Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How To Stop Being A People Pleaser

Have you ever wondered how to stop being a people pleaser - or even what a people pleaser is?

People pleasers tend to take responsibilities that aren't theirs, such as doing the dishes at home or preparing additional reports at work. People pleasers can't say no without feeling guilty. They don't know how to stop being people pleasers.

To Stop Being a People Pleaser, Know How it Begins

Sometimes people pleasers are expected to fulfill a need or a request that hasn’t even been made. Or, people pleasers step in and take responsibilities that aren’t theirs to begin with. Instead of jumping to fill a need, it would be healthier for people pleasers to say no without feeling guilty. To stop being people pleasers, they need to figure out where healthy boundaries begin and end. To stop being people pleasers, they need to say no without feeling guilty.

Knowing how to say no without guilt is a common problem for women, who are frequent people pleasers. Here's how to know if you're letting people trample your boundaries - and how to stop being a people pleaser.

Find Your Motivation

What's holding you back from saying no without feeling guilty? To learn how to stop being a people pleaser, it may help to look at your life objectively. For instance, I get up every morning at 5:30 am to make my husband’s oatmeal and set his lunch out so he can catch the 6:30 ferry to work in Vancouver. He’s never asked me to do this; it’s a choice I’ve made since the beginning of our marriage. I actually like doing it because it helps him, and after he leaves I write for a couple hours before I get ready for work – so it’s one of those win-win’s. I do it because I want to, which makes me feel I'm in control. I don't struggle with saying no without guilt in this area.

However, the thought of washing his oatmeal container when he comes home, or making his lunch, or ironing his clothes – all of those “wifely” tasks make me want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish (an Anne Lamott pearl of wisdom!). If I let myself be responsible for those chores I’ll feel angry, frustrated, and suffocated, not to mention bitter and resentful. Learning how to stop being a people pleaser involves insight into your own emotions.

3 Ways People Pleasers Can Set Healthy Boundaries

Learning how to say no without feeling guilty is a huge way to stop being a people pleaser.

1. To stop being a people pleaser, make deliberate choices. The trick is what you “let yourself” be responsible for – and you do have control. You can and should exercise your power of choice. If you choose to meet someone’s needs out of love or compassion (eg, I could give up running on vacation to ease my fellow traveler’s mind), then your boundaries aren’t invaded – and feelings of anger, frustration or resentment shouldn’t come into play. If they do, then you need to check your motivation. Instead of getting mad, practice saying no without feeling guilty. To stop being a people pleaser, you need lots of practice!

2. To stop being a people pleaser, gain self-knowledge. Get and stay in touch with your “I’m not comfortable” feelings. If you feel bitter and resentful when you agree to take on extra work at home or work, then you need to be honest with the people involved. It's not their responsibility to protect your healthy boundaries; it's yours. Find another way to accomplish the task, and/or give the responsibility back to its rightful owner. I knew complying with my friend’s request – not exercising on vacation – would make me angry and resentful, so I didn’t quit running on the street. It wasn't easy but I said no without feeling guilty. To stop being a people pleaser, you need to know yourself.

3. To stop being a people pleaser, have courage. Saying no without feeling guilty can be difficult, especially when it involves people you love, work with, or have to travel with for another two weeks. But if saying yes makes you resentful or bitter, you need to learn how to say no without guilt – and you don’t have to explain why or offer excuses. A simple “I’m sorry I can’t help you with that,” will do. Ignore your guilt! I told my fellow traveler that I understand her concerns, but I really need to keep running for my physical, mental, and emotional health. People pleasers need to stand up for themselves. To stop being a people pleaser, you need to be strong.

To stop being a people pleaser, you must make conscious choices, dip into your self-knowledge, and have the courage say no without feeling guilty. Knowing how to stop being a people pleaser can be difficult, but it's better than feeling resentful about how you spend your time and energy! Your relationships will be better in the long run -- and so will your mental health -- if you learn how to stop being a people pleaser.

Be receptive to others' concerns, but don't leave your own by the wayside. How to make sure you're the one manning the controls.

So how does a people-pleaser end the cycle? While perpetual pushovers often lack self-worth and clear direction in their lives, breaking the cycle is complicated. The cure is not abstinence—neglecting others' needs entirely means crossing the border into narcissism. Rather, the key is a well-thought-out policy of temperance. Retain positive people-pleasing traits like friendliness and sensitivity, but clarify your own needs and assert them more. If someone asks you for something, ask yourself if it's feasible and consider your own needs, too. You might say, "I can help you later in the day, but first I need to meet my own deadlines. If it's urgent, maybe we can find someone else to help you right away."

Take a close look at what situations trigger your pleasing behavior and why. "People-pleasing behavior comes from fear, from an assumption that others are in control of you. Healthy behavior comes from genuinely wanting to be connected to people," Earley says. "Ask yourself, 'Why am I doing this? Is it because I really care about this person, or because I'm afraid I'm going to lose them?' " This kind of questioning can help you uncover the source of the fears underlying your people-pleasing bent. Did your parents' conditional love lead you to dread abandonment? Did the pain of a past heartbreak make you overly anxious about offending or disagreeing with your new partner? Consider the answers and discard fears that don't make sense anymore.

* Stall for time. If someone puts you on the spot, politely defer: "I'll check my calendar and get back to you tomorrow." Then you can assess whether the request fits in with your schedule and goals.

* Examine your motivations. People-pleasing seems like the epitome of niceness, but pleasers may assume their submissive postures because of what they expect in return. If you grant someone a favor, do it because it fulfills you—not to get something back.

* Role-play to practice asserting your needs. Get a friend to play a pushy boss, parent, or acquaintance—whoever triggers your people-pleasing. Then practice saying no to unreasonable requests until it starts to feel natural.