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Understanding The Types of People Pleasing Behaviour


  • This class provides an overview of 24 key types of people pleasing habits.
  • The subjects talked about here lay a foundation for delving deeper into the origins of your pleaser habit in week two.
  • Remember that for a number of these, it's not always so much what you do but why you do it - remember your guiding principles.
  • Take these as a list of habits that you need to cut back on (your People Pleasing Diet) by reevaluating your motivations and being more conscious (changing the why) and also stepping up for you more where needed - obviously this relates to the ones that apply to you and you will be learning how to do this on the course.
  • It doesn't matter if you have done a lot or all of these things (I've done them all) - be self-compassionate by having some consideration and empathy for the person you were at these times and why you may have felt that you 'had' to do this.
  • The aim of this class is to shine the light of awareness on people pleasing habits, not to make you feel bad. Awareness as well as the desire to understand and support you better are a hell of a lot of your battle.
  • Journalling is highly recommended after this class.

1. Deprioritisation

All people pleasers have an issue with taking the right to be equal to others as a bare basics requirement. When it's a choice between recognising your own needs, expectations, wants, feelings, and opinions, you prioritise those of others, often with the idea that you are selfless and that to do otherwise would be selfish. Obviously there is also the hope that if you put others before you, that they will do the same for you. This all results in a decommissioning of the self as well as falsely inflating everyone else and giving them 'better than' you status ultimately leading to you feeling adrift and powerless at times because it puts you in a 'child role' when you do this.

2. Suppression

In essence, this is inhibiting you as a means of controlling how much criticism, conflict, disappointment, rejection and basically 'negative consequences' that you experience. There is an underlying fear that if you allow your true self to have a voice and be represented through your actions and choices, that you will be displeasing. It's also restraining and preventing the development of your feelings, opinions, and self-knowledge because the growth of all of these things is associated with having to be more autonomous including having more responsibility and accountability, but also in restraining these, you can again attempt to control negative consequences and do what you believe amounts to preventing people from forming an opinion on you.

3. Florence - Helping

When we help others, it's about making something easier and improving their situation by offering up our resources and services. You can see why this can become a problem... As a people pleaser, you are automatically going out of your way to 'make things easier' for people around you without you actually needing to. You are taking responsibility for the feelings and behaviour of others while not taking responsibility for yours. This is where hijacking comes in because when your motivations for helping are driven primarily by what may be feelings of low self-worth or at the very least, this sense that you have to do all of this stuff to 'level up', you're not only not upholding healthy boundaries for you but you're crossing other people's lines. Your idea of making things easier and improving their situation is to be a people pleaser. While you by and large have good intentions in so far as trying to be of help, what has to be faced is that the motivations for doing so are less than helpful. It's not actual helping if it's unhealthy help of the doormatting kind that results in habitual and repeated compromising of the self, and it's also not genuine help if there is a hidden agenda and what you're doing is essentially creating an IOU that you believe entitles you to them doing or being something in particular.

4. Florence - Fixing

Some people pleasers like to take on fixer-upper projects as a means of being useful and in turn catering to their need to feel needed in order to feel of value, but they also do it because the idea is that if they're useful in this way, the other party has no reason to be displeased and will give them what they want in return - love, validation, attention etc. Some pleasers do this as a means of seeming irreplaceable - by improving the person and their circumstances, they hope that this dependency will make it impossible for them to leave. Of course the likelihood is that they're either involved with someone who is a user and would exploit this situation and in fact abuse it and then leave or, they're involved with somebody who at first feels flattered and wants to please to show appreciation but then feels smothered, controlled and guilty, especially if the pleaser feels insecure when they want to be more autonomous.

