Wanting another’s approval is healthy. Needing it is sick.
You can’t please all the people even some of the time.
“The disease to please,” as psychologist Harriet Braiker likes to call it, is a form of addiction. Just as a drug addict seeks drugs, a people pleaser seeks approval.
Are you a people pleaser?
- Say yes too much and no too little.
- Find it difficult to express your true feelings.
- Feel devastated when others don’t like you.
- Don’t speak up when you think others will disagree.
- Fear rejection.
- Take criticism personally.
Leading through the need to please
- Accept that others won’t always like you.
- Embrace disagreement and learn from it.
- Press through resistance.
- Preserve relationships even when you say no.
Overcoming addiction to people pleasing
- Don’t swing from people pleasing to people offending.
- Begin expressing your personal feelings and priorities with friends. Slowly branch out to others.
- Satisfy your need to please by intentionally helping others with short projects that don’t distract for fundamental responsibilities and priorities.
- Believe the people who count will accept you for who you are not for what you do.
- Delay saying yes. If you’re afraid to say no, say, “Let me get back to you.” Or, “I need to check my schedule.” Don’t let delay become avoidance. Let it be your opportunity to learn how to say no.
- Don’t make long excuses when you say no. “I’d love to help but I can’t this time,” says enough.
- Practice saying no with friends.
Here’s a Tuesday leadership focus. Identify one unhealthy “people pleasing” behavior and replace it with gentle assertiveness.
How would you help a person overcome the need to please?
Dan…what a great list and topic! I would like to add another factor that I notice in some of my clients with this tendency to people please and that is over-apologizing.
When I work with leaders who are people pleasers, it is a process that I will briefly describe here. Coaching includes helping them gain increased self awareness about their need (the reasons) within the scenarios where the behavior is common. We discuss their answers to what would happen if they didn’t go to people-pleasing actions at those times. Once they are aware of the signals that lead to their reaction, they work on with what they will replace the action that is a leadership trait (having identified of course, how they prefer to be an be seen).
Have a great day!
The main reason I love blogging is the conversation. It’s almost always expands my thinking.
Bingo! Over apologizing is a great symptom of the need to please.
Love your strategy to identify negative behaviors and then replace them with positive behaviors.
Great seeing you again.
It seems to be an extension to previous post. Pleasing behavior is commonly practiced and generally accepted. Human nature likes it. But the major question is- what is the driver of people pleaser ? Is it a habit, ingrained, learned or desired norms ? I think, most of the places, it is desired norms. When people want to follow desired norms, it becomes habit. When it becomes a habit, perhaps it passes on to the next generation and then it is ingrained. I agree that pleasing is a addiction. Addiction is always taken as undesirable, whether it is health, people or organization. Addiction itself is negative phenomenon. For example, addiction for smoking, drinking, eating, sleeping yield unfavorable outcome. On the other hand, passion is always positive phenomenon. Honest, courageous and determined people have passion. Passion is the source of power for them. So, the difference between being addicted and passionate is the direction. One is positive and one is negative in nature.
At the same time, one is extrinsic driver and other is intrinsic driver. So, the best way to replace pleasing behavior with assertive behavior is to change addiction into passion.
In my experience, I have seen people pleasers are usually carry lesser or no values. They have very weak moral character. They are socially averse people. They are concerned about their position, power and usually stay longer in the organizations where attrition is high. They also mesh up with the things that are clear, simple and straight. They whisper more and frequently move their eyes. These people speak softer and try to know about others but discuss less about themselves. In short term they survive but in long term they suffer. I know more than 100 people pleasers who enjoyed initially when others suffered but now they are suffering while others are enjoying. The reason is simple. They could not take decision because they do not have courage. They do not have courage because they are externally driven. They take things guaranteed and that is the blunder mistake they do. They believe more in relation building whose base is weak and full of selfishness.
People pleasers are the greatest de-motivators and they encourage honest and deserving people to lose trust in the organizations. They are prevalent in organizations, but very few leaders really deal with them effectively. If organizations can deal with these kind of people, restoration of trust becomes easy.
