relaxing by simply letting the contact sink into the partner. Do this for a while and continue to do this as you have one limb sinking into the partner and the other lightly pushing him in a different direction (for example your foot is resting heavy on his knee and your fist is pushing the back of his neck forward). Progress to pulling with open hand use or level work (place your elbow crook on his neck and pull) and change the speed of your work without letting your partner know verbally. He needs to relax and regard everything as simple pushes and pulls and keep himself free and relaxed by aligning and moving.
In this stage you will notice a shift in the work as it looks like you are hitting your partner so relax and breathe and work on changing his alignment by your work.
Give the work time to sink in and work honestly.