5. Florence - Healing

When we're people pleasers, we give ourselves a little or even a lot too much credit for being altruistic. In truth, when we examine our motivations, while we're far from being selfish, we're certainly not selfless because there is, whether we want to admit it or not, an expectation of repayment. It is there. To this end, when we please via 'healing', we do it because we are trying to heal a part of ourselves. We believe that through being pleasing, as in what we've determined is pleasing, that the person will as a result be sound and healthy and will in turn lose any unproductive and conflicting behaviours that would get in the way of us having the outcome we've predicted with them. Because we are over-sensitised to what we perceive as other people's feelings as well as their needs, expectations, desires, and opinions, which incidentally involves a lot of projecting and over-empathising (see the next section), we decide for people what they need etc., based on what we have to give and also what we want to get back or we hear or see certain things and determine that it's our responsibility to heal (and fix etc) them. We'll choose somebody who will enable us to attempt to right the wrongs of the past and will also, if our plan comes off, fill our voids. Of course this is trying to control the uncontrollable and people invariably don't behave as we predicated they would. That and we have to wonder, why, if we have the power to heal (and fix and help others), would we not apply it to ourselves? We consider what we're doing to be selfless and helpful and because we have so many issues with the idea of being 'selfish' and also with what we believe we deserve, we put it on others to step up for us because it's what we feel that we've been willing to do for them. We're not taking responsibility - we're distracting ourselves by taking ownership of other people's feelings and behaviour.

6. Florence - Giving

Giving is one of those tricky subjects because the reality is that most people believe on some level that if they give that they have a right to get something back, and you know what, it's human nature for these thoughts to pass through our mind but if they're not tempered with reality, including our own values, we set ourselves up for having excessive expectations that in turn open us up to disappointment, not least because if we were honest and upfront about what we expected, we would very much know where the land lay. For a start we're not freely transferring anything, which is what giving means - we give to receive and that's not giving in the truest sense. Like helping, giving is not a "bad" thing - it's about why you are giving. If you wouldn't give what you're currently giving if you didn't think that you were going to get back the predicted reward, you shouldn't be giving whatever it is. Giving to please and receive paves the way to over-giving and one day you wake up feeling frustrated and taken advantage of or even abused. What is forgotten is that it's important to address where you're abusing your own generosity.

7. Florence - Over-empathy

If you fix/heal/help/give to please and receive and in fact if you're a people pleaser full stop, you have an overactive empathy thyroid. You mistake empathy which is putting yourself in another person's shoes and considering their feelings and perspective, as over-empathy, which is putting yourself in another person's shoes and thinking about what they might be thinking and feeling and then throwing in all of your insecurities, fears, beliefs, and projections and thinking about what you think and feel and how you can best adapt your feelings, opinions, needs etc to their presumed position and then being over-sympathetic due to feeling that you must do these things due to you pitying them in some way and you are also likely over-empathetic because you pity you in some way too. Phew! You don't think about why this person might be behaving in this way or what they might be feeling or even consider how other people in a variety of circumstances and backgrounds might be - you take their position and put too much of you in. If they're for instance abusive, you end up over-sympathising with them and thinking stuff like, 'Well I imagine if it were me and I was punching somebody that it would be because ____________ and that I might stop if I had the right love and care....' and bam. Eventually you learn that you're two different people and that regardless of what they're doing, it's wrong. Over-empathy actually takes away the rights and responsibilities of the other party while assigning too much of them to you.

8. Victimisation

If you feel perpetually victimised, it's time to examine where you're taking a passive, helpless, all-I-do-is-try-to-please-and-it-feels-like-everyone-is-out-to-get-me-and-doesn't-appreciate-me-and-my-efforts-role. You cannot control the uncontrollable but when you attempt to do so, helpless and victimised is what you will feel and what you have to recognise is where you're victimising yourself by taking a lesser role and continuing to engage in pleasing behaviour in toxic situations. When you recognise that a situation is toxic but continue on, you can fall into the trap of mistaking trying to be a "good person" and pleasing, for what actually boils down to being a martyr. When this continues, it's because you're looking for the tipping point of pleasing but you end up being tipped over the edge due to feeling as if you have no options due to life and what others do being imposed upon you. This doesn't change where others are behaving inappropriately but you can limit their impact and in fact how helpless you feel by reducing how much passive behaviour you engage in, and it starts with having boundaries, standards, and rights.