You’ve left a bucket load of ideas to chew on.. .thank you.
I really love the way you explain addiction cp. passion. It’s great to be passionate about bringing joy, happiness, or satisfaction to others. Needing it degrades.
You gave me a lot to think about.
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Appreciate your perspective Ajay on “People pleasers are the greatest de-motivators…”, great implications for long term damage to a culture. Perhaps creates a ‘false enablement’ or ‘false empowerment’ that ultimately serves neither well. As much as they may mean well, that is not the outcome.
Like Dan, also can see your view of addiction in contrast with true passion.
Very complex topic. The best part of your post is your list of identifiers so that people can differentiate between healthy pleasing and the unhealthy addiction. Very valuable!!
There are many people who have a healthy desire to please and truly shine in customer service and some aspects of teamwork. I would be worried if the healthy desire were sacrificed by confusion over the topic.
The other challenge for healthy pleasers is to combat the erroneous claim of aggressive naysayers that all pleasing is a sickness. Constant disagreeing and aggressive behavior is a sickness as well.
Great comment. You help spotlight the good side of working to please others.
I want to please my wife, my friends, my customers, my colleagues. I agree, it’s healthy.
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I appreciated this blog. I have been a people pleaser in the past and now getting better about saying no and not worrrying what others think. Thank you for putting this out there. So many people need to be aware of this ‘addiction’!
Very encouraging comment. Thanks for sharing a bit of yourself.
Gosh! What a timely post. I so needed to hear this today. I am being “used and abused” by some neighbors and its causing a lot of stress and tension in my marriage because I just can’t say no. I hate the prospect of having to bump into them after I have had to reject them. Its so difficult. I am too nice for my own good. Thanks for the post.
Your candor is refreshing. Many grapple with the NEED to please. Maybe saying it helps.
Thanks for your kind words,
As a leader I also have found it necessary to balance my team members need to please vs the need to protect them from over service.
We arranged that all new requests would be reviewed by me or my boss. Unfortunately, we had to constantly monitor that because our internal customers would too readily take advantage of my team’s desire to please.
Our customer had an unending supply of work to be done and since there was no internal chargeback I was the only watchguard against overwork.
Thanks for sharing your real life illustration. I hadn’t thought about an internal procedure that protects people.
Read Alan’s bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/alan
How would you help a person overcome the need to please?
Overcoming the “need to please” is not an “all or nothing” proposition. The challenge is diluting that “need to please” with an equivalent amount of “protecting my own goals/priorities.”
My southern-to-the-core, elderly parents recently accepted the offer of someone who offered to “clean one room’s carpet” in exchange for a demonstration of a vacuum cleaner. Compared to other visitors who have utilized this approach, cleaned the one room, did the demonstration, accepted the rejection by my parents of the purchase, this individual was aggressively persistent. They started at over $3,000 for the equipment, and when they were continually met with “no’s,” told my parents “I have a used one in the car you can have for $400.” 24 hours later, my parents still felt bad for THAT PERSON because they said no.
Although the above story is about a sales pitch and not a time management challenge, similar principles apply. At a certain point, the commitment/purchase/request so completely tips the scales of what you need as an individual that the only choice is a “no,” which sometimes must be more forceful than other times.
Getting back to the original question, I suppose my advice would be that, even if you have started down “Pleasing Road,” it is okay to listen to your inner voice of reason and take an immediate uturn (just watch for oncoming traffic!).
Love your story and the idea that we should not toss the baby out with the bath water.
Best to replace too much need to please with embracing priorities and goals. I believe keeping mission/vision/goals/priorities in mind is an important component of overcome the need to please.
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Great topic Dan! This touches on something I find difficult, and that is gracefully saying no to pushy people. It’s tough, because I want everyone to have a positive experience and sometimes saying no means potential conflict management as well. However, I’ve no desire to wear the doormat sign for myself, or my organization, either.
