The behavioural pattern known as “people pleasing” or compliance is one we see in the the therapy room frequently. Almost everybody enjoys pleasing others as part of our social interaction, but when we defer to the wishes of others and bend over backwards to accommodate them whilst denying our own wants and needs, our lives can become unmanageable and we are left feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Some of us allow the need to please to compromise our relationships, health and well-being.
If you often say “yes” when you want to say “no”; worry excessively about hurting others’ feelings; have an unreasonable fear about letting people down; over-apologise, try to control everything by making others happy and think that your feelings are irrelevant compared to others, then you are probably manifesting an unhealthy pattern of behaviour.
There are many reasons why this behavioural pattern develops. Cultural and social conditioning where children, especially daughters, are taught that they have to be perfect to be loved, can result in people pleasing behaviours. In some families love is conditional upon certain behaviours so that children learn to please others to be loved and accepted. Children who have early experiences of humiliation, criticism, abandonment and rejection can become adults who readily comply with the wishes of others never putting their own needs first. However, the reasons why are not the subject of this article. Always solution-focused, we would like to suggest some self-help strategies to try if you recognise an aspect of yourself in our description and would like to take steps towards change.
Don’t feel that you have to suppress your qualities of friendliness, sensitivity, empathy and helpfulness. Take others into consideration but remind yourself and others that your needs are important and assert them.
Think about why you are doing something for someone else if you are really inconvenienced.
Don’t go along with someone else’s agenda just to make life easy.
Practise saying “No” and if you automatically say “Yes” you can change your mind upon reflection.
For the tappers
Individual circumstance specific phrases are always the best, but here are some ideas to help you to formulate your own phrases:
- Even though it’s my job to make everybody happy, I deeply and completely ………………..
- Reminder phrase: It’s my job to make everybody happy.
- Even though they will be angry and upset if I ……………… I deeply and completely ………
- Reminder phrase: they will be upset and angry.
- Even though it is hard for me to say “No”, I deeply and completely……………………………..
- Reminder phrase: it’s hard to say “No”.
- Even though their demands are unreasonable, I deeply and completely………………………..
- Reminder phrase: Their demands are unreasonable.
Jocelyn and Kristina at Trance-Formed