21 Tips to Stop Being a People-Pleaser
11. Start small.
“Everything we learn how to do we learn through a process,” so take baby steps, Tillman said. Instead of barging into your boss’s office to ask for a raise, talk with your immediate supervisor first about how to prepare yourself for the talk, she said.
12. Practice successive approximation.
Successive approximation means taking “one step in the direction you want to go” and rewarding yourself for getting that far, Tillman said. If your neighbor’s dog’s barking is driving you crazy, make efforts to confront the person by first saying “Good morning,” as you’re both leaving the house, she said. Another time, you might mention how noisy the neighborhood has been. If he doesn’t get the hint, you can knock on his door and use an empathic assertion.
It can help to write down “how you get from A to Z,” Tillman said. This also helps you gain courage to confront the person, she added.
13. Don’t apologize — if it’s not your fault.
People-pleasers tend to be serial apologists, Tillman said. Pay attention to when you’re apologizing and consider if you’re really at fault. Ask yourself if you’re responsible for the situation, she said. Usually, the answer is no.
14. Remember that saying no has its benefits.
As Newman said, “you as a person are entitled to your time and you need to rest and rejuvenate to be there for the people you want to help out.” Look at saying no as an opportunity to spend your time doing what you value in your life.
15. Set clear boundaries — and follow through.
“We all have physical or emotional limits,” Newman said, and because of these limits, we have to set boundaries. Ask yourself what you’re willing to do, and don’t go beyond these limits. Also, be clear in communicating your boundaries. Say what you’re thinking and what you want.
Letting someone step over your boundaries without voicing your frustrations can lead you to “bottle up this negative feeling about a person…to the point when you have a blowup and really hurt someone’s feelings or end the relationship” completely,” she said.
For instance, you might “have a friend who’s just so emotionally needy and negative that she calls you all the time with her problems and wants you to listen,” Newman said. But “even just listening is asking a favor…[and] every time you hang out, you’re miserable and she feels better.” Respect your boundaries, and at some point, say to her, “I can’t help you,” Newman said.
There also are subtle ways to respect your boundaries. You might “start taking every other call and wean yourself off of her.” You can do the same thing with a person who calls you at your busiest time of day. You might say, “I can’t be available for you at 2:30 because I’m at the office; let’s set up a particular time to talk,” she said. When setting up the time, offer one that works best for you.
Setting physical boundaries might mean telling a person that they can’t just pop over when they want to or borrow your things without asking, she said.
16. Don’t be scared of the fallout.
People-pleasers often worry that after they say no, the fallout will be catastrophic. But as Newman said, “the fallout is never as bad as we think it is.” In fact, “it’s usually very insignificant.” Why? For starters, “people are not thinking about you as much as you think.” Usually after you say no, a person is more focused on who they’ll be asking next to help them than your so-called betrayal, she said.
Even a significant request such as being the maid of honor at your friend’s wedding isn’t disastrous. Being the maid of honor “takes a lot of time, energy and money,” which you may not have. You saying that “I’m really honored and this means so much to me, but I won’t be able to do it,” “isn’t going to ruin the wedding,” Newman said. “If you have a solid friendship, this isn’t going to end it.”
17. Consider who you want to have your time.
Newman suggested asking yourself, “Who do I really want to help?” As she put it, “Do you want to be there for your parents or some friend from college who lived down the hall who you partied with a lot who’s back in your life and really demanding?”
Using positive self-talk is “like being a good mother to yourself,” Tillman said. You can use this to remind yourself of your priorities and boundaries. For instance, you might say “I can do this,” “I have the right to park in this parking spot,” “I made the decision that’s right for me” or “My values are more important than saying yes in this situation.”
19. Recognize when you’ve been successful.
Many people-pleasers tend to focus on what went wrong, Tillman said. Counteract this tendency by keeping a journal with the times you handled a situation well, such as when you were assertive or didn’t apologize. In fact, you might be surprised at “how many more times you’re responding confidently,” she said.
20. Keep a confidence file.
Since a lack of confidence can cause your people-pleasing ways, keep a file with positive and praising emails, cards or anything else, Tillman said. (For instance, Psych Central associate editor Therese Borchard keeps a self-esteem file.) It can even come in handy when asking for that raise. Tillman suggested printing out any emails or letters of praise you’ve received from co-workers or higher-ups and taking them to your boss as another reason why you deserve a raise.
21. Realize that you can’t be everything to everyone.
Again, people-pleasers want to make everyone happy. While you might make someone happy temporarily, Newman said, it doesn’t work long term. And you can get hurt in the process. “People who preserve their time and energy and don’t say yes to everyone also realize that they can’t make other people happy,” she said. People-pleasers must realize that the only thoughts and feelings they can change are their own.