• Diane Masters

If I asked you to read this blog, would you happily say “no”?

Saying "yes" to a request is often easier than saying "no". Even if we want to say "no". Because we are hard-wired to please people.

It’s called the ‘disease to please’ and something many of us are guilty of. We want to be accepted by our fellow humans and many of us will have learnt during childhood to behave in a way which pleases others - and been praised in the process for doing so. And this behaviour becomes so hard-wired that it’s difficult to change… so we keep saying “yes”.

I worked recently with clients who have ‘people pleasing’ tendencies and it highlighted the negative impact it has on their personal and professional lives. And they’re in good company as people pleasers. Model Kendal Jenner and Beyonce admitted that this was a weakness they had and Nigella Lawson (writing in the Sunday Times) said that, before committing to a request, she now asks herself “If you really loved yourself, what would you do?” This helps her to avoid her knee-jerk reaction of always saying ‘yes’.

What happens when we keep on saying yes?

Nobody is suggesting that being a self-centred egomaniac, ignoring the needs of others and simply living for ourselves is the best way. But there’s a price to be paid for pleasing people, which can manifest in a number of emotions and behaviours;

  • Resentment – at doing things we don’t want to do because we prioritise the needs and feelings of others over ourselves

  • Anger – at ourselves and others, because we feel we’re being pushed around, with no consideration of our needs

  • Frustration - at ‘fitting in and just going along with things’

  • Avoidance - making excuses to get out of something we’ve committed to but don’t want to do

  • Low self worth - we feel taken advantage of. And when we receive little or no validation for our acts of kindness, this is amplified

  • Exhaustion and stress - caused by the effort of trying to meet the demands of everyone but ourselves

So why do we keep saying “yes” when we’d be better off saying “no”?

Because we perceive there will be a payoff. Maybe we’ll feel validated or liked?

Because we are fearful. If we say ‘no’ what will happen?

By being honest and understanding what is at the root of our need to say “yes”, we start to understand what’s behind our people pleasing tendencies and can evaluate the price we are paying to keep other people happy.

How can you stop saying ‘yes’?

Why not give yourself a challenge and try these out;

1. Say ‘no’ to three requests without trying to excuse yourself – it’s OK to explain why you don’t want to do something, but not make excuses

2. Give yourself thinking time – rather than immediately saying ‘yes’ to a request, say you need time to think and will get back to them. Don’t make excuses, simply explain the reason for not wanting to commit. It might be as simple as saying “I’m not sure if I’ve got time - I’ll let you know”

3. Acknowledge your own needs and show yourself the same care and attention you show others – remember Nigella’s question

4. Do something just for yourself. It may seem indulgent, but your needs are equally as important as others. Practise self-care

Saying ‘no’ is hard after a lifetime of people pleasing. It will feel very uncomfortable because you’re not used to it but sit tight - you’re practising self-care. And resist the guilt because it can really eat away at you. By taking one small step at a time you’ll be starting the process to stop being a people pleaser. And as Nigella says, ‘you yourself might be someone worth pleasing too.’

If you’d like to say “yes” to coaching that will help you to say “no”, get in touch.

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