At this time of year, you may find yourself overdoing it on the people pleasing, or saying no to people who are trying to overly please you. This is an area I’ve coached many people on, and these tips have proved very helpful.
4:23 – What’s really at the core of people pleasing
8:42 – How you might be training people to overstep your boundaries
17:12 – Ways to say no and maintain the relationship
22:03 – The upside of relationships that ban over pleasing
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This is Ep 84 –Overdoing the People Pleasing? At this time of year, you may find yourself overdoing it on the people pleasing, or saying no to people who are trying to overly please you. This is an area I’ve coached many people on, and these tips have proved very helpful. Hi, I’m Carla Rieger and this is the MindStory Speaker podcast.
Most people get uncomfortable about this navigating the whole people pleasing thing, so here are the top ways I help my clients to deal with it all. I hope it’s helpful for you, too. So, like many people I’ve overdone the people-pleasing and letting others overly people please me. One of the biggest ah ha’s for me in breaking free from it, is to realize the underlying reason why people do it in the first place. If you think about it, a people pleaser is basically telling people what they think another wants to hear. Or they’re doing something that they think another wants them to do. And they’re doing both of those things because they want to change the way another perceives them. So in essence they’re being manipulative and inauthentic.
So, for example, with several of my clients, colleagues and friends, given it’s the Holidays there are some expectations they think people have of them. Exchanging of gifts, sharing meals, doing certain celebratory things…in whatever way they can these days…given the lockdowns. But still some people I talk to secretly don’t like the Holidays because they feel like they have to say yes to things that they don’t want to do. They say it’s because otherwise people will be hurt or offended. But when we explore it more deeply, that’s not even the deepest reason why they will literally lie and say or do something untrue. Deeper than that it’s because they want to manipulate how people feel about them. Why would they do that? And I’ve done it, too, many times. It’s out of fear of losing someone’s support or affection, or fear of someone turning against them doing vengeful things, or fear of conflict, fear of being left out. And all that comes down to feeling insecurity, feeling a lack of security if you’re authentic.
So, let’s unpack this. So of course by people pleasing the upside is that you feel more secure, but the downside is that you end up being a version of yourself that isn’t real. Then, people like you for some version of yourself that isn’t real. So, they don’t really care about you, they care about the manipulated image you created. And deeper than that is a very uncomfortable truth. Most people can tell when another person is being inauthentic. They might not fully understand the specifics of the inauthenticity, but they can feel the incongruence, the lack of alignment, a lack of ease and flow in the relationship. You’re doing or saying one thing, but feeling another.
So, that’s one thing, realizing that overly people pleasing is manipulating people to view you in a way that’s not the real you. By overly, I mean out of balance. There are times it’s appropriate to please others, times it’s appropriate to please yourself. Some people get out of balance where they are pleasing others most of the time, or pleasing themselves most of the time. Ideally there is a perfect balance based on your intuitive understanding about what’s right given the circumstances, and you just know from this deeper, truer self what’s the right way to go. It’s when we are disconnected from that deeper knowing that we tend to get out of balance.
So, let’s look at it from the perspective of the person who is on the receiving end of someone who is overly people pleasing. I’m sure you’ve been in that position. They are doing something that seems kind generous on the outside, but something about it doesn’t feel right. The way that you know if you are on the receiving end of an over people pleaser is you probably felt some sense of obligation or guilt. Especially if you never asked them to do the thing they’re doing. For example, I’ve helped a lot of people build their business to the next level. And because I have so many connections I often refer clients to them. In a few cases I’ve gotten showered with gifts that I didn’t really want, and I sometimes sensed that they hoped it would mean I keep referring people to them. That’s fine, I get it. But I kind of feel whatever comes around, goes around. I refer client to them, the universe takes note and I get something back from the universe not necessarily from that person, but from somewhere else. Of course it’s nice to give your appreciation to someone, but just check where it’s coming from in terms of your intention.
Of course when I said to one person, I don’t need you to give me gifts, I still got them. So, then I got more clear and said, I don’t eat chocolate, and I’ll still send you referrals even if you don’t give me gifts, the person in question did seem to take offense. So then I felt guilty. I stopped getting gifts, I stopped getting emails, and that person no longer seemed friendly to me. So, I get it. There are sometimes costs to being real. But in the end it feels more efficient, effective, right to do it, as long as it’s in the kindest away as possible, and done with the right intent.
So, any time you want to please someone else just check in with your intention on 3 counts. Are you doing it because you just love being thoughtful and considerate? Secondly, do you know this is what they truly want in that moment? 3) Do you expect anything back?
And, does it feel right, authentic, congruent, or is there someone off about it?
