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No, That’s Not Okay

Pondering People Pleasing

My friend recently revealed to me that she is a people pleaser. It shocked me. She’s outgoing, dynamic and highly energetic. Usually I think of people pleasers as invisible. She’s the opposite of that, but guilt of disappointing others paralyzes her ability to say no or to say no without apologies. I recall now her gushing regrets or unresponded texts as something very familiar. 

Since the big reveal, I started to notice other people pleasers nearby. I realize I had never paid attention to how prevalent it is, especially for woman, to one down their needs. What is more disturbing is how much I go along with it.

It is easy to pick out the people pleaser in the workplace. They’re the ones unable to disagree with the boss. They are the ones always bringing in donuts and working obscene late hours. They’re easy to pick out because the people pleasing is not buffered by the like and acceptance that comes in closer relationships.

My friend is determined to change her people pleasing. She’s committed to saying “thank you” if someone points out a flaw or gives her feedback. She’s committing to saying “no thank you” to refuse an invitation. She realizes that saying anything but “thank you” in those situations would just be a means to off gas her guilt for letting someone down. She also realizes it flips the focus and the energy of the conversation onto her.  Because, once she says I’m sorry, what will she hear? “No, that’s okay,” right? Notice how knee-jerk a response it is.  She is determined to start saying, “Thanks, but no.” Thanks is the more accurate response, right? An invitation is a gift, right. Why do people pleasers perceive invitations as obligations?

Her determination to change inspires me. Anyone who knows me would say I am no people pleaser. That’s not my problem. My problem is I have enabled people pleasers in my life, by blindly going along with back-burnering their needs. I’m dedicating myself 3 new ways of responding to the people pleasers in my life. 

1.      I will no longer accept “I don’t know, where do you want to go?” when I’ve asked my people pleasing friend where she wants to go to lunch.

2.      I will correct people when they assume I’m apologizing when I’m just stating a fact, such as when I say, “I ski slow” and hear, “No that’s okay.” My close friends know objectively how slow I do ski.

3.      When I hear “I’m sorry’’ for something a person has no accountability over, I will request a clarification, as in “sorry for what.” When I hear “I’m sorry” for something a person does have accountability over, I will make sure to say clearly, “I accept your apology.”

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