I don’t have a great answer for this, as I continually seek out the right words and way to turn people down while not making them feel put down. However, it does seem to help when I have facts and when I evaluate whether I’m being true to myself, true to my organization’s purpose, my leadership role, true to the end goal, etc.. If it’s not really in the best interest of these things, it’s simply not the best. I don’t always want to give in, nor do I want to never give consideration. There has to be balance. It’s not too unlike the healthy boundaries children need while growing up. Adults and businesses need clear healthy boundaries as well.
Great comment. Thanks for being open.
Your comment reminded me that even if I don’t want someone to feel bad there is something more important in life than making everyone feel good.
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This is an excellent post Dan. After 25 years of ministry I have finally learned how to graciously turn down offers, opportunities, and invitations. Doing so with appreciation and genuine thanks is another trait that must be learned. Those that invite us to join them have a genuine care for us as well. Letting them down with love and sincerity requires a gracious tact and honesty. Avoiding excuses and busy-ness may seem weak to others.
Nicely said. People in ministry may be amount those with the biggest need to please and the deepest fear of hurting someone’s feelings.
Thanks for sharing from your own life. Your comment reveals both balance and insight.
An interesting topic that needs to be covered.
It is good to mention and provide a few bullets but it evades the self analysis to get to the root cause. Without this one cannot truly begin to see the problem and the solution. Therefore the “fix” would only result in a band aid approach.
What you have written is a great start down the path and gives clues as to how to possibly overcome the addiction.
Like most addictions you need a support staff that understands the addiction and how to overcome it.
I find it highly commendable that you approached this topic please keep up the good work.
I hear your point on looking to the root for deeper causes.
I think leadership is fundamentally about behaviors so I spend most of my time thinking about “externals.” I’m not convinced it’s always a bandaid approach. But I do understand your point.
Your comment about “support staff” is well taken. Changing behavior is greatly enhanced when we include others in the process for both accountability, guidance, and support.
Thanks for bringing your insights and perspective to the conversation.
I completely agree with what you have suggested in this blog of people pleaser.
A leader is being a guy lovable and admired by others at least people who follow him.
Yes people may hate you or even delay the work you have assigned. But its all up to us how we take that. Its all up to our mind how it react to those actions.
A great leader will always think wise, he convert the thought “People hating me” to “Where to fill the gap, so that I make him like me, love me and admire my work and make him feel the importance of my command or instruction” which is constructive and helpful in building the relationship.
We might always think “If he hates me, why should I go to him and prove myself, who is he to me??” this thought is destructive for a guy who wants to succeeded in his leadership.
Its all in our mind and how we perceive. If people accepts one as a leader there is no room for pleasing, things will happen automatically.
It all depends on how you maintain the relationship with each people.
Relationship can be build with your patience and tolerance over critics and how you perceive those and help your followers.
Main thing that leaders have to remember is help should also be extend to people’s personal thing, apart from official matters. Which makes him feel happy and he will be credible forever.
Be a good leader like how you expect your boos to be.
One of the things I notice about your comment is a leader with followers has pleased their followers.
I think pleasing followers is about the values of the followers. In this case, a leader doesn’t need to please as much be credible and consistent.
Thanks for giving me something to think about.
Dan, the only time I will be a doormat for others is if that’s what Christ wants me to be. In those moments, He provides me with a sense of acceptance. But laying down my life for another is not really the kind of “doormat” I believe we’re talking about here.
So, in the meantime, no, I won’t be a doormat out of a dysfunctional need to be accepted.
I know the focus of your work and I bet you deal with many who misunderstand service. They may feel like they have to be a doormat.
Your point about humble service is appreciated. I think your willingness to lay down your life expresses a deep desire to please the one you serve.
Thanks for jumping into the conversation.
There are lots of great comments here and I enjoyed the varying perspectives. I guess I’ll stir things a bit by taking exception to the first sentence [Grin].
I don’t believe either point.