For example, when I was younger, and newly single, not ready to date yet, a particular guy came a courting. I’d never seen someone go to such great extremes to win a lady over. In retrospect, I could see that was just his thing. He’d find out from friends my favorite musical band and get me front row tickets. He set up a treasure hunt with him as the prize at the end. We weren’t even dating yet, we were just supposedly hanging out as friends. Offering me a very nice bike for free. It started to get uncomfortable. I liked him as a friend but I didn’t want to date him. Yet, here he was doing all these uninvited things. I thought I would seem rude to create a boundary, but in retrospect I see is was very manipulative. So I ended up agreeing to date him, just to be nice. That’s never a good reason to date someone if you want something that will last long term. Now sometimes it does work out, but in our case we really weren’t suited for long term. He just had this idea of seeing if he could win a lady over, and when he won, the game was complete and all the niceties abruptly ended. We were left just noticing how incompatible we were. It ended shortly thereafter, but it was a good lesson in not saying yes just to be nice…for my sake and for his.
One of the ways I used to people please was to go to social events where everyone was drinking and eating a lot of rich food. I met these friends in my early 20s. By my mid 20’s however, I couldn’t take it anymore. I never really had the constitution to drink alcohol or eat rich food. I’ve always reacted badly to any substance that has an intense reaction on the brain like alcohol, sugar, coffee. I stopped being able to drink in my 20’s because I went straight to hangover and missed the fun part everyone else seemed to be enjoying. I’d get sleepy and headachy and I’d just want to go home. Sugar would get me hyped up for 10 minutes then I’d get this huge sugar crash and be unable to focus. Coffee same thing. So, I gave all that up a long time ago. Yet so many events, gatherings, social interactions involve those substances. So, at first I would go and drink my water and watch while everyone else get inebriated. But after a while I noticed the conversations would go from being on the same wavelength to being on totally different wavelengths. Literally, different frequencies. I couldn’t relate to them, they couldn’t relate to me. Yet, I kept saying yes to the events, because I didn’t want to be left out, I didn’t want people to dislike me, I didn’t want to stop being included. But when I finally allowed myself to say no, it opened me up to having a lot more free time to do projects I was working on like writing books, going on long walks in nature, or gathering with friends who didn’t drink. Nature abhors a vacuum, so if you take one thing out of your life that you don’t want, it allows room for what you do want. But you have to let go of the old first.
Now, there is often this period of time, I called being tested. You know that old saying…I know when one door closes, another always opens, but man, these hallways are a bitch. And the quote often comes with an image of someone groping along the dark. I think it’s like the universe testing your resolve about closing one door. I remember having to face my fears of being alone, not included, wondering whether I should just tough it out and try to drink to fit in, never having a new community of friends. So I did go through a time when I was very much alone, keeping to myself. But I think that time was important for me to face my fears of loneliness, lack of approval and all that, to build my resilience and strength to stand behind my values was important to me on the lifestyle I wanted to live. So there may be something like that in your life to think about. Are you pleasing others but at the expense of yourself, and how can you close that door, wait patiently in the dark hallway, face whatever comes up around it, which will lead to another door opening that will be completely worth the journey, if you’re doing it from the right place.
So, let’s take Christmas. In general, for the last few years my partner, Dave, and I agree to we not exchange gifts with each other or other people. Partly it’s because I think It takes a lot of pressure off people trying to guess what someone else would want. Saves a lot of time and money. And you could just give to those people in other ways that they want. Why do we have to buy into the whole consumerist game of Christmas? And when Dave and I get each other’s gifts, we literally go to the store together and say I want this and the other person buys it. That way you get exactly what you want. Most people in our lives are totally fine with this, which is great.
Now, I realize that for some people they love the whole gift buying, gift wrapping, guessing what someone wants, seeing the surprise when they get the gift. So there’s wrong with it, if you’re doing it really from a place of loving it, and you know the person enough that they really love it, or at least give them a receipt to return it. But I remember helping a friend with a garage sale, and many of the gifts I’d given her were unopened, still in the original packaging. There was this embarrassing moment when she looked at me and she said, you gave me these didn’t you? And we laughed. She was relieved that I laughed. I told her many of the things she gave me ended up in garage sales, too. After that we just decided not to give each other gifts, unless we got specific directions from each other.
I remember throwing a birthday party for myself and specifically telling people not to bring gifts. We were all young, struggling students, and I wanted to take the burden off people. Yet some people brought gifts anyways, which made it awkward for the people who didn’t.
One person was like, “I know you said you didn’t want gifts but I figured you didn’t really mean it.” But I did mean it. So, it was kind of awkward all around.
So let’s talk about proper boundaries so you can prevent this. Typically, when someone else is trying to overly please you, it’s because you haven’t put up proper boundaries and you haven’t followed through on them. So, if you’ve told people not to bring you gifts and they do bring you a gift, do you refuse the gift?
Or you could say, “No, thank you. I really meant it. I really don’t want any gifts…maybe you can give that to someone else.” When the guy buys you tickets to your favorite musical concert, do you go anyway because you always wanted to see it? Or, could you say something like, “I really appreciate your thoughtfulness and I just want to check in why you’re giving me all these things? I ask because I’m not ready to date anyone right now.
