Why People Pleasing Doesn’t Work For You Or Them By Judith Quin

Putting others before ourselves is an admiral thing to do, but do it too often and you might be destroying more than you save.

But there is hope, Judith Quin, founder of Your Whole Voice, multi-award winning vocal and life-confidence specialist shares 10 ways to spot, and 5 key ways to stop people pleasing.

There are different ways to people please, how many of these do you recognise?

  • Not confronting anything for fear of conflict
  • Avoid saying there’s a problem because you don’t want to be thought of as ‘a pain’ or ‘a complainer’
  • Taking on tasks even when already fully loaded
  • Almost never saying ‘No.’ for fear of upsetting, offending, hurting, or ‘letting them down’
  • Feeling guilty if you can’t do something and you have to say ‘No.’
  • Not asking for what you want or need because they might say ‘No.’ to you
  • Not asking for what you want or need because you don’t want to be a burden
  • Worrying that people won’t like you if you aren’t always there doing things for them
  • Putting others before you to your own detriment (I even know someone who really wanted a promotion – then championed someone else for the same role – guess who got it?!)
  • Playing ‘small’ so as not to out-shine others in case they feel bad

Sometimes doing one or two of these to be considerate, that’s humane and kind.  Doing it all the time – that can become a problem.

The biggest problem with perpetual people pleasing is that, at best, you’ll spend the rest of your life feeling unappreciated and un-noticed, at worst; one day you will reach the end of your tether, burn out, blow up and destroy all your relationships or implode and give up on yourself, or maybe worse.

The sad fact is that way too many people suffer in silence rather than go against what they think others want or expect of them.  This is the second biggest problem with people pleasing – you are second-guessing what’s going on in others’ minds. You are working from your fears, not facts or possibilities, nor their perspective.

The annoying truth is that for all you know your people-pleasing behaviour might be stopping the people you’re trying to please from doing something they want to do by keeping them in your pattern, or it might just annoy them.

For example, by always giving way to others, or making them responsible for making choices by saying things like “I don’t mind” or “You choose” you may exasperate them, piss them off entirely, make them give up on ever giving you a chance – or stop asking you altogether.  That makes you feel worse, so you try harder to please, so they get annoyed, so the circle continues.

5 ways to change your approach:

Set boundaries and stick to them. 

If your life, desk, or diary is full, say “No.”  If it’s easier for you, you can soften with “but I can do ’x’”  If they demand, then get them to prioritise for you – I can either do ‘x’ or ‘y’ in that time frame – which would you prefer?

It’s not personal, it’s structural.

This is a deep philosophy that runs true for everything in life and when you embrace it, it helps you to both take responsibility for yourself and to stop taking things personally.

Make non-negotiable time for you.

Personally and professionally – even if you just start with taking a lunch break away from your desk – or 30 minutes for you on a Saturday morning. 

In communication: Keep It Clear (and brief).

No reasons or excuses, flowering or softening for example when asking for something instead of saying “It would be lovely if….because…”  Try this:  “What I really need right now is …. “ and if you need to tail it try “How can we make that happen?”

Give others a task/responsibility.

You’ll be surprised how others can do things – they probably just don’t because you always do it.  (The trick here is to let them do it their way and let them make mistakes)

We all respond well to knowing where we stand, and most people respect clarity. If they’ve got used to you being a ‘yes’ woman, they might be surprised, and some might find the change inconvenient – but trust me, in most cases you’ll be pleasantly surprised, and in the long run you’ll thank yourself.  Start saying “yes” to you.

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