People-pleasers “want everyone around them to be happy and they will do whatever is asked of them to” keep it that way, according to Susan Newman, Ph.D, a New Jersey-based social psychologist and author of The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It—And Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever.
“They put everyone else before themselves,” she said. For some, saying “yes” is a habit; for others, “it’s almost an addiction that makes them feel like they need to be needed.” This makes them feel important and like they’re “contributing to someone else’s life.”
People-pleasers yearn for outside validation. Their “personal feeling of security and self-confidence is based on getting the approval of others,” said Linda Tillman, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist in Atlanta, GA and assertiveness expert. Thus, at the core, people-pleasers lack confidence, she said.
They worry how others will view them when they say no. “People don’t want to be seen as lazy, uncaring, selfish or totally egocentric,” Newman said. They fear “they’ll be disliked and cut from the group,” whether it’s friends, family or co-workers.
If you tend to say yes to things that you don’t want to do, or you avoid speaking up because you don’t want to upset anyone, here are few things you should remember:
- You aren’t responsible for other people’s emotions.
Whether you tend to do everything your partner wants, or you strive to make your co-workers like you, your people-pleasing efforts mean you’re taking on too much responsibility. Everyone is in charge of his or her own emotions—and you can’t make anyone feel happy. It’s up to other people to cope with uncomfortable feelings like disappointment or anger. It’s not your job to protect them from those things.
- People pleasers are easily manipulated.
You can often spot a people pleaser a mile away—and the more an individual says yes to requests, the more things are asked of her. People pleasers become easy targets. Someone may ask favors of them by saying things like, “I hate to ask you this, but…” or “I wouldn’t ask anyone else, but you’re such a good friend.” Whether you feel guilted into doing something, or you feel honored that you’ve been entrusted with a favor, you may be easily manipulated when others know that your primary goal is to please people.
- Everytime you say yes to something or someone, you are unwittingly saying no to someone or something else at the same time.
That means all this time you spend trying to be a “yes” man or woman is totally bogus. So choose your “yeses” wisely. Your choices will always be unfavorable to some people.
- Trying to please people drains your resources.
Trying to please everyone will rob you of mental strength. The more you think about whether someone is going to be upset, or how to phrase your decision in a way that isn’t offensive, the fewer resources you’ll have to devote to the decisions that matter most.
Worrying, ruminating, and rehashing conversations won’t help you get anywhere. If you spent that same time and energy being productive, you’d accomplish much more.
- You cannot please everyone all of the time.
Seriously. You really can’t.
- When you try to please everyone, you end up disappointing almost everyone, especially yourself.
Think about it. You say “yes” to 5 different things and as a result, you cannot not possibly show up as the best possible version of yourself. How could you? You’re spread too thin! And then you probably end up late for something or some deadline, which makes you look flaky, causing you to be upset with yourself. Listen to your instinct. It will never steer you wrong. Say no when you don’t want to say yes. It makes sense. It’s the stronger and wiser thing to do.
- People will respect you more.
And as an added bonus, people will trust you more, because they know that you are not the kind of person who says yes to something you don’t want to do, nor are you someone who asks for something you don’t truly deserve.
- Staying True to Your Values
People pleasing can become a habit that causes you to lose sight of your values. Learning to tolerate people being upset with you can be hard, but it’s essential to reaching your goals. Your words and your behavior must be in line with your beliefs before you can be truly authentic—and authenticity is the key to becoming your best self.
- And finally, as a kind hearted person who says yes only when you want to, you’ll be more focused on things you actually want to do, putting you in a better mood, and making you a more successful person.
Here’s a slew of strategies to help you stop being a people-pleaser and finally say no.