Now in one case I did this, and the person said “But I love giving gifts. It’s what I love to do.” Then you can see that they aren’t giving a gift for you. They’re giving the gift for them, for their experience.
So if there is no ulterior motive in that case then what you do with the gift shouldn’t matter to them, if you say no or yes. But if it does, then clearly there’s some expectations, obligation on the other end. That’s when its best to bring the expectations and intention to the surface, even if it’s uncomfortable in the moment. Because it can save you heartache later on. So, its about making clear boundaries and a clear understanding from a place of firmness and kindness, without being rude and without being angry. Practice a few statements, with the right tone of voice ahead of time, and usually that gives you courage to say what you need to say.
And so, being able to communicate truthfully is sometimes very uncomfortable, but it prevents all of this type of people-pleasing, whether you’re on the receiving end or on the giving end and it creates true authenticity in relationships. When I have gotten into relationships where I am on the receiving end of being overly pleased, it’s because I haven’t told the truth and because I haven’t set proper boundaries and expectations with the person.
And so, if a person does something for me that I didn’t want them to do for me and I simply say thank you and then they keep doing it and I never say, “Hey, please don’t do this anymore…” that’s on me. My sense of guilt, my sense of obligation, my sense of compliance in that situation is on me.
For example, you might relate to this if you’re in a leadership role or an expert in your field. Someone will say to you, I’d like to take you for coffee and pick your brain. There was a time when I used to get three people a week asking to pick my brain. I allowed them to pick my brain on a few occasions and then found myself getting exhausted by it. So, I’d say…I don’t drink coffee. No problem. I will buy you lunch, can I please take you out to lunch? Lovely, thoughtful gesture, I just don’t want to go to lunch. No thank you. Awkward pause. “No, really, it’s this beautiful place and I’m paying.” No, I really, don’t have much spare time this week, what are you hoping to gain from time together? So, I ask an open question like that. If they say something like, I’m wanting to get into a similar area as you, but I’m just not clear on what it is yet. So, I usually say, I’m going to send you a process I use with clients that is about Exploring Your Passions. Do the process, if you have more questions after that, send me an email. So, I send it and 9 times out of 10, I don’t hear back. If I do hear back, they did the process, got clarity and are just looking for best next steps, so we go back and forth on email. I know they’re serious. Maybe they become a client if they’re serious and need on-going accountability or guidance, or maybe I’m just an occasional mentor to them. That’s fine, but they did the work, they are self motivated so then I want to talk to them more. And feels more like a win-win relationship.
I had a client one time whose mother wanted to come over a lot and help with the kids and cook the meals. My client wanted to cook her own meals and she wanted to take care of her own kids most of the time. She wasn’t one of those mothers that was controlling or criticizing or making unhealthy food. It wasn’t like that. She didn’t even have a good reason not to have the mother be there, except that she just didn’t want her there most the time.
I told her, that is reason enough. She doesn’t have to be rude to her mother. You don’t have to not like her. She was lovely and genuinely just wanted to help…and thought that’s what mothers do with daughters who have kids. And she had no reason not to, except that she didn’t want her there. She wanted to be alone with her kids most of the time and she wanted to cook their own meals for them.
She was so relieved to realize that was a good enough reason. I don’t want your help because I just don’t want your help. It’s not because you’re not a good helper. It’s not because you’re not amazing. I just don’t want it, and that’s okay. And I want to give all of you permission to refuse kind things in a very kind way and to not have people-try to please you against your own will.
When someone invites you to their home for a meal on Christmas because they’re being lovely and because they love you and because you’re family, you can say no, and that’s okay. And it’s not unkind for you to say no to someone else’s kindness. Maybe you want to curl up alone by the fire and read a good book. Maybe you want to walk in the forest or be with just one other person and not a big group, or whatever. Do what YOU want to do.
Because otherwise what can happen is you go to the meal or the event and there’s this part of you that doesn’t want to be there, there’s some resentment because you don’t want to be there. That is not good for the relationship. That is not good for the other person. It’s not good for you. It’s not good for any level of truth or authenticity.
So, if you’re a people-pleaser and you’re trying to be kind and you’re trying to be helpful and you’re trying to be wonderful and you’re trying to do all the things that the person, you think, the person wants, and they say no, understand that that is, of course, their right to do. And it doesn’t mean anything about you. And to hold resentment against them for telling you their truth, is actually more unkind.
So, as you go through the holidays and beyond, I want you to consider where you are overly people-pleasing, which means you’re doing something to try and get a result. And you’ll know because you’ll want them to have a certain response to how you’re pleasing them. And, where in your life are you being overly pleased by someone else, where you are going along with a sense of obligation or having a guilt trip when you really want to say no to the person? And how can instead kindly and clearly have a more authentic relationships in your life where nobody is going out of their way to try to please the other person, but you’re both telling each other the truth and both taking care of pleasing yourselves?
That’s it for today. So, if you want more tools like this go to MindStoryAcademy.com/free and you’ll see a number of free tools to help.
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