According to social psychologist and author of The Book of No, Susan Newman, Ph.D, individuals who are people-pleasers desire to keep everyone around them content, and they will comply with any request to maintain this state.
These individuals prioritize others before themselves, as they seek external validation to boost their self-esteem and sense of significance. Some people-pleasers may view saying “yes” as a habit, while others may feel like they are addicted to being needed.
According to Linda Tillman, Ph.D, an assertiveness expert and clinical psychologist, people-pleasers lack self-confidence, and their personal sense of security is based on receiving approval from others.
According to Newman, people-pleasers often worry about how they will be perceived when they decline a request. They fear being viewed as selfish, uncaring, or egocentric, which may lead to rejection from social circles, whether it’s friends, family, or co-workers. However, people-pleasing can have serious risks that many individuals fail to recognize.
It can cause excessive pressure and stress, and over-commitment can result in less sleep, increased anxiety, and emotional exhaustion. In the worst-case scenario, people-pleasers may become depressed as they deplete their energy resources by trying to do too much.
To stop being a people-pleaser and start saying no, Susan Newman, Ph.D, offers several strategies:
Recognize that you possess a choice.
Individuals who are people-pleasers frequently believe that they must say yes when someone requests their aid. Always remember that you have the option to decline, according to Newman.
Establish your priorities.
Being aware of your priorities and values enables you to put the brakes on people-pleasing. You’ll know when it’s comfortable to refuse or accept something. Newman proposed asking yourself, “What are the most essential things to me?”
It’s perfectly acceptable to state that you’ll need to think about it whenever someone requests a favor. This provides you with an opportunity to contemplate if you can commit to assisting them. (It’s also crucial to inquire about the details of the commitment.)
Newman suggested questioning yourself: “How much stress will this cause me? Do I have enough time for this? What will I be sacrificing? How much pressure will I feel? Will I be upset with the person who is requesting this?”
Asking these questions is critical because, as Newman stated, frequently after you’ve agreed or assisted, you’re left wondering, “What was I thinking?” I don’t have the time or the expertise to assist.
If the person requires an immediate response, “your automatic response can be no,” Newman added. That’s because “once you say yes, you’re locked in.” By automatically declining, “you provide yourself with an option” to accept later if you’ve discovered that you’re available. And “you’ve also removed it from your must-do or don’t-want-to-do list.”
Establish a time constraint.
In case you agree to aid, “establish a time restriction,” Newman suggested. Let the individual know that you are only accessible from, for example, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Analyse if you’re being exploited.
According to Newman, it’s critical to be wary of manipulators and flatterers who are clearly taking advantage of you. How can you identify them? She stated, “Frequently, those who flatter you will say things like, ‘Oh, you’re such a great baker, would you bake a cake for my child’s birthday?’ or ‘I don’t know how to put this bookcase together, but you’re so skilled, can you assist me?'”
As she noted, a common phrase is “No one does this better than you do.” Additionally, these people “will either cajole you into doing something or attempt to tell you what your availability or time frame is.” Essentially, they make the decision for you before you know it.
Develop a mantra.
Create a personal motto that you can repeat to yourself to prevent people-pleasing. According to Newman, it could be as simple as a visual like a large “No” flashing when a particular friend who “can always persuade you” approaches you.
Decline with confidence.
According to Newman, “saying no to anyone for the first time is always the most difficult.” But once you overcome that initial hurdle, “you’ll be well on your way to getting off the ‘yes’ treadmill.” Additionally, keep in mind that you’re refusing for valid reasons. “You get time for yourself and for the people you truly want to assist,” she added.
Utilize empathic assertion.
Initially, some individuals believe that being assertive entails “trampling over others,” Tillman explained. She went on to say that “assertiveness is truly about creating a connection.”
Using empathic assertion “implies that you put yourself in the other person’s shoes as you assert yourself,” Tillman said. So, you inform the person that you understand their perspective, but unfortunately, you cannot assist. “People need to feel heard and understood,” and this is a respectful method of asserting yourself and saying no.
Evaluate if it’s worth it.
When asserting yourself, Tillman recommended asking yourself, “Is it genuinely worthwhile?” Telling your boss about their irritating habit is probably not worth it, but telling your friend that you can’t have lunch because you’re extremely busy is worth it.
Don’t give a litany of excuses.
Avoid giving a long list of excuses when you say no to someone, even though it may be tempting to justify your decision. Providing explanations gives the other person opportunities to challenge your reasoning and manipulate you into saying yes.
If you struggle with people-pleasing or any other mental health issue, seeking help from a therapist can be a valuable tool in learning healthy ways to set boundaries and take care of your own needs. With the rise of online telehealth services, accessing therapy has become easier and more convenient than ever before. Online therapy allows you to connect with licensed mental health professionals from the comfort of your own home, eliminating the need for travel and making it more accessible for those with busy schedules. Telehealth also provides a level of anonymity and privacy that may be preferred for some individuals. If you are looking for additional support in breaking the cycle of people-pleasing, consider reaching out to a therapist through online telehealth services.
In conclusion, saying no is an important skill to learn to protect your time, energy, and overall well-being. It can be challenging for people-pleasers to say no, but with practice and the use of these strategies, it becomes easier over time. Remember that setting boundaries and prioritizing your own needs is not selfish, but rather a necessary aspect of maintaining healthy relationships with others and with yourself. Seeking the help of a therapist through online telehealth services can also provide valuable support and guidance in learning to set and maintain boundaries. By prioritizing your own needs and learning to say no with conviction, you can lead a more balanced and fulfilling life.