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Do You Suffer From the Need to Please?

2011 August 29

People pleasing isn’t all about pleasing others … it’s also about our effort to control what others think of us and fending off fear of rejection.

need to pleaseThere’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to please people, including ourselves. After all, what’s wrong with being willing to make sacrifices for the benefit of another?

The truth is, people pleasing isn’t all about pleasing others … it’s also about our effort to control what others think of us and fending off fear of rejection.

People pleasers are generally individuals who feel the need to be accepted by the world around them. And not just a general acceptance, but that of each person they come in contact with. Why does it matter so much to please someone else? The culture we humans have created for ourselves is mainly driven by what other people think of us, the tension between the desire for approval and the fear of disapproval. Businesses, social media, families, friendships, sports, politics; everything is heavily influenced by it.

Signs that you may be a people pleaser

  • You say yes, even when your mind says no.
  • You feel devastated at the very thought of someone not liking you.
  • You cringe at the first sign of conflict.
  • You find it difficult to speak up for yourself.
  • You lose sleep over the slightest altercation with another.
  • You help people even when they haven’t asked, and then feel resentful when if they don’t show ‘enough’ gratitude.

You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, unapologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good.’ ~Stephen Covey

People pleasers worry how others will view them when they say no because they don’t want to be seen as lazy, uncaring, selfish or totally egocentric. They especially fear they’ll be disliked and cut from the group, whether it’s friends, family or co-workers.

Not only does this create a lot of unnecessary pressure and stress, but if you’re over committed, you could lose sleep and become anxious and upset because you possibly can’t do it all.

Here are a few strategies to help you overcome the need to please

  • Find your motivation: Once you’ve identified yourself as a people pleaser, the first thing to do is take a thoughtful look at all the ways this is affecting your life. What’s holding you back from saying no without feeling guilty? If you find yourself repeatedly saying yes, only to end up feeling bitter and resentful then you need to be honest with the people involved. It’s not their responsibility to protect your healthy boundaries; it’s yours.
  • Set your priorities: Knowing your priorities and values helps you put the brakes on people-pleasing. Saying no without feeling guilty can be difficult, especially when it involves people you love and work with. But if saying yes prevents you from being able to do other things that are important to you or essential to achieving your goals, you need to learn how to say no without guilt – and you don’t have to explain why or offer excuses. A simple “I’m sorry I can’t help you with that,” will do. Rather than falling into “guilt mode” feel proud of yourself for focusing on the things that matter in your life.
  • Think before you commit: Whenever someone asks you for a favor, it’s perfectly OK to say that you need to think about it. This gives you the opportunity to consider if you can commit to helping them. (Be sure and take the opportunity to ask the person for details about the commitment so you can make an informed decision.) Then ask yourself if you really have the time to do this. What will you have to give up in order to do this? How pressured are you going to feel? Are you going to end up resentful of this person for asking? Asking these questions is key to preventing “What was I thinking?!” regrets later on.
  • Consider if you’re being manipulated: The sad truth is sometimes people are going to take advantage of you. Often the people who flatter you will say things like, ‘Oh you’re so much better at this than I am’ or ‘You’re so handy, can you help me out?’ Manipulators will gently coax you into doing something and before you know it, the decision has been made for you.
  • Don’t feel you need to defend yourself: It’s tempting to want to defend your decision to say no to someone so they understand your reasoning but that can not only back fire on you, it sets you up as coming from a place of weakness. It’s better to simply show a little empathy by letting the person know that you understand where they’re coming from, but unfortunately, you can’t help. People need to feel heard and understood, and this is a respectful way of asserting yourself and saying no.

Creating healthy boundaries for yourself isn’t selfish. When you say no to a new commitment, you’re honoring your existing obligations and ensuring that you’ll be able to devote quality time to them … there’s nothing worse than not being able to address a real need because our time is being consumed by our inability to say no to the squeaky wheels that surround us.

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21 Responses
  1. October 25, 2011

    Marty, you have hit close to home once again. I don’t think before I commit and than find myself drained from over committing.
    Thank you for putting a blog out like this that help me realize where my character defects are and helps me to begin to work through them.

    • October 25, 2011

      I’m so glad you enjoy the blog Karen! My hope is that the articles here will inspire you to recognize and make the most of all the strengths you already have within you – and I’m sure they far out shadow any defects :-)

  2. September 3, 2011

    Hi, Marty!
    I can recognize myself here from the period I was a teenager. Always wanting to help my friends, even if they didn’t ask me for it…helping them with their school homework, visiting them if they are ill…and then, of course, most of them started manipulating me. Of course, once I realized this, it made me angry and I decided not to go through life like that, as I can get easily hurt or tend to become too sensitive. Now I think twice before I decide if someone deserves my full attention and help.;)
    I am not an ultimate pleaser any more. lol
    Kristina L. recently posted..Leila London Coupon CodeMy Profile

  3. September 1, 2011

    I think everyone has a little of the need to please syndrome! The challenge is that we must control by focusing on what motivates us as you mentioned above.
    Andy Nathan recently posted..Google+ Social Search: Part 1My Profile

  4. August 31, 2011

    Hi Marty,

    Thanks for sharing another valuable post.

    Once you lose time, you can never get it back and in order to achieve your goals, it is important to develop good time management skills. One way you can be more productive is to learn how to say “NO”.

