Oct 29 , 2019
Death of the people pleaser.

There is a Japanese saying 人に迷惑をかけない hito ni meiwaku wo kakenai “don’t bother people” (the literal translation is “don’t attach disturbance to people”) this doesn’t translate in a dog-eat-dog world and with burnout on the rise. A blog I was reading recently described it quite perfectly that the default posture for a decent and kind human being is to assume you are the least important person in any room, and to apologise for any attention you attract, good or bad.

It’s possible that we’re living in a narcissist epidemic, and ‘people pleasing’ isn’t helping. In a workplace with a systemic culture of poor leadership and bullying can be a narcissists playground to mistreat others and can lead to a business losing their best people. When we say yes to everything we give permission to be used and abused. Knowing your boundaries, holding yourself accountable to your boundaries and working through your communication we teach people how to treat you.

People pleasing can be a difficult habit to break and might look like the following.

1. Being agreeable.

It’s ok to listen to other people’s opinions – even if you disagree – it’s another thing to agree with them to gain acceptance as it will engage in behaviour that often goes against your own values. Being agreeable for the sake of being agreeable might look good on the surface, but as you scatch deeper, it is ultimately insincere.

2. Constantly apologising

Whether you blame yourself or you fear other people are going to blame you, frequent apologies can be a sign that you are taking on other people’s responsibilities as well as signing up to be the fall guy or girl for situations that were never your role to begin with, being clear on what is in your job description can help you navigate this. Ask yourself “Is it a YOU job?”. 

I replace apologies with gratitude, for example instead of apologising for being late, thank people for being so patient instead.

3. Overwhelming burden of your to-do list.

We can forget that we are in control of how we spend our time, if you’re a people pleaser your schedule can end up filled with activities of what you think other people want you to do. As an ex-people pleaser, working with my coach helps me gain clarity around my goals, priorities and values, ensuring that my schedule reflects this. It’s like Stephen Covey advises from 7 Habits of Highly Effective Leaders, The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. Start with the big rocks and the small rocks will fit around those priorities.

4. You never say no. 

Instead of a blunt “No”, give yourselves some space by saying “hmm… I’m not sure, let’ me have a think about that one” or better yet, say “Yes AND… followed by reservations.”

This can be to avoid conflict, or the overwhelming sense that you’re responsible for someone else’s happiness, everyone oversees their own emotions. Saying no is about having healthy boundaries around your time and bandwidth.

Better communication creates space for someone to get the right support and also open the doors for you to get support when you might be overwhelmed or on a fast track to burnout.


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