Friday Counseling Issues: Stop Being a People Pleaser

If being  a people pleaser is deeply ingrained in your life, it can be hard to stop.  Chances are pretty good that you grew up in a home where one or both parents were people pleasers; or, on the other hand, very demanding and insistent that everyone else please them. Either way, you developed a habit of always putting yourself aside in an attempt to keep everyone else happy.

You can’t.  It’s not your job.

Last week, we looked at several ways to help you stop your people-pleasing behavior.  Here are a few more.

1.  Learn to say NO as if you mean it. Do not say, “I’m really sorry, I hope you won’t be offended, but I just don’t think I can. . . .”   You will be easily bulldozed into doing it anyway.  Instead, learn to say, “No, thank you. You’ll have to find someone else.” Say it with a smile, but a steely look in your eye. If the other person persists, smile again and say, “No.” No explanations are required. Just say no.  It gets easier after that first one. Above all, do NOT apologize.  It weakens your position.

2. Learn to use empathy without letting it weaken your position. “Look, I understand your need, and I appreciate the work you’re doing. I’m just not the one to help you this time.”

3. Is it worth it to say no?  Sometimes, you will say NO and lose a “friend.”  Notice the quotes?  They indicate that the person wasn’t much of a friend if she dumps you for saying NO to her.  A true friend will understand that you are already over-extended, and will not be upset with you.

4. No excuses.  No apologies.  For every excuse you offer, the other person will have a bullet ready to shoot it down. And by the way, this same principle applies with your children. Sometimes, you just have to say NO and make it stick, without giving  tons of reasons. Your children are just as capable of taking advantage of you as anyone else is.

5. Don’t overlook the benefits of NO.  You’ll have more time. You’ll be less stressed.  You can pick and choose where you will use your energies.  Your friends will respect you more (truly, they will!  True friends will not think poorly of you for saying no.)

6. Set reasonable, enforceable boundaries.  I had to learn to do this many years ago with someone who was monopolizing my time with lengthy phone calls. She said she wanted to change, but she never did. The littany of woe was continual and unchanging. Finally, on someone’s wise advice, I set a boundary.  I told this person that until she had performed a specific task that I described, she was not allowed to call me again.   She never called me again, and that was that.  Easy.

7. Don’t worry about fallout.  It’s not the end of the world.  So the person gossips against you?  Don’t worry about it. This too shall pass.  And it’s none of your business what others say about you. “But what if”  needs to be removed from your vocabulary.  Nothing good comes from that kind of thinking.

The bottom lline is that you do not exist for the benefit of the users of this world. You have the autonomy and authority to choose where you will spend your time and energy.  No one else gets to be the boss of you in this egard.

Learning to say NO and make it stick is wonderfully freeing, and gives you a new sense of control over your life.

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