Why people pleasing can be a problem

It feels good to belong, it makes us feel safe, secure, needed and motivated. But what happens when our desire to belong morphs into always wanting to please others and it takes too much out of us?

Kirsty loves being part of the team, she gets a rush of dopamine whenever a colleague -and especially her manager- seems pleased with her work or the extra effort she puts in. Kirsty chases dopamine to the point where she says ‘yes’ to everything, even when she starts to feel overwhelmed, like yesterday when she found herself offering to set up a team table tennis challenge – as if she didn’t have enough to do!

Let’s look at what happens when we strive to make everyone else happy instead of being authentic to ourselves:

  • Suppressed creativity – when we focus on the responses of others, we can stifle our own innovation for fear of rejection, and this can lead to missed opportunities or missing out on novel ideas.
  • Lack of constructive conflict – in a team setting, conflict is inevitable, but if we are afraid to rock the boat, brewing conflict might remain unaddressed and it will strengthen in the shadows only to erupt later, inevitably creating a much bigger drama.
  • Uneven workload distribution – if in a bid to make others happy, we are unable to say ‘no’, we can end up taking on more than we are capable of handling and this can lead to overwhelm, lower performance, more stress and potentially even burnout.
  • Lost opportunities – when we place more importance on pleasing others than developing ourselves, we can miss out on chances that could enhance our career.

Approaching things differently

We will have healthier team dynamics and personal productivity if we learn to let go of our people pleasing tendencies and get our needs for belonging met in other ways.   

If you think you might fall into the category of being a people pleaser, consider taking these steps to change that.

  • Reflect on your own needs; consider what you are aiming to achieve when you say yes to something extra. If it’s about being liked and belonging, just remember that trying to please others doesn’t usually create authentic belonging.
  • Focus on getting your own work done and set boundaries about how much extra time you are willing to give to others.
  • Set a rule for yourself that you will give yourself 24 hours to think about something before saying yes.
  • Understand that you will disappoint others sometimes. And you will be OK.
  • Learn how to have difficult conversations.

When you follow these principles, you will bring a more whole and empowered version of yourself to your team. And that will support psychological safety, healthy conflict, productivity and creativity for the whole team.

Rewired to Relate

Rewired to Relate

Rewired to Relate helps people recognise how our built-in human needs affect their behaviour, sometimes in unhelpful ways.

The programme offers participants a new way to learn emotional intelligence, build resilience and develop helpful behaviours that empower relationships.

More info