I had a conversation earlier this week with two people let’s call them: “Jack and Diane.” Now, I haven’t known either of them very long, but they are both super kind and helpful, incredibly productive, really smart and a joy to be around. One of the other things these two have in common is that they both self-admitted “people pleasers.” During our discussion, we talked about how Jack had been working on a project he loved despite feedback from his peers that they resented the “other work” because, in their opinions, they believed he was taking on too much and leaving less time for his work with them.
Diane and I explained to Jack that he should keep the project as long as he can manage it and that we (Diane and I) would step in to help if he couldn’t get it all done. Jack admitted that he was struggling with wanting everyone else to be happy even if it meant that he was not.
While I believe that we all have some people-pleasing tendencies (yes, you too), I also know that we should resist the tendency when it is to our own detriment. If Jack wants to keep the project and Jack’s boss is ok with it, why should the co-workers have the right to an opinion on the subject? They have an opinion and share it because they know he is a people pleaser who won’t push back or stand up for himself. Seriously, If Jack said something like “Thank you for your thoughts, but I’m going to keep project X because I love it and I’d appreciate (but don’t require) your support.” I guarantee the pressure will dissipate. Will they talk behind his back? Maybe, but… who cares?! What other people think of us (or say behind our backs is really none of our business.
I did a lot of what I call “bat crap crazy” people-pleasing when I was younger. Don’t get me wrong, I carry no regrets, as I believe that everything in the past has led me to be who I am today, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t share a quick story about the people-pleasing crapola I did, at the time!
I can’t imagine doing this today:
- Super early in my career, I accepted responsibility for something at work that I had
absolutely nothing to do with. I received a nice chewing out from the Vice President and I said nothing. I was accused of this and that and even received a warning! I ran out of the office afterward, sat in my car, and cried. I didn’t speak up because I didn’t want to appear defensive and push the accountability (where it belonged) to my co-worker. I didn’t want her to dislike me or think I was a snitch!
So what SHOULD have happened was this:
- As soon as I realized I was “in trouble” I should have asked more questions like, “What specifically am I being accused of?” What back-up do you have that demonstrates my accountability? Are you having the same conversation with everyone or just me? Knowing there was no back-up I could have expressed my concern about misplaced blame and accusation. I could have said all of this very professionally and explained that warning me at the risk of my job is inappropriate and dangerous to the company particularly without back-up.
Of course, back then I wasn’t in human resources and I was much less eloquent but you get the point.
Did you know that people-pleasing is a form of manipulation? Any time we do ANYthing to get (or attempt to get) something from others we are manipulating! Ipso-facto people-pleasing is manipulation… Just sayn’!
People…Please! Stop people-pleasing to “make people like you!” FYI… it ain’t working!
Let’s all try this instead…
- Be kind, but not overly accommodating to your own detriment
- Be professional, accept accountability and ownership when YOU are where the accountability belongs
- Don’t be defensive about it, ask questions and speak the truth…be factual
- Particularly in your personal life, it’s ok to ask why others feel the need to weigh in on aspects of your life and ask them to back-off
- Give uncomfortable conversations with people/relationships you care about (like those with your spouse, children, bosses, friends, etc) extra thought and planning
- If you can’t manage in the spur of the moment (due, to anger, frustration, sadness shock etc), excuse yourself, think it through AND come back to it later (within 24 hours), be brave
- For God’s sake, speak up when people mistreat you! After all, if they mistreat you do they really like or even respect you?
Don’t be mean about it. You can accomplish all of the above with kindness both to yourself and others. This is self-care! If people don’t like you because of it, are these really the people you want in your life? In my life today, I prefer to be respected over being liked!
Ask people who truly care about you to tell you when they catch you people-pleasing.
Love, Light, and People Please, Stop People Pleasing!
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