Wanting another’s approval under any circumstances leaves us emotionally vulnerable (in a constrictive way), and takes us away from our center. Just because we were socialized from very young to (mostly) trust others over our inner voice, doesn’t make it healthy to do so.
Some might disagree: “Well, what about crossing the street? You had to learn to look both ways before crossing a street!”
Sure did, but that doesn’t have to have anything to do with approval. It’s a simple case of properly training a skill, and there’s a way to appreciate accomplishment without making it an approval game.
I have reached a point in my life where I enjoy appreciation, but this is WAY different from seeking approval. I don’t care for the approval of others, or to hear “good job.” I know folks mean well when they say it, but a simple “thank you” with positive appreciation behind it is a nice echo to my own inner voice.
And as for the second part of the sentence, I recommend against considering the “need” for approval as a sickness or disease. Regarding it as such introduces more heaviness in thought, and takes us on a psychological vector that could worsen the situation. It’s like an overweight person chiding themselves for being overweight, then seeking sweet to assuage the additional, self-induced pain.
Personally, I’m more comfortable with guiding my clients to see how seeking approval is actually a personality strategy that may have served them, and still does in some ways.
With an understanding of the Enneagram, for example, we can trace the predisposition toward approval-addiction and the different motivations behind it to certain personality types with astonishing accuracy. Once a client sees what the “addiction” does for them, and how their personality factors into the equation, they can then see their difficulty in a more positive light, and seek improvement from there based on the desire for more freedom and additional energy they will feel once out from under the approval game.
I love the list you wrote out. No quibbles there. I know I mince words sometimes, but hey, as I write in my Wordvibes! blog, words matter! 🙂 In fact, I just might repost some of the thoughts that you precipitated in a post of my own over there. Thanks, Dan!
Your comment along with the others are why blogging is so much fun to me. It’s not unusual for someone to point out something I missed, overstated, misstated, or in some other way got it wrong.
I enjoy both the affirmations and the corrections. I wonder if that indicates that I’m effectively dealing with my “need to please.”
Your suggesting that “enjoying” rather than “wanting” the approval of others is useful. I looked up “wanting” and it is much stronger than I intended. I’m with you on that point. Enjoying the approval of others is a good way to state my intent.
Thank you for sharing your insights and perspective.
You know, as I considered further, I thought about how some folks use a want or need for approval as motivation. Once they get out from under it, what do they do next to get them going?
I vote for heartfelt-desire, love, uplifting others, and making a difference in ways that zing the heart, rather than just stroke the ego. In incremental steps (you suggest some good ones) we can all enjoy healthier motivation and inspiration for getting where we’d like to go…
Just a quick personal note re: motivation. I find an uncomfortable mix in my own heart. There is a deep, compelling passion to make a positive difference mixed with a desire for the applause of others. I embrace the former even while I feel the latter.
I value your participation in this conversation.
Hey Dan, thanks once again for a post that is not talked about enough. At least not w/ any more thought from most leaders than, “you’ll never please everybody, so get over it.” I’m a confessed people pleaser! I struggle w/ what people think of my leadership. As a pastor in the process of revitalizing a church that ate the last pastor for lunch, I’m extremely cautious of some of the possible repercussion that may come. I’m getting better though. Having been here for 1 year now, the tensions have eased, we’re growing & seeing God work in a great way. However, I still have that sick feeling in my gut when I hear that someone is questioning something I’m doing that’s different or causes them to grumble. I know I shouldn’t let it bother me, but it does. One leader did say that it was good I felt this way. I let them see my shepherds heart for the people and the fact that I am concerned w/ their opinions. While I’m sure you’re already seeing other issues in here that need to be dealt w/…and we are…slowly 😉 I would just like to hear from other pastors that have revitalized a church & how they dealt w/ the constant criticism from the “remnant”. Change is hard for them. I understand that to some degree. But it’s hard on me trying to take 1 step forward & 2 steps back. Thanks for your thoughts on this, and anyone else for that matter.
