Nothing By Chance Blog

Are You a People Pleaser?

“People pleaser.” Doesn’t sound too terribly bad, does it? To some, it might even sound a bit altruistic to be known as someone who always puts the needs of others above their own. And doesn’t everyone want to be known as ‘nice’?

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

Bill Cosby

People pleasers are not just nice people who go overboard trying to make everyone happy. People pleasers are people who say “Yes” when they really want to say “No” – but they can’t. They feel the uncontrollable need for the elusive approval of others like an addictive pull. Their debilitating fears of confrontation force them to use “niceness” and “people-pleasing” as a self-defense.

Pleasers appear to the outside world as perennial “nice” people, but they are only concealing their true feelings behind the public “happy faces.” But in reality they are hurting themselves and those they are seeking to please.


Like million of others, you may suffer from this incapacitating but surprisingly common problem. For many, the difficulty may start innocently enough with genuine and generous attempts to make others happy. But this seemingly harmless passion to always be “nice,” to put others first and to compulsively please them even at the expense of your own health and happiness rapidly spirals into a serious psychological syndrome with far-reaching physical and emotional consequences.

Have you ever heard about the rule of 25%? When you walk into a room of 100 people 25% won’t like you no matter what, 25 % are so self absorbed that they won’t even know you’re there, 25%– if you are lucky and work your butt off– may like you, and 25% will like you no matter what. So, why do we spend so much time and effort on the bottom 75%?

How do you know if you are a people-pleaser? Assess your level of self-assurance by answering “true” or “false” to the following questions:

  1. I feel free to compliment someone on a positive quality I admire.

  2. When someone cuts in front of me in line, I can calmly say that I was there first.

  3. My coworker owes me $20 from the last office party, but I avoid bringing it up.

  4. I can express my thoughts even when I know someone in the room disagrees.

  5. I can end a phone conversation when I want.

  6. I replay social encounters in my head and worry about my actions.

  7. I can initiate contact with someone I don’t know.

  8. I really worry about what others think about me,
  9. I express my feelings openly even if it might hurt the other persons feelings.
  10. I have a difficult time making decisions.
  11. I know what really makes me happy.
  12. I see my role as “the one that is responsible for everybody else’s happiness.”
  13. I feel guilty when I take time for myself to exercise, read, meditate or relax.

Score: The self-assured responses are 1T, 2T, 3F, 4T, 5T, 6F, 7T, 8F, 9T, 10F, 11T, 12F, 13F

If you scored 8 or more Self assured responses consider yourself “a non-pleaser”

If you answered yes to several of these questions, you probably fall into the people-pleaser camp. While pleasers do derive some happiness from seeing other people be happy and benefit from their people-pleasing efforts, there are definite disadvantages that every people-pleaser experiences, including:

Your opinions and feelings don’t count. How often have you really wanted pepperoni on your pizza but you know your husband prefers sausage, so you defer? You may have even convinced yourself that you really do enjoy sausage too….but you discount your preference for pepperoni. Seems like a little thing, really, but this extends to all opinions and feelings that are much more important than pizza toppings.

You feel pressure to make everything perfect for everyone else. This self-imposed pressure can build for various reasons completely out of your control; you want everything to be perfect, yet you can’t really know what someone else’s definition of ‘perfect’ is. Nonetheless, when someone expresses their dislike of you or your attempts, their feelings ruin your day.

You tend to avoid getting close to others because they just add more to your plate (more people to please). Friends come with strings, most notably the strings of doing all you can to make them happy without regard for your own wishes. In fact, most pleasers can’t define things that make them happy, but they know very well the actions or things that make others (significant others, children, parents, friends) happy.

People pleasers are emotionally drained. You’re left to feel anxious, tired, irritable, worried, and unhappy. You may present an outer façade of happiness and willingness to help, but inside your mood doesn’t match that. But because your happiness is conditioned upon the happiness of others, you can’t take that mask off and show your true feelings for fear of rocking the boat.

How people pleasing effects you at work. People pleasing isn’t limited to home or family life—it often manifests at work as well. Just as pleasers were often intent on earning their parent’s approval through pleasing, employees often take on additional projects or work longer hours in the hopes of pleasing their boss. While this might seem like an advantage at first, it more often than not leads to burn-out and resentment. The inability to say NO to a boss or supervisor turns into a vicious circle: the employee resents that the boss doesn’t acknowledge their extra hard work, but because they are so intent on not disappointing the boss they can’t ask for the positive reinforcement they need. So even though they continue to put on a mask of being happy and positive, their negative attitude begins to seep through the façade and will eventually affect client relations. In the book ‘How Full Is Your Bucket’ author Tom Rath noted some staggering statistics regarding employee morale and a company’s bottom line. The sad truth is that eventually pleasers are bad for business. Among the most alarming of truths that Rath noted was that a study found that negative employees can scare off every customer they speak with — for good. Moreover, the number one reason people leave their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated. Think of the expenses involved with recruiting, training, transitioning and then replacing employees that could be alleviated if pleasers could communicate more effectively with their bosses.

Stop and close your eyes for just a moment and think about how your life would be different if you started to put yourself first rather than always putting someone else first. How would your reality change? When you learn to love yourself enough to put yourself first, you’ll start to see these advantages in your every-day life:

  • You are confident and know what you want
  • You know what makes you happy
  • You don’t stress over others’ feelings
  • You can make decisions objectively
  • You are generally more in control of your life
  • You are not intimidated to go after bigger deals
  • You are not afraid of being rejected

Now, close your eyes again and allow yourself to “feel” what it would be like if you actually could manifest those advantages.

But the real question is: how do you get from where you are to where you want to be? Of course, overcoming people-pleasing is THE main reason people turn to personal coaches. With the insights and accountability a coach can contribute, many people make huge strides in bringing their focus back to themselves so they can be better—better people, better leaders, better spouses, better parents, better friends, better employees.

Here are some concrete steps you can take right now:

  1. Look at your beliefs. Are they realistic? Will the truly horrible happen? You might be afraid that no one will like you, that someone will leave you, or that you will be left all alone if you express your true feelings.
  2. Start making “decisions”, even when you don’t think you really care. An example: you and 3 of your friends decide to go out and eat. Pick a place even if you don’t really care or if they don’t agree. Starting out by making a decision on the small things will help you get ready for bigger and tougher situations.
  3. Examine your ability to set limits on others and on yourself. Examine your boundaries. Where are they? Can you say no to others? Don’t make up excuses – give your reasons for not wanting to do something, and stick to it.
  4. Stop basing your self-worth on how much you do for other people. It’s noble to want to help others, but it’s something you should do because you want to, not because you feel you have to.
  5. Ask for what you want. If everybody’s ordering pizza, and most people in the group want certain toppings and that you don’t, speak up, you are only hurting yourself! There’s nothing wrong with voicing your opinion, and it doesn’t have to mean you’re making a demand. Know What YOU Want on YOUR Pizza!
  6. Compromise. While it’s not good to be a pushover, it’s no better to be a manipulative bully or a reckless rebel.
  7. Understand that kindness does not equate to “people pleasing”, nor does unkindness equate to self centeredness. It is possible to be both kind and to state your own needs. Don’t label your standing up for yourself as being “unkind”. It is not.
  8. Use these words to speak to yourself: “So what if others don’t like it when I put my needs first. I can tolerate a little disapproval. I am as important as anyone else. It is not only my duty but also my responsibility to honor my needs. I see being nice as a choice…not an obligation. I don’t have to please others 100% of the time to be a caring person.”