You can please some of the people all of the time, and maybe all of the people some of the time, but you can not please all of the people all of the time.
People pleasing. It is such an easy trap for us to enter, such an insidious one that we often don’t realise we are doing it until it is too late; before we know it, we are attempting to please everyone and letting our own health, happiness and well-being suffer.
It can start off very innocently, seeking to avoid conflict or seeking to keep harmony within our group, or genuinely wanting to please our fellow people. Which is all good. The problem is when we start to put pleasing others ahead of our own needs.
The thing is, nobody in the history of humanity has been able to constantly please everyone. Not even Buddha, Christ or The Prophet Mohammed has universally pleased everyone. And nor can (or should) we.
How to tell if you are a people pleaser
Have a look at this non-exhaustive list of the tell-tale signs of chronic people-pleasing.
- You can’t remember the last time you and your friends did something you wanted to do
- You’ve lost count of how many movies you’ve sat through even though you didn’t want to watch them
- You never have any time to yourself, you are always helping others
- You seem to be doing the work of 3 or 4 people in the office, and very little of it is actually yours or part of your job description
- Your friends know you will always be there, no matter what the occasion
- When anyone ever asks you to do something, you automatically say “yes” without even thinking about it
- Your group hasn’t eaten at your favourite restaurant in what seems like forever
- Everyone shares their problems with you, but nobody even knows you have problems let alone what they might be
Is any of that starting to sound familiar? The more of those questions to which you answered “yes”, the more likely it is that you are a chronic people-pleaser.
How to stop being a people pleaser
- Become comfortable saying “No”. This is the most important step, yet perhaps the hardest; however, once you start saying “No”, it gets easier. And you will find that, even though they may not initially expect to hear a “no” from someone who always said “yes”, people will grow to respect it. Just don’t make excuses and seek to justify your “no”. A straightforward “No” is all that is needed.
- Offer your own suggestions, regardless of whether you think anyone else will like them. After all, if you fancy easting at a different restaurant for a change, it is entirely possible someone else will too, and by speaking up you not only have the chance to have your wishes considered but also theirs!
- Next time someone asks you if you will just do this little extra bit of work for them, it’s OK to say “No”. It’s also OK to say “Yes, but I won’t have time to look at it until next week.”. Either is good, in both cases you both know where you stand, and you are avoiding overloading yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to look at delegation – is there something you have been asked to do which perhaps a colleague could do better / more efficiently? Ask them.
- Start putting yourself first. I don’t mean you should turn into a massive Diva and demand everyone bows to your whims! Rather, when considering what to do or where to go, make sure your own needs are met before seeing how it works for others. There is absolutely nothing wrong with helping others, but how much hep can you be when you are worn out because you’ve neglected your own needs for too long?
Give it a go! You don’t have to always say “No”, of course – if you can safely and easily say “Yes” without adversely impacting yourself, then by all means say yes! Just be aware that you always have the option to say no.
Sure, it will feel strange, possibly even wrong somehow, the first few times, but as you get used to standing up for yourself and no longer being a continual people-pleaser, notice how you start to feel better within yourself, notice how your life seems to have more space in it for you to breathe. And maybe, just maybe, notice how people start treating you with perhaps a little more thought and respect.
So what do YOU think? Leave a comment and let me know!