Do you have a really hard time saying “no” to people? Are you quick to agree with others even if you have a different opinion? Is your schedule filled with other people’s priorities rather than your own? If so, you may be a people pleaser!
According to therapist Erika Myers, when kindness to others involves “editing or altering words and behaviors for the sake of another person’s feelings or reactions” it has crossed over into people pleasing behavior.
While at first glance people pleasing may seem benign, it can actually be quite destructive. Let’s evaluate the pitfalls of this practice, so we can live our most authentic life.
What is People Pleasing?
People pleasing can take on many forms, but a key element is putting other people’s needs, desires, and opinions above our own. It may look like always saying “yes” to others, being quick to agree with others, habitually volunteering to take on work, excessive apologizing, or having trouble asking for help.
People pleasers don’t just do these things from time to time, it is a way of life for them. Many times it may feel like a compulsion as if they have no choice. Often this is rooted in a desire for love and acceptance. And while it may make other people happy for a time, it is no way to build authentic relationships.
It’s not that you can’t help others or put others before you occasionally, but “the urge to please others can be damaging to ourselves and, potentially, to our relationships when we allow other people’s wants to have more importance than our own needs,” says Myers.
How to Break Out of the People Pleasing Cycle
Recognizing that you are a people pleaser and wanting to change are important first steps, but even then it can be very difficult to show up in a different way. Here are some things that will help you make this transition.
- Know Thyself - In order to break out of people pleasing patterns, it is important to know yourself. Taking time to listen to your own preferences and desires is crucial if you want to show up in a more authentic way. It can be as small as thinking about what show you would like to watch rather than just going with the flow. As you develop the habit of checking in with yourself, lean into what your gut is saying. At first you don’t have to act on it, but over time you will learn to trust that your desires matter.
- Communicate - When you recognize what you want in a situation, communicate it in a kind and clear manner. This may be asking for what you need, expressing your preference, saying “no”, or putting a boundary in place. Done in a respectful manner each of these things allows the relationship to grow because you are showing up in a more genuine way.
- Give Yourself Time - When you first begin shedding your people pleasing tendencies, you may need some time to figure out how to respond. It is okay to say, “I’ll need to think about that” or “I’ll have to check my calendar.” Then you can take some time to check in with yourself before giving your reply.
- Don’t Explain Yourself Too Much - It is okay to say “no” to a request without giving a reason. You don’t need to justify your decision to others. A simple, “thanks for thinking of me, but I won’t be available this time” is all that is needed.
- Don’t Apologize - Reserve your apologies for when you are really in the wrong. You don’t need to apologize for disappointing others with your boundaries, preferences, or opinions.
- Be Ready for Some Slack - When you begin changing your people pleasing ways, it will not please everyone. Some people will respect you for this change, while others may push back. Notice the response, and see what it tells you about the other person and your relationship.
Are you a people pleaser? If you aren’t sure, head on over to Dr. Susan Newman’s site and take the “Do You Have a People-Pleasing Problem?” quiz.