    Make Friends with the Word NO…
    This is where planning and goals become a huge asset. Planning shows you how much available time is in your day, making it easier for you to say NO to unimportant tasks that will keep you from achieving your own goals.

    It is not always easy to accomplish, but like many other things, it will become easier with practice. Each time you will gain more confidence in your ability to say “NO” and NOT feel the guilt.

    Becoming more comfortable saying “No” will also be a great stress reducer…

    To your continued inspiration,
    Marc Korn recently posted..The Confidence Factor | FREE Personal Assessment By Brian TracyMy Profile

  5. August 31, 2011

    Hi Marty,

    Just stopped by and enjoyed reading your post! People pleasing can become a bad habit that we often don’t recognize until the resentment begins to bubble over. Some personality types fade into the background and let others make most of the decisions. When it doesn’t work anymore we need to take a look and recognize our part in the situation. I love the line, “No is a complete sentence.”
    Cathy recently posted..5 Action Steps that You can Take Right Now that Will Help the Struggling Addict or Alcoholic in Your FamilyMy Profile

  6. August 31, 2011

    Hey Marty,
    I really appreciate this post because in years past I was very much a pleaser. Then as I developed and grew as a leader and person that started to phase out. Don’t get me wrong, I love to help people and I do what I can to give and sometimes over give, yes, I do it willingly and don’t feel bad about it.

    And yes, there are the times that something happens and I stew on it for the night. I think that is part of life and I am working on letting things go faster. The tips you give up above are excellent ways to move through challenges when wanting to please others.

    Thanks my dear!
    VaNessa Duplessie recently posted..Details Schmetails? Now I’m in the Black.My Profile

  7. August 30, 2011

    Just last Sunday I was reminded again of my need to please people. It isn’t really a need… it’s more like a compulsion. I feel really pressured within myself against saying no… but often my real need IS to say no, because to say yes means spreading myself too thin.

    Marty, this is a good list of things to consider. Thank you!

    Willena Flewelling
    Willena Flewelling recently posted..The One Thing You Have Control OverMy Profile

    • August 31, 2011

      Hey Willena,
      Always appreciate your thoughts … I know this subject is a sensitive one because there are many people who genuinely enjoy doing for others. It’s only when that need goes beyond what someone is doing for their own life that it becomes a potential problem. Thanks again, have a great day!

  8. August 30, 2011

    From this day forward, every time someone will ask a favor, I will think first before convincing myself to commit to it. In this way, I will be able to make sure if I can do it or not, so that I won’t disappoint anyone. This I learned from you and I give my deepest thanks to you for sharing a wonderful post.
    Mark Errol recently posted..Business Surveillance SystemsMy Profile

    • August 31, 2011

      Welcome Mark, and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I’m happy you found the article useful, and I hope you’ll return soon. Mahalo!

  9. August 30, 2011

    A couple thoughts . . .

    Wanting to be liked is different than valuing the respect of others. You can be respected without being liked, and respect comes, I believe, from integrity. You can have a healthy goal of earning everyone’s respect.

    When I approach life with a servant attitude, and serve people at any opportunity even if it’s just holding a door or finding a telephone number, then that little “please like me” part of my ego gets plenty of affirmation. That gives me a healthier base for saying no when that’s the right answer.
    Jeffrey Sooey recently posted..How to Become A Certified Relationship Coach and Fill a Real NeedMy Profile

    • August 31, 2011

      Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts Jeffrey!

  10. August 30, 2011

    Hi Marty,

    Guilty! I often struggle with this, especially when it comes to family members. they can also be the worst at invoking the old guilt as well so it’s almost a double shot. I think that many of us were raised this way, making it all the more difficult to overcome. I suspect that it very well may be a lifetime endeavor.
    Linnea recently posted..Shiny Object SyndromeMy Profile

    • August 30, 2011

      Hi Linnea … you are SO right! One of the saddest experiences I can recall from my days in direct sales was when a young woman fell behind paying her account because relatives hadn’t paid her for their Christmas order. She tried and tried but it became so uncomfortable within the family she finally ended up losing her business because she couldn’t afford to pay for the products. My heart went out to her, but what can you do – we can pick our friends, but not our relatives.

  11. August 30, 2011

    I agree. There are really times that you need to please others even if your not into doing it. Sacrifices do come but along with it is the responsibility and accountability of your own actions.
    Trixie recently posted..Business Surveillance SystemsMy Profile

    • August 30, 2011

      Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts Trixie – I really appreciate it! Hope you’ll be returning soon :-)

  12. August 29, 2011

    I really appreciate this article you have shared , even though i am new in here i can see that all the articles are with sense, not like the other blogs.
    Grace Blando recently posted..glockMy Profile

    • August 30, 2011

      Welcome Grace,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment – I’m really happy you liked the article and I hope you’ll be returning soon. :-)

  13. Joanne Massey-Dean permalink
    August 29, 2011

    I know I lot of people this article would be a great help to. Including myself a few years ago. I could not say no and therefore was very overwhelmed with everything that I had going on. The strategies really do work, as I have had to put some of them into play. Still have trouble sometimes saying no, but I am getting better at it.
    Joanne Massey-Dean recently posted..Is mineral oil in your skin care products?My Profile

    • August 30, 2011

      Welcome Joanne … yup, it’s a process and I think we’ve all had experiences in this area on some level. When I was first in direct sales I wanted so much to be there for all of the representatives in my district I opened the door for them to contact me any time – oh my, what a nightmare that unleashed!

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