6 People-Pleasing Behaviors We All Need to Stop

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“You can lie down for people to walk on you and they will still complain that you’re not flat enough. Live your life.”

At some point in our lives, we have all cared what someone else thought of us or did something with the intention of making another person happy – and there is nothing wrong with that simple fact. It’s a great and even admirable thing to be caring, helpful, compassionate and thoughtful. The problem, though, is that many of us take these tendencies to the extreme, often sacrificing our own needs and values in hopes that it will provide us with some sort of external validation, acceptance or approval. However, this often results in feeling resentful, burned out, underappreciated and even taken advantage of instead. When trying to make someone else happy comes from a place of lack vs. a place of abundance, it can become unhealthy and even harmful to our mental well-being.

Here are some common people-pleasing behaviors that we all need to stop (pronto!) and some tips on how to do it:

1) Saying ‘Yes’ When We Want to Say No: While the intention here is often to be helpful, saying yes to something we don’t have the time/energy/resources for or that isn’t important to us solely because we feel like we ‘should’ or ‘have to’ only leads to resentment and burnout, which actually isn’t helpful to anyone. Over-extending ourselves and filling our plates with things that aren’t aligned with our own goals or values is communicating to ourselves and others that what we want to do is less important than what someone else wants us to do – and this actually ends up making us feel unappreciated or taken advantage of, which in turn ends up hurting our relationships. How to Stop: Before saying ‘yes’ to a commitment, ask yourself if it’s realistic to add it to your plate right now and if investing your time in this way is aligned with your priorities. If you find yourself feeling like you ‘should’ do something, this is a good indicator that it is probably not. Politely say no or decline (without a need for an apology or explanation) – or if you aren’t able to completely say ‘no’, suggest an alternative option or boundary that’s better suited for you (i.e. I can come to your event, but only for an hour).

2) Valuing Other Peoples’ Opinions More Than Our Own: Criticism and negative feedback are rarely easy to receive, but when the opinions of others become more valuable than our own, it can indicate a lack of confidence or a lack of trust in ourselves and our own judgment. While it’s important to be open to feedback from others, it’s equally important to be selective about which feedback matters. When we allow our critics’ thoughts/perspectives to get the majority of our focus and attention, we begin to second guess everything we do and essentially lose control over authentically living our lives.  People will always have varying perspectives and judgments about us and what we do, so we might as well live in a way that’s true to and supports our own beliefs and values. Opinions are subjective, so just because someone else might disagree or think what you’re doing is wrong, it doesn’t mean they’re right.  How to Stop: Make a list of the people that love and support you unconditionally, truly have your best interest at heart and that you trust to be honest with you. These are the only opinions, along with your own, that actually matter. If you receive a criticism from someone who is not on this list, assess it, but don’t let it shake or define you. 

3) Putting Others Peoples’ Needs First: Many of us, particularly those of the caretaker nature, often derive our sense of self-worth by taking care of other peoples’ needs or sacrificing our own in place of them in order to feel more worthy and lovable. However, like many of the other people-pleasing behaviors, this can lead to burnout and resentment if we realize our own needs are unmet or reciprocal efforts aren’t being made in exchange. Additionally, it can create challenging and/or co-dependent relationship dynamics with our loved ones and can lead to unrealistic expectations of us for the people in our lives. How to Stop: Be helpful. Be compassionate. Be thoughtful. Be caring. But make sure you are also constantly being all of those things to yourself. Ask yourself daily ‘What do I need in order to feel taken care of today?’ and whether it’s rest, movement, organization, clarity, connection, etc. – give yourself that before pouring into your work, family, friends or partner. You will all be better off and much more cared for as a result – and you will be setting a positive example and teaching them how to take care of themselves, too. 

4) Avoiding Confrontation/Honest Communication: We often avoid confrontation in order to be well-liked or to avoid the discomfort of a difficult conversation, but this often makes it difficult to form authentic connections and relationships. When we consistently and effectively practice healthy confrontation & assertive communication, it shows other people that we respect both ourselves and our relationship with them and they feel more confident and trusting of our connection as a result. They gain confidence that we will communicate truthfully instead of just being agreeable or superficial. How to Stop: Practice! Write out what you want to say or practice with a friend/therapist. Gathering your thoughts and processing your feelings ahead of time will ensure that you articulate your message clearly and thoughtfully. 

