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As human beings, we value relationships and belonging. We want to be accepted and to be a part of communities that provide us with peace, security, and love. These desires are natural and the feeling of being connected to other people brings us immense joy. When the desire to have these connections with others outweighs our own self-worth, though, is when we find ourselves working not for the relationship, but to please the other person.
“People-pleasing” is putting others’ needs or desires in front of your own consistently. It involves over-apologizing, agreeing when you may not truly agree, always saying “yes,” and avoiding conflict. Each of these characteristics and many more put you at a disadvantage at home, with friends, and in the workplace.
Ways to manage people-pleasing tendencies begin with identifying why you are people-pleasing, how it may be holding you back, and how it may be creating negative feeling within your relationships. Identifying the reasons why we work so hard to please others allows us to become more aware of these moments within conversations and relationships. Second, you can delay answering someone when they ask you to do something, giving yourself time to determine if this is something you desire to do or feel that you need to in order to keep the relationship. Simply stating, “I’ll have to get back to you on that” is a great way to give yourself the time to think. This also provides you with an opportunity to communicate your own needs when needed. What do you need help or assistance with? Lastly, a great way to better manage people-pleasing is to say “no.” This small word can be incredibly difficult to use when we value our relationships and please others regularly, but it is for that reason that we need to be honest in communicating when we are unable to do something for someone else.
Integrating these new skills into your life can be difficult at first and you may feel that you communicating your needs is not received well initially. Practicing regular self-care and self-soothing, as well as talking to your therapist or counselor, can aid in making people-pleasing a habit of your past. Start small, work slowly, and take advantage of your mental health resources in your community.