Can You Trust a People Pleaser?
Pleasant People and People Pleasers
We tend to think of people who say yes, offer to help, or jump in to take up the slack as affable, nice, or kind. In general, that’s likely an accurate
assessment, especially at that moment. But, what if they never say no even when no is the answer you need or want to hear. The problem with people pleasers is they say yes in spite of the fact they really want to say no. They’ll say yes even when a no could prevent you from doing something that is not in your best interest: something unpleasant or even hurtful. So, the question is, can you trust a people pleaser?
Whether you’re dealing with a pleaser or you think you’re a people pleaser, it’s important to realize the detrimental impacts associated with unconditionally agreeing. It’s damaging to both the pleaser and others.
Who Are People Pleasers
People pleasers are more than just nice people who enjoy doing things for others. For them, offering advice and counsel, being helpful, and putting others’ needs before their own is habitual and compulsive. Typically, their drive is grounded in the past (usually childhood) and driven by an insatiable need for approval and validation of their own self-worth (Psychology Today).
The only figure I could find on the prevalence of people-pleasing available on the internet is a misquote of the 2010 Chloe Tagan study. Still, my personal and professional experience suggests that more women than men become pleasers. Numerous authors, without providing substantiating data, have come to the same conclusion.
Typical gender roles, norms, and archetypes assigned to women promote and reinforce behaviors that characterize people pleasers. Nurturing, kindness, sacrifice, and giving sway to others’ wants and needs are feminine attributes. And, from childhood throughout her life, a woman’s self-worth will, at least in part, be tied to how well she meets these expectations.
7 Illustrative People Pleaser Behaviors That Can Erode Trust and Unravel a Relationship
These seven behaviors illustrate how despite a people pleaser’s generally persistent pleasant manner, inconsistencies between their intent and delivery can ultimately wear down your trust and spoil your relationship. Pleasers don’t intend harm. It’s just that their stronger need to please overrides other inclinations.
- Agree even when they actually disagree. Unfortunately, you won’t know when their agreement masks their true ulterior thoughts, feelings, and opinions. In essence, their behavior truncates two-way communication and connection. Furthermore, you may find the pleaser doesn’t follow through or reneges on your agreement perhaps creating embarrassing or harmful consequences for you.
- Offer to help but falter when they just don’t have enough time or the professed capacity. Pleasers are less likely to ask for help themselves. Consequently, they’re less inclined to remedy the situation.
- Try to please everyone and be everyone’s ally while, in fact, this outlook and behavior make it impossible for them to act as anyone’s true and trusted ally.
- Refuse to acknowledge their own needs or difficulties. As a consequence, they may ultimately surprise you with accusations of not caring about or appreciating them.
- Apologize and take responsibility for your and others’ moods and feelings as well as for whatever goes wrong, obfuscating meaningful discourse and discussion.
- Confuse their sensitivity and need for reassurance with a professed heightened capacity for empathy or even an empathetic nature. Oftentimes, this is associated with a strong need for recognition, appreciation, and care. It can also act as a barrier to frank, honest communication, and attention to your needs.
- Struggle with their genuine intention to provide honest impressions and feedback while compulsively attending to their need to please and placate. As a consequence, their dialogue and messages can become befuddled. Your efforts to gain clarity will likely be gracefully and masterfully thwarted. You might sense a tentativeness or disingenuousness in the pleaser. This is bound to erode trust and sever the connection.
What You Can Do To Help Yourself and the People Pleaser
If you want to confront a people pleaser, the best and most constructive way is with compassion and honesty. They may have caused you to suffer in some way, but more than likely it was unintentional. Besides, they are more apt to respond to a clear, constructive compassionate dialogue concerning what you need from them rather than admonishment of their behaviors. Help them appreciate how their choices hurt both you and them. Remember, they act as they do because of weak self-esteem and self-worth. Offer them support, information, and resources.
For some people, the compulsion to please becomes dysfunctional. In these cases, it’s best to seek treatment from a therapist. Still, coaches can help those with milder cases (see more on the choice of therapy or coaching). It is possible to diminish the need to please.
Patricia Bonnard, PhD, ACC is life coach and energy healer. She blends conventional coaching, embodied practices, and energy healing in ways that best suit the needs and preferences of her clients. She offers virtual and in-person sessions and workshops to workplaces and the general public. See more and contact her at Starchaser Integrated Coaching and Energy Healing.