We all want to be liked, but people-pleasers even more so.
So they are willing to be extra helpful, agreeable, and indispensable to make sure that happens.
There are a lot of good intentions wrapped up in people-pleasing ways.
But sadly, it can become a very self-destructive habit where you put everyone else ahead of your own feelings.
If you find yourself uttering the following phrases regularly, beware, you may be a bit of a people pleaser.
1) “Yeah, I guess you’re right”
You are very easily swayed by others.
People pleasers often don’t need much convincing.
Your boundaries may be a bit mushy when it comes to following the will of others.
On the one hand, it’s good that you will consider people’s needs. It makes you a considerate and conscientious person.
But it can also be a form of self-betrayal.
Particularly if you are quick to abandon your own needs and wants, purely to put someone else’s first.
Whilst staying open-minded is great, it’s important to have conviction in your own beliefs too — as we’ll see next.
2) “Do you think so?”
I admire people who seek out the thoughts and viewpoints of others.
It can point to a growth mindset that is curious and prepared to consider new things.
But there is a caveat:
It always matters more what you think of yourself, than what other people think.
We should always let our own hearts and minds have the final say in governing our lives.
If you seek out everyone else’s opinion but your own you may be looking for too much validation outside of yourself.
We all enjoy the praise of others, but people pleasers often rely on it to feel good.
Let me be clear:
There is nothing wrong with apologizing when we’ve done wrong. It’s admirable even.
When we hold ourselves accountable it takes self-awareness and the willingness to swallow our pride.
But people-pleasers often have a habit of throwing sorry around left, right, and center — even when they have absolutely zilch to be sorry about.
It’s almost like they are sorry for existing and the burden that may create.
Before you utter those words, ask yourself:
Is there actually anything that needs to be forgiven?
If not, no apology is needed.
4) “It’s no problem”
Like pretty much most of the phrases on our list, it’s not the words themselves that are the issue, it’s the context in which they are spoken.
Because saying “don’t worry about it” or it’s “not a problem” is perfectly fine — when it’s the truth.
Whether it’s something you have offered to do or something someone else has done.
If it’s genuinely cool with you, then by all means, let them know.
But all too often, people pleasers profess to be fine with things that they’re really not fine with at all.
They’re silently seething or resenting it behind the scenes.
They are wondering how the heck they will manage whatever they’ve just agreed to.
They’re cursing the person who has wronged them, but they cannot find the words to let them know.
That’s why people pleasers often find themselves keeping quiet instead…
5) **Says nothing at all and bites tongue**
Okay, so this clearly isn’t a phrase. It’s a lack of one.
But I use it to highlight one of the challenges many people pleasers face.
And that’s speaking up for themselves in the first place.
Because finding the words to:
- Stand your ground
- Say how you really feel
…It can all be very uncomfortable.
So, you may prefer to push it down and try to “keep the peace” by saying nothing at all.
You don’t want to cause any trouble, so you put your own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs on things behind other people’s.
6) “It’s ok, I can manage”
The funny thing is:
Even though people-pleasers are often leaned upon, they are reluctant to rely on others.
They can be extra conscious of seeming like a burden.
So when it comes to asking for help, they stay silent.
You may turn down any offers of support, letting it be known that you can do it all by yourself.
Maybe you can, but that doesn’t always mean you should.
People pleasers carry a stressful load. One that they could benefit from sharing from time to time.
7) “Let me know how I can help”
Here’s the problem:
People pleasers can take themselves close to burnout stretching themselves too thin.
Yet, they keep on pilling more on their plate.
They may feel overloaded, with both emotional and physical work. But they continue to volunteer themselves.
They may worry that they will appear selfish if they don’t.
They hate the idea that they won’t be seen as a team player.
8) “Have I done something to upset you?”
9 times out of 10 the answer is no.
Maybe you don’t even voice this out loud, but you keep repeating it to yourself on a loop.
A friend didn’t reply to your last text. Your colleague was a little bit moody this morning.
Whenever something doesn’t quite seem right with somebody, you jump to the same paranoid conclusion:
It must be something I’ve done or said.
Rather than assume there is a perfectly innocent explanation, you fear the worst-case scenario — that you have offended them.
Despite the fact that in reality how other people feel and behave is about them, and not you, you are quick to try to shoulder the responsibility.
This is usually because the thought that someone thinks badly of you is almost unbearable to you.
10) “I totally agree”
Of course, if you genuinely agree, then there’s no problem.
But in this instance, we’re talking about going along with others’ views, beliefs, and ideas even when you’re not so sure.
Because people pleasers tend to fall into the trap of pretending to agree with people around them and trying to act just like them.
Yet it’s not sincere.
It comes from a desire to win approval rather than being a genuine reflection of themselves.
It’s true that being charming often involves knowing how to read the room. That way we avoid putting our foot in our mouths.
But that’s not the same as habitually agreeing with everyone, even when you don’t.
11) “Nothing is wrong, I’m fine”
Because people pleasers struggle so much with conflict, they can try to swallow certain emotions they think are too negative.
They worry how other people will react and respond to less agreeable, yet perfectly normal, feelings.
So they sit on them.
When someone hurts them, they pretend it’s all ok. They are scared to admit how they really feel.
But this not only causes resentment, it becomes a barrier to authentic relationships.
None of us are perfect, but people-pleasers hate to reveal these sides of themselves.
Healing from people-pleasing
People pleasing can run deep. That’s because at its core may be some bigger issues around:
- Low self-esteem
- A history of bad treatment by others
- Deeply ingrained false beliefs
Whilst it can be a tricky habit to kick to the curb overnight, certain things can help.
As well as digging deeper into your self-worth and beliefs about yourself, you can also practice the following:
The more you do, the easier it gets.
If it’s too hard at first, try to say “maybe” instead of “yes”.
That way you buy yourself more time to think about whether you really want to do something.
Block off “me-time”
People pleasers tend to over-commit — to everyone but themselves.
Protect certain time slots in your weekly schedule that are purely for you. Think of them as an appointment that you have to keep with yourself.
Honor that time like you would anyone else’s.
Rehearse some go-to phrases
We’ve seen some problematic phrases that people-pleasers may use. So what should you replace them with?
Often the thought of disappointing or looking selfish is what pushes people pleasers into rolling out the phrases we’ve discussed throughout this article.
Having a few alternatives in your back pocket can help.
- “Although I’d like to help, I won’t be able to right now”
- “Sounds fun, but I can’t make it this time”
- “I’ve actually got a lot on my plate right now, so I can’t”
- “I’m not sure, let me get back to you”
- “Thanks for the offer, but that doesn’t sound like my sort of thing”
You can come up with your own, in your own unique voice.
But already knowing what to say in certain situations means you’re less likely to be put on the spot.
Know your rules
So many of us struggle with boundaries. But they can be very simple.
Think of them as rules for your club. What are your do’s and don’ts?
What behaviors make you feel uncomfortable or bad?
It may require you to consider times when resentment, disappointment, sadness, and anger have crept in.
Then ask yourself, why? What behaviors prompted that?
Use this to guide and set your boundaries.
Practice, practice, practice
Don’t give in.
There will be days when you fall black into old habits. That’s perfectly normal. The key is to not give up.
Imagine yourself 5 years from now, when your people-pleasing is a thing of the past.
- How does that person feel?
- How do they act?
- What do they say?
- How do they stand and carry themselves?
Then emulate them.
Sometimes we’ve got to fake it till we make it!