Are you a People Pleaser?
I sure am…er…I mean…was. At this point in my life I definitely wouldn’t call myself one of the The Bold and The Beautiful, but I can hold my own in most daily interactions. Except if you put me on Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen. I’d be the first one sobbing in a post elimination interview: “Where did I go wrong?! Where?!”
Here are the ins and outs of the People Pleaser lifestyle and some pointers on how to steer yourself in the direction of your inner female warrior instead.
- You swallow that lump in your throat called anger/annoyance/hurt because you don’t want to upset anyone by being upset.
Welcome to my teens and most of my twenties. On my deathbed I’ll probably gasp out a final message: “It’s rush hour. Tell them I’ll hang on.”
- I’m standing in a really long line-up and someone boldly steps in front of me.
People Pleaser response: Rolling of the eyes. And of course you don’t let the unscrupulous person see this—that would be rude!
Non-People Pleaser response: “I was in front of you. The line is back there.”
Scenario number two
- A friend says they’ll call me back and then doesn’t. Then they do it again. And again. And again.
People Pleaser response: A programmed parrot: “No problem. No problem. No problem.”
Non-People Pleaser response: “WTF is wrong with you?”
Non-People Pleaser response–less hostile: “Why aren’t you calling me back?”
People Pleaser Life Consequences
What are the consequences of this type of parroting and swallowing behaviour? Inappropriate emotional outbursts.
The resentment starts a slow burn in the abdomen, like a cat growl working its way up from the low belly and climbing into the throat–but you don’t let it out. You swallow it. You continue to do this—until one day, out of the blue, you’re ranting and raving to a friend like someone who stopped taking their very strong medication. You let them have it with both barrels in a voice like a frustrated Fran Drescher.
After a couple of decades I began to realize that these outbursts are not optimal for my life or my blood pressure. I set out to try and release the pressure little by little, in the moment. This is like opening the nozzle of an air mattress instead of violently stabbing it with a butcher knife.
People Pleaser tips
I use these strategies to stand up for myself instead of exploding like a hand grenade all over my unsuspecting friends and family. When something happens that doesn’t sit right with you–stop and acknowledge the feeling. This is the do or die moment, the speak or swallow opportunity.
- Take a deep breath
- Imagine that you are the other person-would you want to know when a friend is upset about something?
- Use the format: I feel______ when you_________. Example: I feel frustrated when you tell me that you’re going to call and then you don’t. I wait for your call when I could be doing something else and I feel like my time is not being respected.
- Say nothing else—don’t start babbling nonsense like an excited baby in order to soften the blow or muffle your message. Let them speak. Give them a chance to respond.
- They may not say: “Wow I’m so sorry! I didn’t realize I was doing that! I’ll make sure I do what I say I’m going to do from now on.” They might say: “Screw you. You always make a big deal of everything! What a drama queen.” Granted, if they say that to you I’d want to check your friend-choosing skills because that is a much bigger mess. Future blog post?
Life is not a Growing Pains episode and people don’t really sit around having heart to heart talks that resolve in twenty-two minutes. When a friend or family member responds in a hurtful or reactionary manner that is about them, not you. The best thing to do is pull back and check yourself. Don’t jump in and get defensive. This may lead to a Maury Povich episode with lots of hair pulling.
The best advice I’ve heard on how to deal with conflict or upset is to get curious. Get curious about what someone is thinking/feeling or experiencing. This takes the personal twinge out of it.
Another insider tip
Try saying this in response to a doozy of a statement from someone (even if it’s the most insulting thing you’ve ever heard): “Oh, interesting.”
It will diffuse the situation and cause an uncomfortable silence. Stay with it. You’re coming from a place of—“that’s interesting that you said that. That’s interesting that you think that. Hmm….interesting.”
I find these simple strategies to be as non-threatening as possible with pleasing results—for you. So, remember to acknowledge what you’re feeling and then try telling someone else about it. You may give them the courage to speak their own truth and then you’ll have the makings of an honest and mutually pleasing relationship.