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Don’t mistake people-pleasing for diplomacy, understanding, flexibility or even love.

All the sides of the People Pleaser

Do you ever find yourself going the extra mile to make others happy, even if it means neglecting your own needs? If so, you might be caught in the cycle of people-pleasing.

People-pleasing is a behavior driven by a deep desire to be liked and approved of by others. It often involves suppressing your own desires and pretending to enjoy things that don’t truly resonate with you. This behavior can also manifest as an avoidance of certain conversations or actions for fear of upsetting others.

Why do we fall into this pattern? It usually stems from a deep-seated fear of rejection or criticism. It’s a protective mechanism, aimed at securing our place within a group and avoiding conflict. However, this behavior can lead to a false sense of self, as we begin to define our worth by the approval of others.

If you’re nodding along, recognizing these tendencies within yourself, here are some common traits of people pleasers:

  • Seeking external validation to feel good about themselves
  • Doubting their own abilities and compensating by trying to please others
  • Avoiding expressing their true feelings due to fear of conflict or rejection
  • Struggling with setting boundaries out of fear that it might lead to rejection
  • Adopting others’ beliefs and preferences due to a lack of understanding of their own values

Misunderstandings often arise around this behavior. People-pleasing isn’t a form of love—it’s actually a selfish quality and a form of deception. It involves doing things that you’re not truly comfortable with or enthusiastic to do to gain approval or “love”. This behavior can lead to feelings of resentment and bitterness.

People-pleasing is not showing love to yourself or others when it causes anger and resentment. Ask yourself: Do you love yourself enough to tell the truth and are willing to love them no matter their response to your truth?

There’s a difference between going along with something because you changed your thoughts about it and are now okay with it and bottling up your feelings to try and make someone else happy (or avoid feeling guilty). A hard truth is that people-pleasers would rather feel resentful than guilty.

Breaking free from this cycle requires a willingness to accept that others may have opinions about you that you don’t agree with. It’s about choosing authenticity over approval and understanding that it’s better to risk losing others than to lose yourself in the process of pleasing them.

Remember, true, meaningful connections are built on authenticity and mutual respect, not on one-sided efforts to please. Be brave, be authentic, and watch as your relationships become more fulfilling and genuine.

Don’t mistake people-pleasing for diplomacy!

The term ‘diplomacy’ often gets misused to sugarcoat people-pleasing behaviors, painting them as socially acceptable. But let’s set the record straight: true diplomacy is the art of skilfully navigating sensitive situations with tact and respect. It’s about finding common ground, resolving conflicts, and fostering peaceful interactions.

People-pleasers often misuse the concept of diplomacy to justify always agreeing in order to dodge disagreements. They argue that they’re maintaining harmony by constantly accommodating others, thinking it’s the key to a peaceful ambiance.

In the name of diplomacy people-pleasers might put others first and suppress their own thoughts and needs believing they’re respecting others’ views. They might seek constant agreement thinking this is the diplomatic way to reach consensus, avoiding any potential confrontations.

But remember, authentic diplomacy strikes a balance between assertiveness and empathy. It doesn’t require you to sacrifice your needs or authenticity to make others happy. True diplomacy means expressing your opinions and needs assertively while also understanding and respecting others’ perspectives.

Labeling people-pleasing as ‘diplomacy’ can often be a way of rationalizing insecurities, fear of conflict, or a need for external validation. It can also be an escape route to avoid difficult conversations and confront personal issues related to self-worth and boundary setting.

In politics and international relationships, genuine diplomats uphold their nation’s principles.

Diplomacy does not equate universal harmony. True diplomats ardently defend their country’s interests and values. They wouldn’t be fulfilling their duty effectively if they yielded to every demand from other nations, or took on their issues as their own.

Being diplomatic means engaging in respectful dialogue while seeking mutual understanding. But it doesn’t require sacrificing your personal values or taking on responsibilities that aren’t yours.

A competent diplomat understands that reaching a stalemate is part of the process. It’s not a sign of failure or a lack of diplomacy to stand firm on their country’s principles. This wisdom is crucial in personal relationships too.

Moreover, a skilled diplomat recognizes when it’s inappropriate to interfere in disputes between third parties. There are instances when it’s best to let others resolve their conflicts independently to avoid personal harm from the fallout. This insight holds true for both international affairs and personal life.

Other more socially acceptable labels we might use or have been even complimented for are: “accommodating,” “easy-going,” “flexible,” “adaptable,” “understanding,” and “empathetic”. They’re just alternative titles for “people-pleaser,” which is someone many people like to have around but not as many people actually respect.

“Accommodating,” “easy-going”:
As a people-pleaser, you dread conflict and will do anything to steer clear of it. You find yourself yielding to others’ wishes and demands, suppressing your own in the process. However, this nature often means that people come to you knowing you’ll comply with their requests without much persuasion, and they won’t have to compromise on their positions at all.

“Adaptable, flexible.”
In the world of people-pleasing, flexibility translates to allowing others to shape you according to their preferences. You’re the one who always adjusts schedules to suit others, always punctual even when they’re late, and always ready for a sudden change of plans.

Being adaptable also implies that you’re adept at picking up on other people’s personalities and ensuring you align with them. This goes beyond the charm that many charismatic individuals possess because it leans towards subservience.

While charismatic people typically lead the way and ultimately get what they want, people-pleasers tend to follow, doing whatever it takes to fit in, even if it means suppressing their true selves.

“Understanding”, “Empathetic.”
You accept excuses with the fervor of a foodie at a buffet! There’s a stark difference between a genuine problem and an excuse. However, in your eagerness to be understanding, empathetic and avoid conflict, you treat excuses as if they were legitimate issues. You allow them to not only explain but also justify someone’s unacceptable behavior towards you.

While those labels and compliments may sound flattering, they can often be a mask for people-pleasing tendencies. But it’s possible to embody these qualities without falling into that trap. Here’s how:

Finding Balance in Accommodation

Life is all about balance. If you’re always seen as accommodating, it doesn’t mean you should swing to the other extreme and become rigid. Rather, it’s about revisiting your values and standing firm on what truly matters to you. Understand yourself better and identify which areas you can be flexible in and which areas are non-negotiable.

Adapting to Situations Rather Than Altering Your Personality

Being adaptable and flexible are excellent traits that allow you to adjust quickly to new circumstances. However, these qualities should enhance who you are, not dictate your identity. You shouldn’t need to modify your personality or suppress your desires to meet others’ demands. Instead, focus on adjusting to various situations using your values as your guide, rather than bending your personality to please others.

Distinguishing Between Issues and Excuses

While issues can be understood and forgiven, excuses should not always be tolerated. Recognize when someone is genuinely struggling yet making an effort to contribute positively, versus when someone always seems to have a justification for everything.

Be empathetic towards people’s problems, but stop accepting every excuse thrown your way. Elevate your standards for acceptable behavior. You’ll find that once you do, you’ll be much more content.
So, let’s break free from the people-pleasing trap! Start by developing clarity about your own opinions, needs and wants, learning healthier communication skills, setting clear boundaries, and building self-confidence. Remember, your needs matter too, and it’s okay to prioritize them.

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