9. Guilting

Featuring strands of giving/healing/helping, this is when we do stuff to prompt guilt from others to do better. They do bad, we keep pleasing - in your eyes, the fact that they're not experiencing the natural consequences of their actions should be a puck in the head to prompt their conscience to kick into action and to recognise their wrongdoing. What we forget of course is that if we keep covering up for their behaviour with our pleasing, that is the consequence they associate with their actions, even if they're wrong. It also looks like we're taking the blame for their behaviour because if we increase the pleasing, one would get the impression that we felt responsible for their actions in some way. Shadier folk will run rings around us for doing this because not taking responsibility and blithely continuing with dodgy behaviour is their typical habit. Whoever we're doing this with, it will create a highly uncomfortable dynamic; relationships built on pity and guilt are disrespectful to both parties. At some stage we have to ask ourselves why we want to put our efforts into people who we have to make feel bad in some way in order for them to step up? It just creates a vicious cycle because the reality is, people act out with guilt - we do it, lots of people do it. It just manifests itself in different ways. You'll know all about this if you've ever been in an unavailable relationship where the person knows that they haven't treated you right, makes grand gestures, comes back and then passive aggressively acts up to compensate for the guilt they feel.

10. Decision-making issues

Pleasers tend to try to live a decision-free lifestyle because committing to a decision is associated with uncertainty but more importantly, with the potential for being displeasing. Remember, pleasers temporarily escape from and also release tension and uncertainty with their pleasing. There's the fear of getting it wrong or of the decision not being approved of by others. There's also too much concern with getting the sign on from others - it's like you want the world and its dog to get on board and if you hear anything that you perceive as being 'against' you, you question your decision. You will also struggle to get out of toxic situations because you will fear not looking like or being a "good person" and will worry about the other person's feelings far too much. I've seen people wait around to get agreement from an abuser that it's OK to opt out of the situation... It's understandable that people pleasers have decision-making issues and in fact avoid it - in order to make healthy decisions based on who we are and our path, we need to know us or be willing to look within and examine ourselves. As a people pleaser, you may already be aware that you are giving over too much time to living your life according to others. Certain decisions may be incredibly stressful for you - you may find it easier to make decisions with others in mind because at least you can either feel that it's pleasing or fume and blame them when it doesn't work out. The more decisions you make with you in mind, is the less of a pleaser you are and the happier and more assertive you will be.

11. Reputation management

People pleasers are excessively concerned with what others think and project their own insecurities and inner critic. I've seen countless pleasers keep up toxic friendships, linger in jobs they hate, hang around in narcissistic harems, schlep around after a toxic partner or ex who doesn't give two figs, and spend hours each day monitoring over Facebook and agonising, because they are ultimately trying to manage and protect their reputation. They'd rather be friends with people attached to an ex so that they can keep an ear out for what is being said instead of moving on and distancing themselves, and they will do this even if they're utterly miserable and can't stand these friends. It's important to examine where you're trying to control the beliefs and opinions of others and the thinking and behaviours attached to this because even big PR firms can't control the beliefs and opinions of others, so why you think that you have super human powers is something to be evaluated and addressed.

12. Performing

Pleasers wear a mask and can appear happy(ish) but are actually putting on the performance of their lives trying to keep up with what they think 'everyone' expects and wants. They pretend to be happier than they feel and they pretend to be OK with certain things when they're not. They pretend to have certain needs or less needs and they pretend that they don't have feelings and opinions. So many pleasers write to me sharing their stories about how they can't understand where they're going wrong when they're not like other people who create drama with their needs, feelings etc. The problem is, they're not showing up. They play act at roles that they've either assigned themselves or been assigned by others and often they resent these roles but don't know how to get out them and even derive their value from them.

