Characteristics and Motivations behind People Pleasing

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    Characteristic and motivations behind People Pleasing via Youtube

    In this video I look at the common characteristics and behaviours of people pleasers. I’m look at some of the motivations behind those behaviours and the impact those behaviours can have on someone. But to begin with I would like to say that people pleasing is much more than just being kind and considerate or just being nice to others. With constant people pleasing behaviours what we often see as a heightened sensitivity to the moods, the feelings, the needs of others.

    There can be low confidence, low self esteem, and a difficulty with assertiveness. They are behaviours that can affect someone’s ability to have healthy relationships. They can affect someone’s ability to just stand up for themselves.

    But some of the common characteristics and behaviours of people pleasing would be first of all, they don’t like to be a burden on anyone. They don’t like to be a drain on anybody’s resources. Other people have their own problems to worry about without having to worry about them, and this means they tend to internalise a lot of their own difficulties and their own problems. They tend to struggle with things alone and they can focus a lot on helping others rather than themselves. Now sometimes that could be because they believe others are more in need and more deserving, or it could be because they feel that in helping others they don’t have to focus on themselves.

    Regardless of the reason they tend to put other people’s needs, feelings, even their preferences before their own, and many times their solutions to their own problems involve how those solutions might affect others, what others might think or feel about it. They can find it hard to take up any kind of space. They can be prone to agreeing with other people’s ideas, opinions, even change aspects of themselves so as not to cause contention. They can be very accommodating, sometimes too accommodating of others who take advantage.

    Which leads me to the second characteristic. People pleasers can find it difficult to stand up for themselves. They have difficulty not only setting and communicating, but even reinforcing healthy boundaries whenever they have to. They tend to back down easily. It’s common for people pleasers to fear conflict, so they tend to avoid it at all costs. They don’t like to upset, disappoint or offend. So even when they’re being mistreated they can find it difficult to assert themselves out of fear of making things worse.

    Where there is anger and aggression, they try to pacify or appease whoever is angry. Especially if that person is angry with them. Common belief being that other people are either more powerful or more important than they are and avoiding conflict can become like a default setting. But if they were held accountable for other people’s feelings, behaviours in the past, particularly in childhood were a lot of this often comes from, in adult relationships, in say the workplace, social groups, even with partnerships, they might behave cautiously, as if they’re walking on egg shells. Afraid of how others might react if they were to say or do the wrong thing.

    But if someone word to react aggressively to something, now whether they’re a bully or whether there genuinely annoyed at something. A people pleaser can feel blindsided, overwhelmed, and they might feel a lot of guilt, even blame themselves for the other person’s reaction.

    Next, people pleasers can be very generous, sometimes overly generous, quite altruistic. They go above and beyond to help out and to accommodate others. They give a lot. Not just because they have a kind and generous nature, which many of them do, but it can be in the hope of gaining approval, acceptance, or perhaps even just for a quiet life. People pleasers don’t like to say no, and this can lead to all manner of problems in the sense that they may promise things that could be very difficult to deliver, might cost them far too much time, money, resources, things they can’t really afford. And they may find themselves in situations with people where they are doing things that the other person is more than capable of doing themselves.

    Next, people pleasers can be easily impressionable. If they meet someone or get involved in a group of people, they start believing the things they believe, doing the things they do, listen to their kind of music, be interested in the same kind of things they are. Their moods, ideas, beliefs tend to be quite fluidic and can change depending on the company they’re in. They can do a lot of mind reading, trying to figure people out and adapting in the hope of maybe trying to get some kind of acceptance, or at least avoiding rejection.

    Some might struggle to know themselves. They struggle to identify their own feelings. So if they’re in company and there’s many different opinions and many different views, they might remain neutral rather than to ‘pick a side.’ Number five, they worry excessively about what others think and how others feel, particularly about them. The look on someone’s face on their way out the door, that person might be worrying if they’ve done something to offend. If they get a text or an e-mail, they may read it and re read it over and over again trying to uncover some hidden meaning. They even spend a lot of time rewording their own responses before replying out of fear of being misunderstood. They can also spend a lot of time ruminating, analysing, overthinking and, if you will, risk assessing, trying to find ways to pacify and placate others.

    People pleasers can over explain things. Or they can over apologise for things, things that aren’t even in their control or not even their responsibility. In some cases they can even make excuses for other people, even those who mistreat them. “Yeah, they were offensive, they were hurtful, but they’ve had a hard life” or, “They’re in a very stressful position” or, “They do a lot of good in the community.” They don’t just rationalise the bad behaviour to others, but sometimes to themselves as well. It’s like a form of self gaslighting.

    Lastly, they can be quite subservient to others, even when they’re being mistreated themselves. They keep trying to bring out the best in others, even those who are very unkind, because maybe this time they’ll be nice. Or at the very least, maybe this time they’ll stop. And as much as they can do and give a lot to others, they can also be very hard on themselves, judge themselves quite harshly for how they’re treated. Or even blaming themselves, giving themselves a hard time for not standing up for themselves, for being taken advantage of.

    So what’s going on with people pleasers? Well, people pleasing behaviour is often associated with codependency. It can be a fawning response to trauma and it’s very common in people who are highly sensitive. A lot of the time what we see are behaviours that are aimed at avoiding the negative consequences they faced in previous situations such as childhood. Negative consequences such as anger, humiliation, rejection and punishment. Environments, relationship, situations where they were held responsible for other people’s feelings and behaviours. ‘No’ was a bad word, it was a selfish word. Emotions were not allowed. Feelings, boundaries were criticised, trampled over. So they learn to become quite small, not take up a lot of space.

    In those early relationships they learn to navigate them very carefully, trying to appease, trying to not to disappoint, putting perhaps the parents needs in front of their own and that could be out of fear, or out of duty. And then trying to please others in adulthood that trying to avoid their own negative emotions and feelings around things like conflict and rejection. They try to pre-empt and avoid certain moods in others that might cause them distress. People pleasing can also be a form of manipulation. Now not necessarily in a coercive controlling sense, but more in a safety seeking way. It’s like trying to show others, ‘I’m not a threat’. Being nice is a way of avoiding the consequences of conflict.

    Another reason could be they were taught to always put other people first. Always help others. It is a good thing to do, it’s what good people do. No is a bad word, no is a selfish word. I say that because often with people pleasing behaviours what we see is a difficulty in being able to recognise the difference between a good thing and the right thing.

    Unfortunately, people pleasers are often open to being exploited, bullied, abused by toxic, coercive people. Their good nature, their kind nature, inability or unwillingness to stand up for themselves can be taken advantage of. Quite often their feelings are used against them and they can be made to feel guilty for saying no. Any problem, any difficulties are dumped on them to fix. Like I said earlier, they can be quite hard on themselves, not just for being taken advantage of but for not feeling able to say no.

    This is where I think counselling can be helpful. In counselling people can learn to understand what lies behind their behaviours and explore change. What needs to change and how to go about it?

    No, isn’t a bad word. Sometimes it’s a complete sentence, and when people learn to respect your no, they start to appreciate your yes a lot more.

    This article was written by sentientcounselling