People pleasers get a bad press in business circles. ‘Stop it!’ you’re told. ‘Think of yourself instead’.
Nonsense, I say.
Celebrate it. Make the most of it. But do it on your own terms.
If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, here’s why.
While I was creating my effectiveness assessment tool, Vitally Productive, it became very clear that for many people, the idea of delighting others isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s a deeply powerful motivation.
And yet they’re continually being told that it shouldn’t be.
The danger with people pleasing is that you can find yourself dominated by someone else’s needs, wants or values. That’s unquestionably damaging. If those values aren’t the same as yours, it creates tension between your inner world and what you feel obliged to do.
People pleasing is harmful when it leads to pressure, compromise of your personal values, or running your life according to someone else’s expectations.
But if you can understand how it works, you can use it to your advantage.
In the Vitally Productive system, people are motivated more strongly by their inner world or their outer world. Inner Worlders like autonomy, while Outer Worlders love connection. It’s nothing to do with sociability – plenty of Inner Worlders are extroverts, and Outer Worlders are introverts. However, for Outer Worlders, the idea of connection, recognition or feedback from other people is motivating in its own right.
Outer Worlders actively look for feedback, connection, or understanding first hand the impact of their actions. Those things – and even the idea of them – provide a real boost of motivation when they’re struggling.
If you’re an Outer Worlder, the problem comes when you don’t achieve that connection in supportive places. Because it’s such a strong need, you’ll turn to groups or people that don’t help you, or whose values or expectations run counter to what you want or need. Failing that, you’ll try to convince yourself that you shouldn’t need other people, and find yourself frustrated and demotivated as a result.
A sensitivity to other people is a wonderful gift to have.
Here are 5 essential things to do, to use it to your advantage.
5 ways to make the most of being a people pleaser
1. Visualise pleasing on your terms
When you set yourself an objective or goal, work out very clearly exactly who will benefit from it. Understand how they’ll find it valuable. Visualise that result in as much detail as you can, and return to it whenever you’re feeling unmotivated.
2. Build real relationships into your work
Set up opportunities to make connections face to face. If you want to get feedback on a service or product, don’t just do an online survey, but set up an informal focus group or individual conversations. If sharing motivates you, volunteer to speak at local groups.
3. Build a positive network
Actively build up a network of supportive people who you talk to regularly about your work or life. Positive input from enough people who understand what you’re about will help meet your desire for approval or acceptance, and you’ll be less affected by negative expectations. Even one or two strong positive relationships can make all the difference.
4. Develop your early warning system for energy vampires
There are plenty of people who want to take advantage of your good nature, and you need heightened self-awareness to avoid being sucked into situations that exploit and drain you. If you offer help, notice whether support is quickly reciprocated in some way, or whether expectations of it soon starts to escalate. Create a script, if necessary, to help you get quickly out of situations that look as though they’ll be one-way only.
5. Stand firm on your values
Clearly identify the values and principles that are important to you. It’s easier to turn down a chance to ‘help’ when you have a clear positive reason for doing so. For instance, if you give away too much time for free, consider whether you can reframe it in terms of prioritising that time for your family. If you’re encountering pressure to do something differently, keep clearly in mind why your way is important to you.
And don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments below!
photo credit: deathtothestockphoto.com