13. Passive communication

One of the things you learn when you look at how you're going to be more assertive, is that much of the adapting of your habits stems from reducing the amount of telling people what they want to hear. Pleasers are afraid of vulnerability. It's the fear that if we are ourselves that we will be abandoned. As a result of our pleasing ways, our questioning, stating, telling, and directness is limited. We'd rather ask little or no questions than run the risk of inviting conflict etc into our lives. We'd rather not state something than state it and appear 'rude' and this ties into being direct, which as pleasers, we also associate with coming across badly and stressing people out. It's fear of being a nuisance or "creating drama". We'd rather not tell people what we think including our ideas because we don't want to run the risk of inviting criticism. We'd rather keep it zipped. Of course the problem is that we'd prefer to operate this way but we still expect on some level that our feelings, needs, opinions, wants, and expectations will be recognised and we have to be careful of trying to turn people into mind readers. When you're passive, it leaves you out of the conversation of your own life and it means that you're underrepresented. Examining the negative associations as well as what you're afraid of and challenging this, can help you to have more assertive communication.

14. Over-justifying

The easiest way to explain this: You can't just say no, you have to have a big reason and will likely go into a longwinded explanation (read: justification). You over-justify yourself because you don't believe that you have the right to be and do certain things and also because you're trying to control the other person's opinion of you. Unfortunately, when you over-justify, it's anything but pleasing to the recipient who may feel worn out, guilty, or suspect that you're lying. Someone who is passive aggressive or aggressive will see you over-justifying yourself as an opportunity to be exploited.

15. Over-apologising

Do you find yourself apologising even when you haven't done anything? Do you pepper your conversations with "sorry"? Do you broach subjects by starting with "sorry"? Do you often feel as if you're 'back there' in childhood trying not to upset or trying to figure out what you did wrong and just saying sorry so that you can relieve and release tension? If you're doing any of this, you will know that 'small' feeling all too well and actually may not know what you're apologising for or may be getting into the territory of apologising for breathing. What you may not realise is that it's actually quite uncomfortable for people who actually genuinely care about you and of course it's equivalent to a Get Out of Jail card for shadier folk. Over-apologising minimises you but also fuels resentment.

16. Conflict avoidance

Giving in quickly, telling people what they want to hear, apologising even when there's absolutely no need, sucking up, compromising yourself which is different to compromising, taking the blame and the list goes on. You don't like conflict and can be inclined to exaggerate the presence of it or the potential for it but you may also have gotten quite good at seeing it off before it has a chance to blossom. Unfortunately conflict is a part of life and actually quite important for recognition of feelings and opinions. Conflict isn't bad and the net result when you avoid it is that you may have less conflict but you are deeply conflicted and compromised. You will also go unrewarded for your efforts so if you think that you will get favourable outcomes with all of your avoidance, you will be in for an unpleasant reality where you feel cheated.

17. Criticism avoidance

Being agreeable and not voicing your own feedback and yes criticism at times, is a means of avoiding inviting criticism and feedback of you. The idea is that if you're pleasing, you 'shouldn't' be criticised especially because you've likely remained silent on something that bothered you so you want it to cut both ways. It's also being pleasing via pretending that issues don't exist and that certain inappropriate, code amber and red behaviour is OK because you want them to turn a blind eye to your so-called terrible flaws. Criticism is associated with rejection and so you are likely to handle it badly especially as it will feel as if you're being attacked in spite of being so pleasing.

18. Influencing / change management

This combines elements of fixing/healing/helping/giving and also reputation management but it's also about carrying the belief that because you do X that people 'should' do Y and that involves not only believing that you and your pleasing / love have far more power and effect than they do, but also feeling entitled to have people change their fundamental character and values as a show of support and love for you. You come up with conditions where you feel that if you're being and doing [the pleasing] that certain things will or should happen and when these conditions are met on your end but the outcome or how you feel is less than what you would like, you feel bad, rejected etc. Because you're so willing to compromise you, you on some level expect that others should be willing to make drastic changes. What you forget is that yes, in some respects you do change in order to please but you are unhappy and you're not yourself and this is what others will be and do if they run around changing for whoever asks or for people who they claim to love. This is also about being a pleaser that believes that everything is about you, not in a grandiose, narcissistic way but more in a, 'People do what they do because of me'. The greatest level of influence that you have is over you.

19. Automation

This is automatically complying and defaulting to habits of thinking and behaviour even though they're unproductive. It's automatically obeying and automatically taking what somebody else thinks, wants, expects, needs, or even demands as being right and more important. It's going on autopilot and pleasing so that you don't have to think or act too much. This is what leads to unhealthy patterns because you're operating and living unconsciously when you need to be in the present.

