Perpetual people pleaser? Say that three times fast…
The PPP can’t say no—can’t turn someone down, can’t set boundaries, can’t draw a line in the sand. You probably know that person. You might BE that person.
Check out a few of the prevalent titles on the topic:
• Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent, & Feeling Guilty…And Start Speaking Up, Saying No, Asking Boldly, and Unapologetically Being Yourself
• When It’s Never About You: The People-Pleaser’s Guide to Reclaiming Your Health, Happiness and Personal Freedom
• The Disease to Please: Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome
• People Pleasers: Helping Others Without Hurting Yourself
Clearly there’s no lack of written material on the subject, but reading inspiring “go get ‘em!” words on a page may or may not help you develop the more assertive behavior you’re looking for.
Why do we say yes when we really want to say no? There might be a thousand different reasons or rationalizations, but the biggest one is fear. You don’t want to lose the job, the friendship, the relationship, the marriage, the business opportunity, the group acceptance, so you say yes when everything inside you is screaming NO.
Saying NO is a skill. It’s a muscle, just like your bicep or glutes.
Give your NO judiciously
Wavering on the fence between yes and no is a great place to be, as it gives you time to think through your options and be balls-out honest about your motivations.
“Would I say no because I’m afraid of taking a risk, afraid of looking weird or incompetent?”
“Would I say no because the people around me are?”
“Would I say no because ‘that’s how it’s always been’ in my family or social group?”
“Would I say no because this might injure my pride, or would it be harmful to my physical well-being?
Who are you really saying “No, I won’t” to? Your manager (or the parent who demanded obedience)? The friend you’re having lunch with (or the ex who always found ways to belittle you)?
“Would I say yes because I’m being pressured to do so, to toe the line, so suck it up and do what I’m told?”
“Would I say yes because the people around me are?”
“Would I say yes because I can’t imagine not trying this or having it in my life?”
“Would I say yes because the idea of turning it down terrifies me?”
Who would you really be saying “Okay, yes” to? The parent who told you “Good ___s don’t do that”? The church elder who said “___ is a sin”?
Make no mistake about it. We say yes and affiliate with the people who promote X—or conversely, the people who abhor X—because there’s safety in numbers. Just like wildebeest, elephants, bees, and chimps, we are social animals that seek the protection of the pack, the tribe, the congregation, the political platform. We need a certain amount of social acceptance in order to survive; ostracism from the larger group could be the kiss of death, metaphorically or literally. It’s not something to take lightly. Ask any kid who didn’t fit in with his peers or the “strange” girl who was bullied for being different. They’ll tell you about the agony of trying to fit in, the pain of rejection and the scars it can leave.
It is a seesaw, one that will flip without notice. It will test you throughout your entire life. The magic is finding the balance point, finding what you truly want to say YES or NO to and owning it.
Know yourself well enough to choose between blindly following and dancing to your own music, even if you’re the only one on the dance floor.
Lori Stephens, pNLP, CCP is a writer, editor, publisher, Certified NLP Practitioner, Whole Person Life Coach, and the founder of ROAR Life Coaching. She specializes in Exit Strategy Coaching—helping people who are ready to quit a soul-crushing job, walk away from a toxic relationship, exit a repressive social or religious group, come out as their true sexual or gender orientation, or in some other way claim their true path. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.