People pleasing has been a bit of a life-long problem of mine (unless you speak to my family, they think I’m a proper bossy cow. I’m the oldest of 4 siblings and the oldest grandchild on both sides – so that might have something to do with it.)
Yet, I am a massive people pleaser. I am trying to figure out where this came from, why I am like this… it might be a boarding school thing, it may have come from spending working in bars and restaurants during university, it might be a mum thing, it’s likely to be a need to keep everyone around me happy and this need to be liked.
What’s is wrong with being a People Pleaser?
- I have this excruciating need to be liked – even by people I don’t even like, which is super weird, why do I even care?
- I don’t like criticism – hate it, makes me feel properly yak for days. This is different, of course from constructive feedback, which I love to receive.
- I feel responsible for how other people feel – when someone feels bad, that makes me feel bad.
- I regularly put others needs before my own and then find myself getting resentful.
- I’m always bloody apologising, I take responsibility for stuff that’s not even my fault, oh it’s raining, that’s because I put the washing out… really?
- I have this hilarious inability to say no, so find myself doing things I don’t even want to do.
- I’m massively conflict avoidant – I’ve done some ridiculous things just to avoid having an argument with someone.
- I constantly worry that I’ve upset someone, anyone, need my guilt fix!
- I am super agreeable – I won’t tell people that they’ve upset me, until it gets huge and I end up getting all ridiculously dramatic and scare the poop out of them by being a complete and total nut job.
Whilst some of these ridiculous people pleasing behaviours can be fine in moderation… this being the sum total of your behaviour is probably not that healthy. I’m sure I’m not the only Psychologist with this trait!
There are benefits of People Pleasing
Don’t get me wrong, there are benefits as a small-business owner to having the ability to ensuring that your clients happy and are enjoying the experience of working with you.
- The ability to build rapport quickly, being able to win people over and wanting to keep clients happy. I’m able to anticipate when clients are going to need some extra help and can offer it before it turns into a problem. I am often told that it’s easy to work with me and what I offer is valuable, both great things to hear.
- Being willing and able to listen to what the problems are and being able to offer solutions that fit the situation. I am not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ business, trying to shoe-horn everyone into a solution. Everyone is different with different problems to solve, so I tailor my services to suit the client, organisation, situation.
- A genuine desire to be kind, I have been told that I am ‘too nice’ to be in business and that I should get myself a job. I don’t know where this assumption that in order to get ahead in business you need to be a bit less ‘nice’ comes from! Answers on a postcard please! I do know some incredibly lovely business people who are doing awesome things with their clients and customers. I don’t know about you… I would much rather give my business to someone who is not a total dick… (You can read more about that here).
- Being flexible and adaptable – my clients appreciate my ability to get stuff done, with a smile, even in really tight timeframes.
Overcoming People Pleasing
I’m getting better as I’m getting older and having had some serious amounts of self-development, mentoring and coaching has helped me get better. I am working towards this utopia of not caring what people think about me – how freeing would that be? People pleasing is bloody exhausting!!
I strongly believe that generosity and kindness should be applied to everyone as a rule. So, without becoming a total A-hole and without being a total doormat… this is what am I doing about!
I say this a lot… “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. This means that it’s so important to practise self-care before you can help other people. What are you doing to look after yourself and make sure you are well? I should really learn how to meditate, but my mind always goes into massive overdrive when I try, so for me it is swimming, I try and get to the pool every day, even if it’s just for 30 mins. I find the pool a good place to think whilst I’m swimming. Other than that – going for a walk, meeting friends for a cuppa and a rant, calling my mum.
2. Knowing your Values
Knowing what you stand for is really helpful. I have spent a lot of time over the past couple of years espousing the value of understanding what your values are. Knowing this will help you with your boundaries. My business values are explained here are an extension of my personal values which are courage, freedom and autonomy. So, using a values-based approach can help me with making decisions and should help me be more conscious in my dealings with other people.
Understanding, defining and policing your boundaries are so very important. A wise man told me recently that lowering your own boundaries in order to be agreeable can lead to people not unreasonably assuming you don’t have that boundary with them. So where are your boundaries? Have you set them? Can you define them? How do you monitor them? What is the plan to deal with people who try and overstep? This is an area I am working on! I have received great advice during a coaching call recently which I am working to put into action.
You only have a certain amount of time in the day and you can’t do everything, so unless you are working on a priority you need to be selfish with your time because it is up to you how you spend your time and if you are not prioritising it there are loads of people who will happily spend your time for you.
5. Say No
This is a difficult one for me… knowing that saying no is an option, and you don’t have to be mean about it! I’m working on this.
It is so easy to misdiagnose having genuine empathy and compassion for other people and being a complete people pleaser.
Remember… if you can’t please yourself, you really can’t please other people AND if you try to please everyone you are going to please nobody.