Did I read that right? Generating positive feelings is done by NOT being so nice?
Mmm. Mmmm. It sure is.
I could scare you with a whole bunch of reasons as to why ultra nice people – People Pleasers tend to develop specific sorts of illnesses but I’m not that kind of doctor. I’m more the head and heart type so I’m going to tell you about the emotional and psychological consequences of People Pleasing.
Let’s face it, as People Pleasers we feel like we’re doing a damn fine job. Of course we realise that making everyone happy is a big job but someone’s gotta do it, right?
So we do stuff like put everyone else first. We ‘go with the flow’ on just about everything so other people get to do what they want. We don’t tell them we don’t want to see that movie and we don’t want to eat Thai tonight. I mean, other people are more important than us right?
We don’t tell people things that might get them upset with us. Conflict is way more terrifying than swimming in a pool of piranha. What if they don’t like us anymore!
We might even try to be the Uber People Pleaser and anticipate what others might want from us. We assume we know what they need to be happy and go out of our way to provide it for them. Of course our feathers get a little ruffled when they’re not suitably appreciative.
And that is the BIG problem with People Pleasing. On some level most People Pleasers are giving with the hope that one day someone will give back to them. So over time resentments build: “I looked after her when she was sick, took her chicken soup, sat with her for hours and she can’t even call to see how I am when I have a cold.”
Even if we’re not harbouring some secret desire for other people to return our level of kindness then we are going to burn out if we don’t learn to set some boundaries around caring for others and caring for ourselves. We expect others to realise that what we’re doing is way too much to ask and we expect them to set the boundaries for us.
This is what tends to happen: friend with 3 children under 7 leaves husband and has nowhere to stay. PP (that’s People Pleaser) says: “Come stay with me as long as you like.” Three months later friend and 3 children (who appear dedicated to breaking everything of value in PP’s home) are still there. PP wonders if PP can survive another week with them but PP keeps telling friend “Of course you can stay longer. You’re my friend. I would do anything for you.”
This = resentment + burnout + (eventually) illness
What most People Pleasers don’t realise is that most of the time people don’t want us to be so easy going. They don’t want us to anticipate their every need. They want us to let them know where our boundaries are. Everybody feels better that way.
When we start changing our PP ways we usually feel guilty. And we usually feel scared that people won’t like us anymore.
The truth is that people usually like us MORE. Yep – that’s right – they like us MORE!
Dropping People Pleasing is a sure fire way to Generating Good Feelings so here are a few little suggestions to help put your people pleasing days behind you:
1. Learn to say no. There are so many ways to say no. “Mmmmmm. I don’t think that will work for me.” “I’d prefer not to.” “That really doesn’t suit me.”
You can stall if you want time to think about it first. “Mmmmm. Can I get back to you on that one?”
Don’t forget that you have a choice. You CAN say no. Trust me – the world does not end.
And if you decide on an outright no then don’t give crazy over-long excuses as to why you said no. Just say no with conviction. And politeness. Don’t forget polite (this is a great way to keep friends).
2. Remember this is not an all-or-nothing thing.
You don’t have to stop doing nice things for people altogether. You have the choice to still say yes – if it’s ok with you. And you’re not going to feel burnt-out. And you’re not going to feel resentful later. And you have time. And energy. And you really wanna do it. Then doing nice things for people is from the heart. And they will appreciate it more and like you more cos they won’t be picking up on your martyr-ish vibes.
3. If you do say yes then set a time limit.
Instead of “Of course I’ll help you move from your 3rd floor apartment to your 4th floor apartment all day just the 2 of us” you can try “Sure I’ll give you a hand. I’m available from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.” See…. you’re still helpful but not going overboard. Yes you will still be liked.
4. Start small.
Start with people you KNOW will be ok with this wonderful new change in you. And start small. Let them know which movie you want to see or which restaurant you want to go to. Then try saying no to something you really don’t want to do with them or for them. Some people will be used to you being the one they get to push around cos you want to keep them happy. Friends who matter will welcome the change and encourage you to keep going. Let those friends know what you’re doing and start with them.
5. Remember that you don’t need to apologise.
Are you the serial apologist? When you’re Ruler of the Happiness of All People in the Universe it’s easy to get it wrong sometimes. But People-Pleasers…..please, please, please resign as Ruler of the Happiness of All People in the Universe. It is NOT your fault if you have not managed to make someone happy. You are NOT to blame. Friends will still like you if you relinquish this title. Trust me – I handed in my resignation over 20 years ago and yes- I still have friends.
6. Focus on the positive changes you’re making.
Keep a journal or diary of when stopping being a People-Pleaser worked. As a People-Pleaser you probably tend to be WAY more sensitive to the times when other people are a bit miffed about your lack of total selflessness. And you probably pay WAY too much attention to that and desperately want to fix it. Well don’t fix it and go to your “Successfully Saying No” or “Forever Forsaking People-Pleasing” journal and be reminded of all the good this is doing you.