Hi. My name is Sara, and I'm a people-pleaser.
Before diving into a few strategies that have helped me inch toward recovery, I'd like to provide an important clarification.
People-pleasers and pushovers are not always one in the same. While the two may be closely linked, people-pleasing isn't necessarily about letting people walk all over you.
To me, people-pleasing is about protecting your reputation as a competent, reliable, and trustworthy person.
Unfortunately, this results in holding yourself to unhealthy standards and regularly putting others' needs before your own - which can very quickly escalate into pushover territory.
Just like any bad habit, changing your people-pleasing ways is a process. And these four tips can help move it along.
1. Eliminate ass-kissing phrases.
You might worry about inconveniencing someone with a certain favor or request, but apologetic phrasing can do more harm than good.
When you add "no worries if not" in attempt to illustrate how agreeable you are, you're actually limiting your power in the situation. Since you gave them the option to decline, they can very well do so.
Instead, end your request with "I appreciate the flexibility" or "thank you for considering." This way, you'll maintain a sense of politeness and professionalism without the people-pleasing "fluff."
Similarly, try to ditch "let me know if you need anything else."
While this candor can actually be entirely appropriate in certain situations such as client relations, avoid using it on a regular basis.
You might think that you're representing yourself as a "team player," but people will likely take advantage of your eagerness over time.
If the only "reward" is somebody's favorable perception of you, it's not worth bending over backwards for.
2. Don't make decisions based on guilt.
If you want to Netflix & lounge instead of drink & mingle, there's no need to beat around the bush.
Quit telling your friends that you'll "let them know" about joining them at the bar later, and simply say that you're staying in.
As people-pleasers, we often give vague responses or even reluctantly move forward with plans because we worry about others taking a "no" personally.
However, this means that we'll continue to find ourselves "faking it" in situations and environments that don't align with our personal preferences.
You might feel guilty for declining an invite, but you'll feel ten times happier as your most authentic self.
3. Offer reasonable alternatives.
When faced with an irrational deadline at work, pause before immediately agreeing and hoping for the best.
Instead of working through your PTO to satisfy your boss, think about an alternative solution that can satisfy everyone.
For instance, maybe you can suggest splitting up a task with a colleague to maximize efficiency. Or you can commit to the bulk of a project, and ask about making the final piece a priority on Monday morning.
This approach can also be helpful when you're already focusing on a time-sensitive project, and are tasked with another timely request.
Rather than skipping lunch to do both (and nearly passing out in the process,) explain the situation and offer to assist on a smaller scale. For example, if it's a writing project, ask if you can copy edit a first draft.
You might say "yes" to everything because you're a people-pleaser, but you're also just a person. And no job is worth losing yourself over.
4. Remember that people treat you how you let them.
Whether it's a romantic or professional relationship, never forget that you teach people how to treat you.
People-pleasers are often hesitant to stand up for themselves, worrying that they'll come off as demanding or high-maintenance.
However, circumstances can't improve without setting boundaries. And ignoring an issue won't make it go away.
So reinforce positive behavior, and speak up when it's not meeting your expectations.
People-pleasing might "keep the peace" on a short-term scale, but honest communication leads to long-term happiness.