People-pleasers “want everyone around them to be happy and they will do whatever is asked of them to” keep it that way, according to Susan Newman, Ph.D, a New Jersey-based social psychologist and author of The Book of “250 Ways to Say It—And Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever”.
“They put everyone else before themselves,” she said. For some, saying “yes” is a habit; for others, “it’s almost an addiction that makes them feel like they need to be needed.” This makes them feel important and like they’re “contributing to someone else’s life.”
People-pleasers yearn for outside validation. Their personal feeling of security and self-confidence is based on getting the approval of others. Thus, at the core, people-pleasers lack confidence.
They worry how others will view them when they say no. “People don’t want to be seen as lazy, uncaring, selfish or totally egocentric,” Newman said. They fear “they’ll be disliked and cut from the group,” whether it’s friends, family or co-workers.
What many people-pleasers don’t realise is that people-pleasing can have serious risks. Not only does it put a lot of pressure and stress on you, Newman said, but “essentially you can make yourself sick from doing too much.” If you’re overcommitted, you probably get less sleep and get more anxious and upset. You’re also “depleting your energy resources.” “In the worst case scenario, you’ll wake up and find yourself depressed, because you’re on such overload because you possibly can’t do it all,” she said.
Here’s a few strategies to help you stop being a people-pleaser and finally say no.
1. Realise you have a choice
People-pleasers often feel like they have to say yes when someone asks for their help. Remember that you always have a choice to say no, Newman said.
2. Set your priorities
Knowing your priorities and values helps you put the brakes on people-pleasing. You know when you feel comfortable saying no or saying yes. Ask yourself, “What are the most important things to me?” Newman suggested.
Whenever someone asks you for a favour, it’s perfectly okay to say that you’ll need to think about it. This gives you the opportunity to consider if you can commit to helping them. (Also important is to ask the person for details about the commitment.)
Ask yourself: “How stressful is this going to be? Do I have the time to do this? What am I going to give up? How pressured am I going to feel? Am I going to be upset with this person who’s asking?”
Asking yourself these questions is key because, very often after you’ve said yes or helped out, you’re left wondering, “What was I thinking?” I neither have the time nor the expertise to help out.
If the person needs an answer right away, “your automatic answer can be no,” Newman said. That’s because “Once you say yes, you’re stuck.” By saying no automatically, “you leave yourself an option” to say yes later if you’ve realised that you’re available. And “you’ve also gotten it off your must-do or don’t-want to do list.”
4. Set a time limit
If you do agree to help out, “limit your time frame,” Let the person know that “I’m only available from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.,” for example.
5. Consider if you’re being manipulated
Sometimes, people are clearly taking advantage of you, so it’s important to watch out for manipulators and flatterers. How do you spot them? Often the people who flatter you will say statements like, ‘Oh you’re so good at baking cakes, would you make a cake for my child’s birthday?’ or ‘I don’t know how to put this bookcase together, but you’re so handy, can you help me out?’”
A classic line is “Nobody does this better than you do”. Also, these people “will either coax you into doing something or try to tell you what your availability is or what your time frame is.” Basically, before you know it, they make the decision for you.
6. Create a mantra
Figure out a mantra you can say to yourself to stop you from people-pleasing. It can even be a visual as simple as a big “No” flashing when a certain friend who can always talk you into something approaches you.
7. Say no with conviction
The first no to anyone is always the hardest. But once you get over that first bump, you will be well on your way to getting off the yes treadmill. Also, remember that you’re saying no for good reasons. “You get time for yourself and for the people you really want to help,” she said.