5) Apologizing For Everything: Apologizing has become a second nature for many of us and, the majority of the time, we say ‘sorry’ for things that aren’t even within our control, aren’t our responsibility/fault, or that we otherwise just simply don’t actually need to apologize for. This is a way that we take on the burden and responsibility of everything around us in order to alleviate that burden/responsibility from others and avoid assertive communication. Apologizing and explaining ourselves can be a way to soften boundaries we’ve set or to feel less badly about saying ‘no’, but we should be mindful that apologizing too much demonstrates insecurity about these things, which sometimes causes people to take them/us less seriously. How to Stop: Before writing or saying sorry, ask yourself if this is something that you should be apologizing for/if it’s even your responsibility or within your control. Sometimes it will be, but be sure to use your apologies sparingly. Take an inventory of every time you apologize in one day or one week by writing it down in a notebook. This will raise your conscious awareness about this habit, which can help you to do it less. 

6) Taking Responsibility For Other Peoples’ Feelings: While we shouldn’t go around intentionally hurting people, we also shouldn’t walk on eggshells or tiptoe around their feelings or blame ourselves for other peoples’ reactions to what we do/say. Everyone is responsible for having and coping with their own emotional experience and their feelings are their own responsibility — not yours. Similarly, if someone else is feeling hurt, upset or angry, know it isn’t your job to fix it. It’s theirs. When we fear upsetting someone or making someone else angry, we’re more likely to compromise our values. It’s okay if someone is upset, angry, etc., even if it’s with us, and it’s important to learn how to sit with the discomfort of this. How to Stop: Let people take care of their own emotions without feeling like you are responsible for or need to fix them. Instead, offer your support & empathy, but not a solution. This will create boundaries and allow them to become more independent, which is healthy for you both. 

Remember: you can be a thoughtful, helpful, caring and compassionate person who ALSO sets boundaries, says no and puts their own needs first. 

Which people pleasing behaviors do you struggle with most? Are there any others I forgot to mention? Feel free to share in the comments below!

How, When & Why to Be More Assertive

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Be more assertive: seems like a simple enough concept, right? But how do we do it without being aggressive or pushy? What happens if someone takes our assertiveness the wrong way? What if it changes our relationships? What if it makes us uncomfortable?And WHY is it so difficult for us to be direct, say no, set boundaries and ask for what we need without feeling guilty or bad about it? I have spent much of my life asking these questions and convincing myself that people pleasing and putting other peoples’ needs before my own was the easier/better route. But here’s why it’s not:

  1. Resentment – We falsely believe that avoiding assertive communication protects our relationships when in fact, it hurts them. Avoiding confrontation or direct/honest communication results in an unmet need in us, which overtime will only breed resentment. And no relationship can thrive on this.
  2. Burnout – Those who lack assertiveness tend to put too much on their plate out of fear of saying ‘no’ in order to please others. Without boundaries & directness about what we realistically can/cannot do, we end up dispensing a lot of time and energy toward other peoples’ needs and goals instead of our own, which often results in burnout. Burnout can result in poorer work performance and can prevent us from showing up as our best selves in our relationships with others.
  3. Mental Health Issues – When we’re not honoring our authentic thoughts, feelings, needs & values through assertive & truthful communication, we can begin to feel anxious and/or depressed. By attempting to appease others or by avoiding conversations out of fear, we lose a sense of connection to ourselves and our mental/emotional health often suffers as a result.

So now that we’ve recognized why passivity does much more harm than good to ourselves & our relationships, here’s some tips on figuring out when you need to be assertive and how to put it into practice.

Get Honest With Yourself – It can be hard, especially in the beginning, to identify our needs/values and know what areas of our lives require more assertiveness. Start by doing an inventory of your relationships. Make a list of the people you interact with on a consistent basis and make note of how each of them make you feel. Your instincts/gut reactions will cue you in to which dynamics may be resulting in an unmet need, feeling taken advantage of, requiring better boundaries or needing more direct/honest communication. Tuning into your emotions more regularly is also a good way to identify where something isn’t aligning. Feeling anxious, frustrated, dreadful, irritated, angry or like you “should” do something are all cues that let you know where your boundaries are and are a good indicator that you need to speak up about them.

Choose Your Battles – While it’s almost always more helpful to honestly express your needs, thoughts and feelings than it is to suppress them, there are some situations that are just not worth it. The mistake we make, though, is convincing ourselves that it’s never worth it as a means of perceived self-protection and to avoid the discomfort that comes with a difficult conversation. If someone is being aggressive toward you, has not been receptive to your assertive communication in the past or is otherwise not a particularly important or crucial person in your life, consider processing the situation/relationship elsewhere and figuring out an exit strategy so you don’t have to continue being in a dynamic that isn’t satisfying to you or fulfilling your needs.

Practice – Once you’ve identified a need/value that you’ve deemed worthy of addressing and feel that the person/situation is important enough, brainstorm your approach. Not only can writing it out be a cathartic process, but it can also help you to untangle your thoughts/feelings about the situation and figure out how to best articulate it in real time. It can also help to practice assertive communication with someone you feel safe with, like a friend or therapist, who can provide you some insight/feedback before approaching it and help you see that it isn’t as intimidating as it may seem in your mind. For situations that require assertiveness on the spot, know that the more you do it, the more comfortable it will become over time.

