On the surface, genuinely nice people and people pleasers behave the same. But when you scratch beneath the surface, the two couldn’t be more apart.
So to help you separate a genuinely nice person from a people pleaser, here are 12 ways, behaviors, and characteristics that can help you make a distinction.
First of all, genuinely nice people express their true thoughts, emotions, and opinions, even if they disagree with others. People pleasers, on the other hand, tend to suppress their own preferences to avoid conflict or gain approval.
Pay attention to your intuition or gut feelings about someone. Sometimes, your instincts can pick up on subtle cues or inconsistencies that reveal whether someone’s being genuine or not.
Also, evaluate their past behavior and how they’ve treated others in different situations. Consistent patterns of honest behavior indicate authenticity, while a history of manipulative or insincere actions is a red flag.
Honestly nice people consistently display kindness and empathy in their interactions with others, regardless of the situation.
And then we have people pleasers who change their behavior depending on who they’re with and seek validation from.
You see, they typically have a strong desire for approval, acceptance, and validation from others. Their main focus is on meeting the needs and expectations of others, often at the expense of their own well-being.
3) Self-initiated acts of kindness
People whose only goal is to please others only demonstrate kindness when they smell it will lead to approval or positive reactions from others.
Their actions usually feel forced or insincere, as they prioritize the appearance of kindness over genuine empathy and compassion. They’re kind to others only when they expect something in return, such as credit, appreciation, or trade-off of favors.
Genuinely nice people do kind things without being prompted or pressured by others. It’s just who they are.
4) Saying “no”
It’s strange, but saying “no” to someone is still considered rude and even selfish behavior.
But many genuinely nice folks can easily say “no” when necessary without feeling guilty. That’s because they know how to express their needs and stand up for themselves respectfully.
Why let someone trample over you just to be perceived as nice?
Conversely, people pleasers often struggle to decline requests or obligations for fear of disappointing others. They find it challenging to assert themselves and frequently avoid confrontation.
I mean, that’s why they act like that in the first place.
5) Acceptance of imperfections
Genuine individuals accept their own and other people’s imperfections. They’re smart enough to recognize that nobody’s perfect.
But this also means they’re kinder and have more empathy for others. Plus, they respond with compassion instead of judgment when someone makes a mistake or faces difficulties.
People pleasers struggle with self-acceptance and can be too self-critical. That’s precisely why they look for validation through excessive people-pleasing.
They believe their worth is tied to meeting the expectations of others, leading to difficulty accepting their imperfections, as they fear it may lessen their value in the eyes of others.
For instance, if your, let’s say, co-worker fears being judged or criticized, they diligently hide any flaws or mistakes they make. They do it ‘cause they find it difficult to accept their imperfections because of belief they’d lead to disappointment or rejection from others.
Nice people have a good understanding of their own needs, values, and desires. People pleasers often struggle with self-awareness and prioritize the needs of others over their own.
See if the person takes responsibility for their emotions and actions. Self-aware people admit their role in situations and take accountability for their behavior instead of blaming others or external circumstances.
But above all, self-aware people are comfortable with who they are and don’t feel the need to pretend or conform to other people’s expectations. They can genuinely express themselves without fear of judgment.
7) Genuine compliments
While both nice people and people pleasers give compliments, genuine people give sincere and specific compliments that reflect their true feelings, while people pleasers offer excessive or insincere compliments to gain your approval.
Recognizing genuine compliments isn’t as easy as it sounds and requires paying attention to both the content and the delivery of the praise.
Also, when you receive a specific compliment, it shows the person paid attention to what you were saying or doing and took notice of something in particular.
This leads us to this next trait or action.
8) Active listening
Authentically nice people actively listen to you and others. They’re truly interested in what you have to share with them.
You can recognize they’re actively listening by observing their non-verbal cues that show their engagement and understanding.
For example, they maintain eye contact, nod their head, and use proper facial expressions to suggest they’re actively listening and interested in what you’re saying.
On the other side, people pleasers listen primarily to find out what you or others want to hear and please them accordingly.
9) Personal values
A genuinely nice person holds firm to their personal values and acts in alignment with them. Here’s an example:
David values authenticity and individuality. He encourages others to express their true selves and celebrates their unique qualities. His kindness comes from his belief in the importance of genuine self-expression.
As we already know, people pleasers compromise their values to please others or seek approval. For example:
Sarah highly values being perceived as competent. She frequently takes on more tasks and responsibilities than she can handle to prove her competence, even if it leads to burnout.
Her people-pleasing tendencies arise from her need to be seen as capable and avoid any perception of inadequacy.
Most genuinely nice people know that relationships have a mutual give-and-take dynamic.
But people-pleasers constantly please people, hoping to receive validation and approval from others. They believe that by pleasing others, they’ll be liked, accepted, or appreciated in return.
But, ironically, they also often prioritize giving and struggle to receive help or support from others.
They get the worst of both worlds.
11) Authentic apologies
When genuinely nice people make mistakes, what do they do? They naturally take responsibility, offer sincere apologies, and aim to make amends.
Their apology is heartfelt and sincere, reflecting their true understanding of the consequences of their actions.
People pleasers excessively apologize and take the blame all the time, even when unnecessary and when it wasn’t their fault.
But also struggle to express true remorse, as their main concern is seeking forgiveness or appeasing the other person instead of genuinely understanding the impact of their actions.
12) Constructive criticism
When genuinely nice individuals provide feedback, they offer constructive criticism to help others grow.
But they’re also open to feedback, and reflect on their actions to make necessary changes. They don’t automatically become defensive or dismissive when receiving feedback.
People pleasers as you can already guess, avoid giving honest feedback to prevent conflict or disapproval. But they’ll also start apologizing whenever you tell them they did something that wasn’t right and won’t necessarily learn anything from that exchange.
When trying to separate a genuinely nice person from a people pleaser, you need to approach these assessments knowing that some people exhibit a mix of genuine kindness and people-pleasing behaviors.
The very presence of some of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean someone isn’t capable of genuine kindness. Still, it could suggest they simply need deeper self-reflection and a shift in motivation.