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How to Stop Being a People Pleaser: 7 Powerful Habits

“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

“When you say “yes” to others, make sure you aren’t saying “no” to yourself.”
Paulo Coehlo

When you get stuck in the habit of trying to please other people pretty much all the time then it can have a sneaky and negative effect.

Not only on you but also on the people around you.

Because as you try to please:

  • You put on a mask and try to guess what to do while getting anxious and stressed.
  • You sometimes feel taken advantage off by others who use your people pleasing habit and you often feel out of tune with what you yourself deep down want.
  • It can also have an unintended effect on other people as they may see through your mask, start to feel your inner discomfort and stress themselves and get confused or upset because they sense you are not being honest and straightforward with them.

So being a people pleaser is often an even worse choice that one may at first think.

But how can you change this behavior and break the habit?

This week I’d like to share 7 powerful insights and habits that have helped me with that.

1. Realize that with some people it isn’t about you and what you do (no matter what you do).

Some people just can’t be pleased. No matter what you do.

Because it’s not about what you do or do not do. It’s about him or her.

About how she’s having a bad month, a sick pet or doesn’t have a good chemistry with you.

Or about him being in an unhappy marriage, in too much debt or having a tooth ache that just won’t stop.

By realizing this and how you in the end can’t get everyone to like you or avoid conflict no matter what you do you can start to let go of this ineffective and damaging habit.

2. Learn how to say no.

When you like to please then it’s of course hard to say no.

But it is vital for you own happiness, stress-levels and for living the life you truly want.

Here are 5 things that have made it easier for me to say no more often:

  • Disarm and state your need. It’s easier for people to accept your no if you disarm them first. Do that by, for instance, saying that you’re flattered or that you appreciate the kind offer. Then add that you, for example, simply don’t have the time for doing what they want.
  • If they’re pushy, add how you feel. Say that you don’t feel that this offer is a good fit for your life right now. Or that you feel overwhelmed and very busy and so you cannot do whatever they want. Telling someone how you honestly feel can help them to understand your side of the issue better. And it’s also a lot harder to argue with how you feel rather than what you think.
  • Help out a bit. If possible, finish your reply with recommending someone that you think could help out or would be a better fit for what they need. I do this quite often when I feel I lack the knowledge or experience that a reader or a friend is looking for.
  • Remind yourself why it is important to sometimes say no: You teach people by how you behave. They learn about you and your boundaries from your behavior. So if you stand up for yourself and say no and are assertive about what you don’t want then people will start to pick up on that. And over time you’ll encounter fewer and fewer situations where someone tries to be pushy or steamroll you.
  • It’s OK to feel a bit guilty about saying no (but you don’t have to act on it). Just feel it and be with that feeling for a while. But at the same time know that it doesn’t mean that you have to act on it and say yes or do what they want you to do.

3. Reminder: People don’t really care that much about what you say or do.

Holding yourself back in life and trying to act in a way that is pleasing to others can, in my experience, to a large part come from a belief that people care a great deal about what you say or do.

But the truth is that while you may be the main character in your own life and head you’re not that in other people’s lives.

Because here’s the thing: people have their hands full with thinking and worrying about their own lives. They have their heads full with thoughts about their kids, career, pets, hobbies, dreams and worries or thoughts about what others may think of them.

This realization can make you feel less important. But it can also set you free.

4. Learn how to handle criticism and verbal lash outs (and the fear of that).

Tip #1 in this article is one thing that’ll help you to handle criticism and the fear of it. Because sometimes it’s simply about the other person and his or her situation in life right now and not about what you did or did not do.

A few more things that help me to handle negative or critical messages are:

  • Wait before you reply. Take a couple of deep breaths in a conversation or a few minutes if you’re in front of your inbox. By doing so you’ll reduce the risk of lashing out yourself or making a mistake. Calming yourself down a bit before replying is pretty much always a good idea.
  • Remember: you can let it go. You don’t have to reply to all the negative messages you may get via email, social media or in real life. You can just say nothing, let it go and move on. This does of course not work in every situation but it’s important to remember that you from time to time do have this option.
  • It’s OK to disagree. This took me time to really get. Because I wanted to get people to my side. To make someone see things the way I did. But it’s also OK to simply have different opinions about things. And to leave it at that. I found that life became lighter and simpler when I started to accept this idea and perspective.

5. Set boundaries for yourself.

If you say no to yourself, if you set a few firm boundaries for yourself then it will over time become easier to do the same towards other people too. And these boundaries can also help you to focus better on what matters the most to you.

A couple of my daily ones that have helped me with both of those things are:

  • A start-time and a stop-time for work. I don’t work before 8 in the morning and my work computer is shut off – at the latest – at 7 in the evening.
  • Work in a no-distraction zone. I keep email notifications and messaging programs off. And my smart phone is on silent mode at the other end of our apartment.
  • Only check email once a day. Otherwise it’s easy for me to lose focus and to have too many thoughts swirling around in my mind while working.

6. Strengthen your self-esteem.

Why’s this important?

Well, with a self-esteem toolbox filled with helpful habits you’ll value yourself and therefore your time and energy more and so it’s becomes more natural to say no when you need to.

And criticism and negative words will bounce off of you more easily and often.

Plus, you’ll be less concerned about getting everyone else to like you all the time. Because now you like and respect yourself more and your dependency upon what others may think or say drops drastically.

7. Keep your focus on what YOU want out of your life.

If you know what’s most important to you and you keep your focus on that each day then you’ll naturally start to say no and stop being so people pleasing. Because now your energy and time is mostly focused on your needs and wants.

You’re not just drifting along anymore without a clear focus (which is great because when you lack that then it’s easy to fall into the trap of just going along with what someone else wants).

So how do you do this practically?

Well, fine-tuning what you deep down want might take some time. But a good start is this…

  • Ask yourself: what’s the top 3 most important things in my life right now? It could be your small business. Your family. Your career, health, dog, photography hobby, soccer, improving your social life or simplifying your home. Or something else.
  • Create 1-3 reminders. Write down your top 3 most important things on a small piece of paper. And put it on your bedside table so you see it first thing every morning. You can also create 2 more notes with the same answers to for instance put on your fridge and in your workspace.

These two simple steps have helped me a lot to keep my priorities straight and to remind myself of them every day so I don’t start to drift too much from what matters the most to me.

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{ 42 comments… add one }
  • Ali Sutton

    Absolutely what I needed to read. I have to keep coming back to these to remind myself. I am currently reading Joyful Transformation by Debra Meehl, and I have been trying to foster a habit of happiness in my life. Her book is great, and these tips are great reminders.

  • Nice read.

  • Good article. I need to remember number 3 – people don’t really care what you do as much as you think they do. So you should just stand up for yourself!

  • ” what others think of you is never any of your business” I love this quote by Abraham Hicks because if people cared less about what others think, they would lead such happier lives.

  • Brilliant share. So much power in this article, thanks for sharing.

  • Really well described…
    This really made my day and inspired me to see things differently
    Highly recommended to everyone… 🙂

  • Emali Gunasekara

    This article really relates a lot of concerns I have in my life. Especially facts such as the inability to say no to others. This article helps me in identifying what I should and should not be doing sometimes in life. The tips given to follow each step is very useful too. Thank you

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