I recently posted on LinkedIn how people-pleasing can be a big contributor to overwhelm. Read my post here
One comment was how challenging that could be as a Manager, because the individual could not see how the behaviours associated were impacting them and their performance. The Manager was right to be concerned, and because this was a bigger topic than I could give it at the time, I thought I would write a blog on it.
So what are the common characteristics of a People Pleaser?
- Always seem to be happy, even when most people would not be
- Very often struggle to end phone calls or social interactions
- Never really say what they want
- Offering to do things, even when they don’t want to
- Are so used to putting others first, that they have lost sight of who they are
- Always saying yes
- Rarely ask for something for themselves
- Apologise all the time
Sound like anyone you know? This was me, and not so long ago either!
I had spent years living my life pleasing others, and I didn’t realise until too late the detrimental impact that this behaviour was having on me personally. My mental, emotional and even my physical health suffered. I became overwhelmed, exhausted and eventually just plain old burnt out. I had become the go-to person who got things done, and people came to me all the time. Their expectations of me, became my own, until I didn’t know which way was up.
Who are people pleasers?
For me, it is a learnt behaviour picked up from an early age to fulfil a much deeper need within themselves; love, attention, belonging, basic human needs. When all else has failed, everyone loves someone who will do what is required, even if that love is not a good love. As a result, the individual begins to learn the behaviours that will fulfill that need, so that before long it is a large part of who they are. Other typical underlying needs may be:-
- Low Self Worth
- Low Self Esteem
- Lack of Self Acceptance
- Avoiding bad feelings
- Fear (of Rejection, disappointing others, guilty, criticisms or loneliness)
- Not valuing themselves
And possibly a host of others as well. What interests me most is the energy behind all of these, comes from a place of lack, filling something in. This means that it is not a natural behaviour; more effort (energy) is required to be something else.
Whereas coming from a place that is just you, natural behaviours coming from a better, stronger more empowered space, has better energy to it and makes life so much easier.
So how do you help someone who believes that being a people pleaser is a good thing and doesn’t cause any issues?
This is a tough one because in my experience people only change when they become aware that something has become too difficult.
Firstly, would be to get them to recognise that they are displaying the behaviours I have mentioned at the beginning of this article. Once they recognise they have a problem, it is possible to coach them through it and identify what would be a better way of being.
For example, discussing how their behaviour negatively impacts them, allows them to come up with their own answers, and begin to understand what this really means. Asking them to give some examples where they could have done things differently and how that might have been different, can help them begin to see that there is another way. Another way that does not cause them any difficulties, and actually helps raise how others see them.
Of course, they may not quite be ready to change, still believing they can do ‘it all’. Sometimes, you can ‘take a horse to water…’ and it may be a case of allowing them to sit with the idea for a while. For you as a Manager, it does always open the way for it to be discussed again if there is a problem later.
I would also think about asking some questions to help them think more deeply about what they do:-
- Is it the same people they are saying yes to?
- Is there a pattern to the things they are saying yes to?
- What does this saying yes give them?
I particularly love the Cartesian Logic set of Questions:
- What would happen if you did nothing
- What wouldn’t happen if you did nothing?
- What would happen if you didn’t do anything?
- What wouldn’t happen if you didn’t do anything
A bit of a brain squelcher – whilst the conscious mind is getting its head around what has been asked, the unconscious mind is working hard to bring to the fore the answers! (It does love answering questions!).
How to Stop People Pleasing Behaviours
How to Stop People Pleasing Behaviours requires effort when doing it yourself, but it is about awareness.
- Seek a therapist like me 🙂 I identify what is really underpinning the behaviour (thoughts, emotions and beliefs), and help you heal, upgrade, change them to more empowerful ways of being.
- Know your own boundaries and make sure others are aware of them too (if they make you angry or sad, they have crossed your boundaries/what is important to you, and it is time to let them know!)
- When asked to do something that is not on your agenda, practise delaying tactics such as “thank you for asking, can I come back to you on that?’ I will write a blog on this shortly!
- Watch for the flatters who compliment you on or about something as a prelude to asking you do something
- Learn to say no in a way that works for you
- Realise that when you say yes to others you are saying no to yourself
Sometimes it is impossible to say no, or make these changes easily (without seeing someone like me), so be kind to yourself and know that practice makes perfect. What you can do when something happens and you want to change it, firstly forgive you and them. They don’t know, you have always said yes in the past! Then next time you see them, or after the event so that you are no longer emotional about it, have a conversation about how you want things to be going forward.
Just make sure that you stick to it, otherwise you will be giving mixed messages out.
Once you have reset your boundaries you can begin to find that you are doing only the things that you ‘want’ to do, or where appropriate you have ‘chosen’ to do, rather than everything to be loved, wanted, belonging etc.
Watch how your time, money and wellbeing begin to shift!
Want to understand more, please do get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org