Who is a people pleaser?

A people pleaser is someone who often doesn’t want to create discomfort and will end up putting others’ needs before their own

Common traits of people pleasers include:

  1. Agree to do things (e.g. attend events, parties) even if they don’t want to
  2. Help others even if they are busy
  3. Don’t disagree with someone else
  4. Don’t want to bother people or create a fuss
  5. Feel responsible for other people’s emotions
  6. Are anxious if someone is mad at them
  7. Say sorry and apologise for smaller inconveniences

People-pleasers usually appear kind and generous, but by putting others before themselves they can encounter issues.

Cons of being a people-pleaser

  • They feel too much responsibility, even if something is not actually entirely in their control
  • They will feel stress and overwhelmed, from saying yes to too much. This can lead to burnout
  • No progress on their own goals. By prioritizing others, they will put their tasks that benefit themselves only on the backburner

These are two questions (and answers) often asked about people-pleasers:

Do people pleasers have low self-esteem?

Since they tend to please others and put them before themselves, this could in some cases be linked to low self-esteem. This is connected to the concept of internal versus external validation. If a people pleaser feels their value depends uniquely on others liking them, it might be helpful to work on improving their self-esteem.

Are people-pleasers annoying?

Since they try to not cause discomfort, they can appear indecisive and therefore unsure. They might not take a stance even when requested. This can be frustrating and annoying if it’s a recurrent thing.

How to stop being a people pleaser?

Start saying no to small things

  • Practice makes perfect. Here are some common examples: declining to get a coffee/meal with someone, asking for the correct order if it gets messed up, not signing up to the store fidelity program, telling the hairdresser if you would like something different, asking for the correct change.

Set up boundaries and make sure they are communicated and enforced

  • Notice when you repeatedly engage in a specific activity when you would rather not
  • Define an appropriate boundary
  • Communicate that boundary or make sure anyone involved is aware
  • Stick to that boundary and repeat if questioned, without it turning into an apology

For example, if the folks of the gym class you follow always go out after class, but you would rather not stay out late, you can either establish that you will go for one drink and leave after an hour or you can just skip the event afterward. “No” is an answer and a full sentence, so you don’t need to give an explanation, although it will depend based on how close you are to the group.

If they insist, just remind them you need to go and be firm about it.

Use policies so it’s not personal

If you are afraid of people taking it personally, you can always use policies. A policy is conventionally a rule that is applied in every circumstance. Therefore will be more easily accepted as a general boundary rather than a specific decision. For example, a policy might be “I am budgeting for a pottery course this Spring, therefore I am not going out to dinner more than twice a month and I have already gone out this month”. This clearly is not a no to the specific dinner you have just been invited to, but a general rule. You don’t need to give explanations, but it can be helpful to give a simple reason and clear goal.

Don’t give too many details

This will mean there is less opportunity for discussion, others won’t try to find loopholes and “excuses”. Be firm in your decision

Say thank you instead of sorry

People-pleasers tend to feel responsible for others’ emotions and will often say sorry even if the inconvenience was small or not their fault. Apologizing too often and when not warranted can be perceived as unsure and less trustworthy. Try saying thank you, instead. For example:

  • thank you for your patience instead of sorry for being late
  • thank you for catching that instead of sorry for the typo
  • thank you for your explanation instead of sorry for this stupid question

    Of course these examples hold if the inconvenience was small and it didn’t have any real impact

Block time for yourself and your goals – and stick to the plan

Make sure you prioritize tasks that are important to you, even if they don’t benefit others or if this means other activities get pushed back. Block some time in your calendar and follow through when the time comes.