20. Merging

Some people pleasers believe that the way to please is to merge - to combine themselves with another and take on their identity. This makes them codependent and unable to distinguish between themselves and the other party - they don't know where they begin and others end. They believe that it's pleasing to want to become like the other person and that this is love. They admire the other person so much for qualities that they believe themselves to lack, that they're quick to merge as there's also an underlying belief that if they're acting like the other party, then there's no reason for that person to find fault with them. Of course merging represents loss of self and results in being disingenuous - it's pretending to be something that you're not in order to avoid the job of being you. The average controller will enjoy someone attempting to merge with them but will exploit it by using conflict, criticism, and disappointment to control. This can be a real mindf*ck!

21. Blending

Instead of trying to become the other person and take on their identity, you just blend in and become invisible; just there to service their ego. It feeds into the underlying belief that it's safer not to exist or that it's at least safer to exist around someone who can be designated as being bigger than you. This will suit someone who is happy to take, take, take from you and enjoys your compliance and invisibility.

22. Charmbathing

Some aggressive people are very good at being charming - they use their pleasing ways to prompt admiration and you might be like a moth to a flame around a person like this. It's very surface behaviour - their pleasing lacks depth and actually, beneath the surface lies passive aggressive and aggressive behaviour. They wear their own masks and personas and they are the type that draw people in and dazzle with the compliments, the sweeping them off their feet, the attention, the seeming endless stream of 'good acts' and offers, but when they feel that they have you sufficiently under their spell where they can take their foot off the peddle and control and exploit you, their pleasing (which is flattering and charm that has only been put on temporarily and is not their habit or character) turns to something quite sinister. You as a pleaser overvalue the flattery of people who on some level you recognise as being aggressive and even narcissistic. They represent what may be righting the wrongs of the past as well as the opportunity to finally be designated as "good enough" or even "perfect" by someone who has traits you recognise as being unpleasable and even dangerous. Their attention, validation etc feels more valuable and their criticism and anything else painful that they do, will hurt more than others. They are the authority and as such 'parent' in the relationship and you are the one in the 'child role'. When their positive attentions are on you, you bathe (charmbathe) in this and bask in their adoration. Feel worthy by association. When they turn on you and you try to get away from them, their charm can be turned back on in an instant and you may get back into your role of feeling that you're being "good" and "pleasing". Think somebody with narcissistic / sociopath tendencies. When they withdraw their pleasing, you will go into pleasing overdrive and feel as if you've done something drastically wrong or that you've been 'found out' as not being enough. You may even feel dependent on how you felt around them when you were basking in their glow and so feel adrift and without identity and hopes now that you're no longer together.

23. Passive aggression

Telling people what they want to hear and then doing what you originally intended via obstructive and covert behaviour. I will be covering this in a lot of depth but the quickest way to illustrate this is to imagine all of those times when you've said yes when you really shouldn't have or were not doing so authentically and then because you were overloaded or had over-extended yourself, or because you were actually feeling resentful, you were huffing, puffing, thinking about cancelling, turning up late, doing whatever it is badly so that they don't ask you again, giving short answers, listing off all of your other commitments, saying that you're OK with gritted teeth, and not admitting that you're pissed off even when they're asking you because it's become apparent or they on some level know that they shouldn't have asked.

24. Dimming your light

In your quest to make other people feel comfortable and to please, you may have learned at some point in life that you 'standing out' or shining makes other people feel bad, especially if you feel that you experienced negative consequences due to 'making' other people feel bad by being you and for instance, having a talent or being intelligent. If like me, you hear what sound like unkind comments about a sibling, you might have worried that they will feel angry with you and will want to make them feel better and protect them. By stepping back, they get to shine but if you continue with this habit, you get into the habit of mixing in pity with love and taking on too much responsibility plus you become adrift from you along the way, losing your confidence and not knowing how to internalise your talents and achievements. This habit can replay itself in friendships and even with coworkers - you want to fit in.

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