Pleasing, flattering, agreeing, self-depricating, and dropping our own boundaries are the tools of the trade for us, and we are black-belts in them. We know how to time and measure our people-pleasing interventions perfectly (or at least it feels that way).
If you have a Pleaser in your team or in your life, we may seem ok but know that all this comes at a cost to us.
We experience intense internalised stress, frustration and anger that may (on rare occasions) result in seemingly disproportionate outbursts.
Our needs are not being met because we feel either selfish in asking for what we need, or worry that our requests to have our needs met may result in uncomfortable confrontation. Instead we work hard at meeting other people’s needs in the hope that they will then reciprocate. Unless you live/work with a mind-reader, this rarely actually happens.
All this leaves us feeling dissatisfied, unseen, pissed off (on the inside) and at real risk of burnout due to poor boundary setting/enforcement.
In a bid to protect ourselves in the long run, we are prone to disassociating from the things we need or want. It is common for a Pleaser to answer ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t mind’ when asked what we want; especially the big stuff.
So what can us Pleasers do to help ourselves?
Spend some time trying to reconnect with things that you want from your life. Sometimes this might be easier to start with a list of things you definitely DON’T want in your life and work back from there.
Research ways to say ‘no’ that feel more comfortable to you. This can simply start with ways to buy you time to respond in a less confrontational setting. An example might be “That sounds like a great opportunity, thank you. Can you bear with me for a day or two as I need to check my diary. I would hate to say ‘yes’ now and then let you down later.” (then you can email or message later with your ‘Thanks-but-no-thanks’ response).
Understand that every ‘yes’ you give to other people means a ‘no’ somewhere else in your life, even if that ‘no’ isn’t said out loud. ‘Yes’ to overtime means a ‘no’ to going to the gym. ‘Yes’ to taking on extra unwanted, unpaid responsibility means a ‘no’ to more money in the bank or time on passion projects etc.
If you think you have a Pleaser in your team or at home, what can you do to help them?
Know that they would rather say ‘yes’ than risk saying ‘no’ and upsetting anyone, and if you ask them.. they WILL say they are fine. Tough one to manage, right?
Keep an eye out for tell-tell signs that they are not ok. Withdrawal, passive aggressiveness, martyring themselves, excessive apologising or fussing around other people’s needs, high levels of anxiety and just a general sense that they are not their usual self.
Know that Pleasers HATE confrontation, so try to find less confrontational ways to communicate with them where you can. Face-to-face can be tricky for a Pleaser to open up, whereas you may get more luck with indirect methods such as email or messages.
Set very clear boundaries for them around what is expected with working hours, what they should and shouldn’t get involved with, and what you expect of them on a more general level. This gives them an ‘excuse’ to say no to people because it isn’t their boundary they are having to enforce; it is yours.
Pleasers need to feel safe enough to communicate what they need, so focusing on building a relationship of trust is vital.