RE: Your last reply to me… It’s a “feed the good wolf thing,” isn’t it? I must own all my tendencies, and my own “uncomfortable mix,” but when I’m centered, I pay more attention to those affinities that open up a clearer channel to what powers me. While applause feels good, the connection feels better, and puts that applause in perspective. I most certainly enjoy applause [smile], but if I start basing my all choices on how I can get it, I’m in trouble.
I applaud you, Dan for personally acknowledging the necessity for an ongoing internal awareness. I can see how my earlier comments might read as if I have it figured out, and the work is done. This is not the case.
All I’ve figured out is that I I’ll always be figuring stuff out, and there’s always some place to go and something to learn. The trick, at least for me, is coming back to center enough to keep aware, and make more choices according to the inner voice that knows what is appropriate for me in my life as I (hopefully) contribute to the lives of others—applause or no.
Good work going on here, Dan. 🙂 Thanks for the chance to join in.
I’m glad to read that you conclude your post by “Identify one unhealthy “people pleasing” behavior and replace it with gentle assertiveness”.
Because that’s what I invited people to do in your previous post, by following an assertiveness training based on behavior change methodology.
“How would you help a person overcome the need to please?”
Great question. I wish my answer will be as great as the question. 😉
Lets say I’ll start by “seriously, tell me what will happen if you don’t please John (or whoever)?”
In most of the cases, the person will say something “bla bla bla”, but the important thing to note is that what she thinks that will happen hasn’t been validate by reality, by really asking to the other person what will happen if you don’t please her. In other words, it’s mainly pure phantasm.
From this point, I invite the person to ask the next time “if I say no, what will happen, what will you do?”. So the person can maybe see the gap between the phantasm and the reality. Some of (not to say all of course) people who need to please have a twisted image of themselves and so of the world.
So how to help a person overcome the need to please? Might sound simple and not easy by : going back to the reality. And that’s the methodology to go back to reality that’ isn’t easy to find. But I gave a way.
With apologies for the gender-centric language of 2,500 years ago, I quote the Buddha: “They blame the man who is silent, they blame the man who speaks too much, and they blame the man who speaks too little. No man can escape blame in this world.
“There never was, there never will be, nor is there now, a man whom men always blame, nor a man whom they always praise.”
It is always very important to maintain your own personality and beliefs when confronting with others. In a team, I really always want to interact with people providing me their own vision and even tell me I am wrong, and not with mindless yesmen. There’s no gain in business by having people constantly agreeing with you, for whatever reason. And sometimes I screw up, and it’s good to be told so.
Thanks for the insights on this subject.
Thank you for the good word. Dan
Dan, Makes you stop and think!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have to watch saying “I’m sorry too much”
Sorry to hear that. 😉
// It’s pleasing to please / as long as all the pleasing / doesn’t dis-please YOU. //
thanks for sharing your talent!
Having worked in a pretty competitive corporate environment for the last 13 years, I’ve started liking people who are plesant and easy-going. Overly competitive and individulastic people cannot have a meaningful conversation with others without taking things personally. They cannot stand others views and very quickly jump to conclusions about others persons’ character and personality and attach negative labels to them very easily.
Having said that, I think everyone should do a honest self-assessment and self-analysis and understand their basic needs. There is difference between being pleasant and being pleasing. I choose to be pleasant all the time and don’t bother too much about pleasing others….
Nicely said! Thanks for adding value to the conversation.
Best to you,
Dan, your blog is so very pertinent. InterVarsity Press will be publishing my latest book in Feb called People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership. Here’s a link for the trailer. Would be happy to send you a pre-release free copy electronically or via snail mail. Thanks,
The trick I have learned is to say no but give a couple of options ie no I can’t help but her is the contact # of joe jones who I know is interested.
No I can’t plan the full event but I can donate food. So you are still helping without taking on the time consuming job of being completely in charge
Like this post, someone mentioned over apologizing… I’ve seen it from both sides. Change in behavior is the key and also knowing your core. Very helpful!