The Most Destructive Thing You Can Say To A People Pleaser

The best way to please a people pleaser? Understand where they come from.

For people-pleasers, the tendency to put their own needs first and prioritize the desires of others usually originates from childhood. A child learns how to please others by first learning how to please parents.

“During their formative years, these individuals are most likely to receive validation and approval when they meet their parents’ needs, creating a link between self-esteem and meeting external expectations,” says Imi Lo, a therapist and owner of Eggshell Therapy.

The goal in adulthood for people-pleasers is to unlearn learned behavior and shift to self-compassion, but that is not an easy task.

“It’s a process of breaking away from the conditioning that shaped their tendencies,” Lo said. “People who please others need to realize the importance of self-care without feeling selfish or guilty.”

If you are friends, in a relationship, or work closely with a people-pleaser, you can support them by not putting them in a predicament where they are forced to ignore their own needs or desires. What kinds of casual statements and requests should you avoid? Below, Lo and other therapists share five situations that should never make people happy.

‘Come on, just do it!’

Almost all people-pleasers have a hard time saying no. That’s why it’s important not to blame them for an activity or decision. If they tell you they can’t make your birthday trip, don’t bother them until they give up and leave; most likely, saying no is a big challenge for them.

“If you want to help people-pleasers respect themselves more, try letting them make their own decisions and respecting them,” says Lia Huynh, a marriage and family therapist in Milpitas, California.

How to deal if you are a people pleaser:

Huynh asks his clients to calm down and think about what they really want before giving in to external pressure.

“Ask yourself, ‘Do I really want to do this or am I just getting caught up in what they think is best for me?’” she says.

If you don’t want to go somewhere, just make it clear. Often people think saying no means you have to be rude, but you can also tactfully back off.

“A simple saying, ‘I would love to go, but I can’t. Thankyou for asking!’ or ‘That’s a good idea, but I’ll pass on it this time’ can convey what you want without putting the other person down,” says Huynh.

Often people think saying no means you have to be rude, but you can say it tactfully "Thanks but no thanks," Also.

Anastasia Dobrusina via Getty Images

Often people think saying no means you have to be rude, but you can also tactfully say “Thanks, but no thanks.”

‘I love you, but you’re just a doormat.’

Please avoid the “tough love” tactic of calling the pleasant people in your life a doormat.

“This phrase can be especially hurtful because it suggests that the accommodating nature of a people-pleaser is a sign of weakness or lack of self-worth,” says Joel Frank, founder and principal psychologist at Duality Psychological Services in Sherman Oaks, California.

How to deal if you are a people pleaser:

If you’re called a “doormat,” acknowledge the comment without internalizing it, advises Lo. Reflect on your own behavior and assess whether there are areas where you could be more assertive.

“But don’t let the term ‘doormat’ define your self-worth,” he says. “Respond by explaining that you are working on setting boundaries and prioritizing self-care.”

If the comment really upsets you, Frank suggests saying something more forceful: “Tell your friend, ‘Yes, I choose to be kind and helpful, but that was a little rude. I have limits, and I would appreciate it if you acknowledged them.’”

‘You do not need to do that.’

Let’s say the lovely people in your life go above and beyond to celebrate your new job: They take you out to a fancy dinner at a new restaurant where it’s nearly impossible to get a table and even give you a small gift, even though you know money is tight for them. .

Overwhelmed, you might tell them, “You’re doing too much.” This is understandable, but when you make these statements to people-pleasers, you are belittling what they believe to be their sincere efforts, says Ashley McGirt, a psychotherapist in the Pacific Northwest.

“Reassure them that their actions are appreciated, but it’s important for them to understand that they are under no obligation to do more than that,” he said.

A better approach is to tell them, “I want you to know that I appreciate your kindness, and that it’s okay if you don’t feel the need to do something like this all the time!”

How to deal if you are a people pleaser:

McGirt recommends people-pleasers interrogate why they go out of their way to accommodate or indulge other people in their lives.

“If this is a habit of yours, it may be helpful to keep a journal and assess why you do what you do,” she says. “Is that something you want to do? Is it something you think the person would want you to do? Do you think that by doing these actions you will feel loved or appreciated? What are your past experiences doing that?”

If the people-pleaser does more than you would like, let them know that you appreciate their effort, but you would be happy if they put in less effort.

10’000 Hours via Getty Images

If the people-pleaser does more than you would like, let them know that you appreciate their effort, but you would be happy if they put in less effort.

“I really expected better from you.”

People-pleasers believe they will only be truly loved if they can prove their worth through their actions, says Sean Davis, founder of The Davis Group Counseling and Wellness Services. Statements like this only confirm that belief.

“Having someone say they failed is not only an evaluation of their behavior, but also an assessment of their attractiveness,” he said.

How to deal if you are a people pleaser:

Change is difficult, especially when the people around you expect you to prioritize their needs over yours, Davis says. When someone reacts badly to your boundaries or changes in behavior, remind yourself that the other person’s disappointment may have nothing to do with you.

“It could be someone else’s problem. Even if the feedback is fair, remember that this is an evaluation of your behavior, not your grades,” he says. “And if others are intent on evaluating your worth, they are wrong, and you may want to set firm boundaries around such embarrassing statements in the future.”

Work on building resilience to other people’s anger by changing your thought patterns and self-talk: Just because they’re angry doesn’t mean they’re right or that the anger has anything to do with you.

“Maybe they were having a bad day,” he said. “Or even if you do something that triggers anger, the anger they show is not a reflection of your values ​​— it’s usually a reflection of their emotion regulation skills.”

“One thing you need to do to please others is to be tolerant when someone is unhappy with them," says marriage and family therapist Lia Huynh. "These feelings can turn into rejection and then self-loathing.“One thing people-pleasers need to do is tolerate when someone is unhappy with them,” says marriage and family therapist Lia Huynh. “These feelings can turn into rejection and then self-loathing.

‘You know, so-and-so wouldn’t be happy about that.’

Chances are people-pleasers already take into account how others will view every decision they make, so there’s no need to constantly accept this kind of peer pressure, Huynh says.

How to deal if you are a people pleaser:

Ask yourself if it makes sense for the person to be unhappy with your choice. If it makes sense, then it’s reasonable to consider a change in direction, but sometimes people are unhappy with your decision because of their own agenda or preferences, Huynh says.

“One thing to do to please other people is to be tolerant when someone is unhappy with them,” he said. “These feelings can turn into rejection and then self-loathing. The thought may start with ‘so-and-so is not happy with me’ and then lead to ‘I am a terrible person.’”

Work on your internal dialogue here. “Instead, you can say to yourself, ‘So-and-so isn’t happy with me, and that’s OK. I’m still a good person worthy of love.’”

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