Numerous times a week I hear this phrase: “They might not like me” or “They will get mad at me.” Does this sound familiar? You may not say it aloud, but do you say it to yourself?
It seems harmless, right? However, in coaching thousands of people, I have discovered this one habit to be one of the most destructive. What do I mean? When you are doing things, saying things, not saying things, not doing things so as to please someone else, you rob yourself of your power and your satisfaction.
I have seen people take jobs, not quit jobs, do tasks, keep friendships, stay in relationships, tolerate behaviors and on and on all because they are concerned someone else might not like them. It may not be obvious to the person, but upon examination we discover that is the source of their frustration and, often, resentment. When we discover this, I have them see- that this people pleasing habit misses the mark because they are a ‘people’ too and they are not pleasing themselves. Sacrificing your own power and happiness for the idea that you ‘should’ please someone else is not an effective business or life strategy. Ultimately, you are trying to control what other people think about you— and you cannot control other people’s thoughts anyway. It is living in a false idea— you and I barely can control our own thoughts, let alone control someone else’s!
Why do we do this? First, what most people do not realize is this is one of the aspects of a reaction of your brain, at the level of amygdala or the reptilian brain when it feels a threat. It is part of the fight, flight, freeze OR appease reaction. So, when you are ‘people pleasing’ you are actually simply reacting. It is a neurochemical reaction followed by a behavior that stems from the reaction. You are NOT tapping into your brilliance and power, accessing your executive functioning of the brain. That is simply the neuroscience of it.
You might be thinking- great… now what do I do about it. I am always empowering you with actions so try the following exercise:
- Write a list of the things you are doing or have done and don’t really want to do or have resentment about.
- Ask yourself and write down the answer to: Why are you doing that (or have done that)? In order to…(fill in the blank).
- Everyone of them that is answered by some version of ‘so they won’t get mad’ or ‘so they will like me, think well of me, etc.’ mark with a star.
- Every starrred item- ask and answer— what is it costing me? Look for time, money, satisfaction, fulfillment, career advancement, etc.
- Ask and answer: What might happen if I stopped doing what I have been doing to please them?
- Take a new action that you can see to take, giving up people pleasing.
What I have noticed is what you think will happen, is unlikely and you will restore yourself to power and fulfillment. It is your life, your power, your fulfillment. Only you can give yourself that gift. Do it, you won’t regret it.