Propose a Compromise – The mistake people sometimes make when beginning to be more assertive is thinking that in order to achieve this we must swing the pendulum entirely the other way – to the point that it can become aggressive. The goal in being more assertive isn’t to replace the other person’s needs with your own, but rather to find a middle ground that results in both parties being satisfied with the outcome. That being said, situations where one person’s needs haven’t been considered or met for a long time may require less of a compromise/middle ground in order to regain a sense balance in the relationship.

Don’t Apologize or Explain Yourself – It’s common that those who lack security in being assertive will apologize or over-explain themselves as an attempt to soften the message/make the other person & themselves more comfortable. Sometimes, depending on the situation, a brief explanation is suitable, however it’s unnecessary to apologize for your needs and/or feelings. Apologizing or over-explaining takes away from the directness of your message and leaves it vulnerable to being manipulated or misunderstood.

Stand Your Ground Afterward – Know that when you start to communicate more assertively and begin to set clearer boundaries, there may be some push back from people who aren’t used to that from you. They may become hurt, angry, confused and/or take it personally. This reaction doesn’t mean that you’ve done anything wrong or should change your approach. You may even be able to help them in there relationships by modeling direct/assertive communication more frequently in yours. Remember: People who care about you want you to respect yourself and will adjust to this new dynamic over time.

So what does this look/sound like? Here are some examples/key phrases to use when putting this into use:

“Thank you so much for the invite! I’d really love to spend time with you this weekend, but I’m feeling burned out and need some time to myself. I’ll have to take a rain check.”

“I’m really committed to doing a great job on this project, but that timeline doesn’t feel realistic given everything else on my plate right now. How about I get this to you by COB on Friday instead? If the deadline is inflexible, is there someone that I can delegate some of my other tasks to?”

“Hey, I realize it might not have been intentional, but the comment you made earlier made me feel uncomfortable. I’d appreciate if you could be more mindful of that moving forward.”

“Unfortunately I’m not able to stay late this evening.” 

And my favorite… “No”. Just plain ole NO. Remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation or an apology. You are allowed to simply decline anything that is in misalignment with your needs, goals, priorities or values.

It takes consistent practice to become more comfortable with being assertive, but the result of ensuring that your needs are also being met in your relationships will lead to them being all-around healthier, more fulfilling and more trusting.

I’d love to hear about your own personal challenges with assertiveness and/or how you’ve overcome them in the comments below!

Speaking Your Partner’s Love Language to Strengthen Your Connection

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Let’s face it, relationships are tough. Whether they be romantic, friendly, familial or professional, there is almost always bound to be miscommunication, misunderstanding, difference of opinions, difference of values, and varying mental and emotional reactions. Because it’s very rare that two people are 100% on the same page of understanding, feeling, emotion and thought at the same exact time, communication becomes a very complex, yet important component of maintaining any relationship.

When we think about communication however, we often think solely of verbal communication. We try to find ways we can better articulate ourselves, use I-language, speak in a calmer manner, be more complimentary, say thank you and I love you more often, share our feelings, etc. While these things are certainly important and helpful to any relationship’s stability, we might become confused when our efforts to be better verbal communicators or verbal expressers don’t entirely fix our problems. This is because verbal communication is only ONE way that we can express ourselves to our loved one – and only a certain group of people feel truly loved through words.

If you haven’t read ‘The 5 Love Languages’ yet, I highly recommend getting your hands on it (clickable link posted below). If you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts and whether or not it’s application has been useful in your relationships.

The book breaks down the 5 ways that humans typically give and receive love and speaks to the importance of knowing your partner’s love language and speaking to them in it consistently in order to add more growth, connection, fulfillment and security to your relationship.

The 5 love languages are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Physical Touch
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Gift Giving

While most people find that all or most of the love languages are important in their relationship, there are some languages that make us feel more loved than others and when they are missing or lacking in our relationship we consequently feel a disconnect. The missing or lacking pieces usually aren’t due to lack of care, however. We just usually only speak in the love language that makes us feel most loved, which isn’t necessarily what makes our partner feel most loved, thus sometimes leaving us or our other with an emotional void. Therefore, it’s important that we understand both what we need and what our partner needs so we can adapt to one another accordingly.

You can read more about each love language, how to determine what you and your partner’s most prominent love languages are and how to speak to one another in them more frequently in the book below. There’s also a quiz at the end that will guide you in determining your love languages if you can’t quite figure it out throughout the course of the book.

I hope this resource leads to better understanding and better, more effective communication that allows both you and your partner to feel more loved and fulfilled in your relationship.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like to further discuss this book or these concepts or work through a problem in your relationship. I’m always glad to hear from you & happy to help!

Click to purchase