5 ways to stop people pleasing & boost happiness

How easy do you find it to say no?  

I personally find it impossible, and running in the back of my mind is always that old chestnut: 'If you want something done well, give it to a busy person'. I am rather flattered to be considered such an efficient person, because  I am always SO busy. Half the time, this is because I'm doing stuff that, for the most part, isn't for me!

Actually, I suspect that the saying was made up by an ultra chilled sneaky person (with plenty of leisure time) specifically to justify the dumping of yet more tasks on us helpful foolish ones!

On a serious note, people pleasing can actually make you sick, raising your stress levels and overloading you to the point of exhaustion. You may even find yourself missing out on your own relationships because you're too busy supporting someone else to manage theirs. A day overloaded with 'things to do' becomes a chore to get through, rather than something that brings you joy. Life is too short to turn yourself into an exhausted drudge, particularly if you're unlikely to benefit from the drudgery.

Increase happiness by saying no
Increase happiness by saying no

Out of control

Last Monday, my own personal to-do list had 18 items on it. By Wednesday evening, I had only managed to tick off one thing. But I had actually 'done' about 36 things - just not for myself. I seem to spend my life sorting out other people's stuff... supervising my daughter’s house renovation, shopping for an old lady who lives locally, taking parcels to the post office for my husband, viewing a flat for my stepson, getting curtain samples for my stepmother who lives in the country, looking for the best schools for the son of some friends in Mexico and, weirdest of all, tracking down a 'real' Panama hat for an old friend. Don’t even ask why I agreed to that one!

All the while I am being super-efficient for everyone else, my own projects are languishing.

What about your own happiness?

How often do you say “yes” to a friend, colleague or family member’s request when you really want to say a polite, but firm “No” ?

People pleasing is a personality trait that is more likely to affect women than men and is a result of a learnt behaviour, underpinned by a belief that the best way to ensure close relationships with other people is to please them by offering to do favours, going along with whatever it is they want to do (staying for an extra drink when you want to go home or agreeing to accompany them to a film you don’t want to see).

The problem is, it’s a behavioural pattern that is linked to elevated anxiety levels, and subtly self-sabotaging behaviours from drinking too much to overeating.

The best ways to beat the habit

(I am still working on these, not entirely successfully!)

  1. Avoid offering lots of excuses. A simple: “I’m really sorry, I’m just too busy,” is clearer and more assertive than giving more detail as the latter could give the other person scope to adjust their demand to fit with your restrictions: “It doesn’t have to be tomorrow…” or “That’s fine, I think it’ll only take half an hour…”
  2. Remind yourself that it’s a choice whether you say yes or no to a request. You don’t have to say yes to every favour.
  3. Value your own time. People pleasers undervalue their most precious resource: their free time and give it over to other people without question. Stop to consider whether you’re doing this, and why.
  4. Analyse who amongst your friends and relatives has been using your 'services' the most frequently.  Make a conscious point of turning them down the next four times they ask you for a quick favour.  They will be surprised at first, then possibly a little miffed, but will soon latch on to an alternative people pleasing target.  You will quickly stop being their 'go-to' person.
  5. Often people pleasers feel uncomfortable saying no, so make sure you have your excuse ready in your head for when they unexpectedly pounce. You can say it nicely, but make sure you express yourself firmly so they don't continue pushing you. "Oh I am so sorry, I have a work deadline and can't do a thing for the next month" seems to work well for me.