A ‘people pleaser’ is someone who will go out of their way to make others happy. They constantly put other people’s needs and feelings before their own. They will say “yes” when they want to say “no.” They will rush to the aid of friends and family regardless of what is going on in their own lives. They will back down as soon as there is a whiff of conflict so as not to upset someone.
Research has shown that people pleasers, who also tend to be high on the “agreeableness” trait, are not often as successful as people who are low on agreeableness. People pleasers tend to have more unequal and insecure relationships and tend also to be prone to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Usually, because of a long history of emotional neglect and conditional love dating back to childhood, people pleasers fear conflict. They believe that any disagreement will cause rejection and that they will lose the love or respect they want unless they agree or give in. They believe they have to work hard for the love and admiration that they get, rather than holding a belief that they are valuable and worthwhile for just being them. People pleasers are often also relatively unaware of their own needs and feelings and will rarely ask for help even if they do know what they require from others.
Because people pleasing is often such an old, ingrained habit, it can take a while to break. However, if you are a people pleaser and want to break this habit, you can start by following these tips:
1. Spend time checking in with your own needs and feelings
People pleasers tend to focus on everyone else and rarely spend the time to get to know and understand their own needs and feelings. Paying attention and even taking the time to diarise your own patterns can really help. Useful things to take note of are: energy levels, mood, working hours, sleep patterns and even unhelpful habits like binge-watching TV, binge eating, drinking alcohol and other signs that things may not be all rosy for you.
2. Be aware of your “shoulds” and compare them to your “authentic yes”
People pleasers often make decisions based on what they feel is the “right thing” to do, what they “should” do or what will make others happy. Becoming aware of this rationalisation process and comparing it to when you actually, genuinely FEEL like doing something can really help you separate out your authentic needs from your conditioned habits. And, if the feeling you have in response to a request is not 100% ‘YES’ then treat it as a ‘No’!
3. Get used to slow ‘No’s or buying time
People pleasers often react on impulse and say “yes” before they give themselves time to feel their own energy levels and think about the consequences of saying “yes” for them. Getting practiced at “let me have a look at my diary and I’ll get back to you” or “let me sleep on it” can give you the time to do some self-reflection and reality testing before you respond to any request.
4. A “yes” is always a “no” to something else
Take the time to reality test the request. What WON’T you have time for if you agree to this request? What will you have to put off to fit this in? What is the real consequence of doing this for you? Most people pleasers trick themselves into believing that each request they say “yes” to is “not a big deal” and rarely stop to consider the cumulative consequences of these decisions.
5. Practice saying “no”
Most people pleasers fear conflict. To lessen your anxiety start practicing saying “no” to people and requests and see what happens. Most of the time the consequences won’t be as bad as you fear and you will be nicely surprised at how reasonable people can be. If this is a real challenge for you begin your practice by saying “no” to the people and requests that are most easy for you (e.g. saying no to a telemarketer) and work up to saying “no” to the people and requests that are most difficult for you (e.g. saying no to your boss or parent).
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