People-pleasers aren’t usually the kind of people that others look at and think, “They need help!” They’re not the kind of people who send out obvious mental health red flags, or who exhibit a lot of outward signs of distress. In fact, they usually just look like lovely, generous people who have it all together. They not only want everyone around them to be happy but think that they are responsible for making everyone around them happy, so they end up taking on much more than they should. “No” is not a word they’ve ever been comfortable saying because they often feel like it implies some sort of personal insult or complete lack of manners. In fact, some people pleasing comes from a fear of being seen as incompetent or uncaring if they don’t agree to every request that comes their way.
People pleasing behavior often does come from a genuinely generous place, but that doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. While it may feel to those prone to people pleasing that saying “yes” to everyone can only result in good things, it often leads to burnout, which in turn can lead to more sinister conditions like depression. The holiday season, which is already a time when high numbers of people are prone to depression, is not a season when anyone needs to be adding more emotional struggles to their everyday lives. But unfortunately, the holidays can also be the worst time of year when it comes to requests for your time. A family gathering and party here, a white elephant exchange and charity drive there – in the blink of an eye, your calendar can become overloaded if you keep saying “yes” to every possibility. So if you have a tendency towards chronic people pleasing and your plate gets way too full over the holidays, there’s no time like the present to think about some strategies to stop yourself from overcommitting this year.
Remember that you don’t have to say either “yes” or “no” to someone right away.
The words “Let me think about it and get back to you” can be your best friend if you’re a classic over-committer. Say your boss approaches you to ask if you could organize the company’s charity drive at your branch this year. Rather than saying yes or no right away, say that you just need a few days to think about whether that would be doable for you. Taking the few days to think about it will help you have the time to decide whether organizing the charity drive is something you can afford to make a priority in your life. How many other responsibilities will you have around the same time? How much work is it likely to entail, realistically? How many hours would you have to spend on it? How passionate are you about the project? Giving yourself just a few days to generate an answer will help you put factors like these into perspective and rationally decide the best answer.
Think about who else will be affected by your decision.
A lot of times, when you’re trying to decide whether to say “yes” to something that someone has asked you to do, you only think about certain people who will be affected by your decision and not others. For instance, imagine that someone at your church asks you to coordinate the musical numbers for the holiday service. You might think to yourself, “If I say no, then the person who asked me will have to ask other people and might have a hard time finding someone else who can do it.” That may or may not be true, but there are other people to consider in this decision. If this responsibility is going to take a lot of your time, then who won’t get as much of your time and attention? What about family members and friends who you’re very close to? Too often, we base our decisions on what will impress or placate people that we’re not very close to, while just expecting that our relationships with the people we actually care about will be fine. It’s true that the people who love you will love you even if you’re busy but prioritizing choices based on preserving and growing the most important relationships in our lives might be something that most of us could improve on.
If you want to say “no,” then try to do so without offering justifications.
For the sake of seeming polite and well-intentioned, most people tend to offer justifications when they want to say “no” to someone. “I’d love to help, but I’m just so busy with…” “Thanks so much for thinking of me for this, but I’m not sure that I’m the most qualified person to…” “Between my kids and the extra shifts I’m working, I probably won’t have time to…” The problem with this is that if you offer a specific reason why you can’t do something, the person you’re talking to could try to talk you out of that reason, to explain to you why it’s not really a valid excuse after all. So instead of offering a justification, just give a polite but plain answer. You could even make your “no” helpful with something like, “I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that this year. I have some ideas for other people that you could ask who would be really good for this, though…”
If you want to say “yes,” then feel free to set some boundaries around your “yes”.
If you are doing someone a favor, then you get to participate in setting some of the terms. You could say, “I would be happy to help with this on Monday and Wednesday afternoons” or “I can definitely help from 12:00 – 2:00.” “Yes” doesn’t have to mean “I’m all in, completely 100% available.”
No matter how well-intentioned you may be over the holidays, you have to take care of your own well-being if you want to be of use to others. Don’t let yourself fall into a trap of getting so burnt out that the holidays pass by you in a blur that you later realize you didn’t get to enjoy at all.
If you want to talk more about the struggle to stop chronically people-pleasing, you can call us at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult .
Envision Wellness is a private practice that offers psychotherapy, psychological testing, and life coaching in Miami, FL. Our team has a passion for helping others achieve happy, fulfilling, and change-making lives that make the world a better place. Each therapist has their areas of expertise. Not sure who you’d like to work with? Click here to schedule a free 20-minute phone consult to help you decide.
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