The People Pleaser Paradox: You can’t please everyone


Weirdly, one of the loneliest times of my life was back when I spent most of my time trying to fit in. I guess we’ve all been there in one way or another as we grow up. For some of us it stays well into adulthood and somehow other people’s’ opinions of us matter more than our own. Making sure that other people were happy with what I did or said or who I was was all consuming.

But I wasn’t happy.

More to the point, neither were the people I wanted to please. At least, not all of them. Not all the time.

It was something of a paradox. You see, there’s a problem with trying to please everyone, to paraphrase that old saying.

The People Pleaser Paradox

There are a couple of fundamental ways of people pleasing. One is to always say yes when someone asks you to do something. The other is to try to be whoever you think the other person will like most.

We’re going to chat about the first one today, always saying yes. (Being a social chameleon is something we’ll deal with next week, so check back in a few days).

So what’s wrong with always saying yes? It sounds like a great idea on the surface. But if you look closely, it’s got  some major drawbacks…

The biggest problem is time.

Time’s a precious resource and even the most dynamic people need time to recover and recuperate. If you don’t, you’ll end up running on empty & heading for burnout…and then you’ll be useless to the people you wanted to please.

Not only that, everything you try to do takes time. And because you keep saying yes, there won’t be enough time left to do everything you’ve said yes too, will there? So yet again, time runs out and you end up letting someone down.

Whichever way you look, there just isn’t enough time to go round.

Escaping the people pleaser paradox

It’s actually quite simple. Learn to say no. (I know, too obvious and trite. But bear with me, you’ll like this version).

When you say ‘no’, you’re actually saying ‘yes’ to something that’s more important. All you need to do is to tune into this more important yes. By saying Yes to something more important, the No kind of sinks into the background.

Here’s a couple of examples:

“I’m flattered that you asked me. I’m not taking on any more charity work at the moment because what I’m doing already needs all the time I have available.”

“I’m not free this evening but I could pick Charlie up from school one day next week.”

“I agree, that project would be a great opportunity. I should have enough time after the year end reports are finalised.”

By thinking about the bigger picture & tuning into what you’re actually saying yes to, ‘no’ loses all of its power.

It’s a great way to give yourself the strength of mind to turn things down without feeling like you’re upsetting people unnecessarily.


What next

Of course, the real issue is why you feel the need to please in the first place. Uncovering and defusing that drive can be very liberating. If you’d like to know more, why not get in touch


Photo by Micha? Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Comments 2

  1. Post

    Hi Julie,
    I’m glad you’ve found it useful & thanks for taking the time to get in touch.
    If you need any advice, just ask.
    All the best
    (P.S. apologies for the delay in replying, I’ve had to be offline for a couple of weeks)

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