People Pleasing: Learning To Say No To Others

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated July 8, 2022

Are you a people pleaser in need of a change? If you have come to the realization that you excessively say yes to people and are getting exhausted, it is time to make a change. Although this change can be frightening at first, it is well worth it. This way, you won’t go through your day with the motive of pleasing other people more than yourself. It is time to take a step back and start putting yourself first and in the hands of your own validation. You don’t have to put your worth in the hands of others by pleasing them and doing what they want. So, how can you go about learning to say no to others confidently?

Saying No To Others Can Be Challenging, So We’re Here To Help

What is People Pleasing?

Being a people pleaser can consist of many different characteristics. This could be doing everything you can to make them happy. Or, it could be exhausting yourself to ensure you please others. According to an article by Healthline, people-pleasing consists of altering your behaviors in order to make someone else happy. One of these behaviors is always saying yes to others. However, there are many similarities between people who go through life people-pleasing. Below, you will find some common signs of people-pleasing.

You Just Can’t Say No

If you just cannot seem to turn someone’s request down, you could be a people pleaser. Even though your mind is saying “No, I do not want to do that,” your mouth is probably telling the person that is asking “Yes, no problem.” You might be doing this because you want the person to have a good connotation of you or you want them to like you. You are scared of saying no because you think people will dislike you, people will talk badly about you, or that people will forget about you altogether.

Avoiding Conflict

Sometimes, people-pleasers give in to what other people want of them simply because they do not want to cause a scene. Avoiding conflict is a common motive for people who are trying to please other people. Dodging conflict can seem like the safe way out of a situation on the outside, but on the inside, you might be bothered by how things occurred. This can lead to unhealthy or uncomfortable circumstances, as someone thinks you are fine doing something. In these situations, conflict is necessary and healthy, as you should draw your boundaries.

The Need for Validation and the Approval of Others

The most well-known symptom of being a people pleaser is most likely that they need the approval and validation of others. If you perform a task, you want to know that other people think that you did the job well and you need them to express their approval. Whether it be about a small thing or a big thing, approval is desired. Your actions might be geared toward what others will think is fantastic, but it could be the wrong or unethical way of doing things. This can make you feel as though you are a bad person or have disregarded your morals.


Saying You Agree When You Really Don’t

When people ask for your take on a scenario, you might just stick with the popular opinion so you can blend in. Your real opinion is never revealed because you are afraid of upsetting or disagreeing with someone. Sticking with the status quo can be draining and can cause people to think that you are something that you are not. Although occasionally agreeing with certain statements is relatively harmless, other situations could be more detrimental for yourself or your relationships. This goes back to people assuming you are fine with something that you are not. Clearly, this should be avoided.

Giving More Than You Are Receiving

Another common sign of being a people pleaser is that you give out more than you are taking in. People pleasers are usually very generous. While this is an excellent quality to have, oftentimes people-pleasers are too generous for their own good. If you give too much of yourself or your time away, then you could be running on empty emotionally and mentally. The person that is taking all of you is the person that you are probably trying to please the most. You might feel like if you stop helping them, they will not value you anymore.

How to Stop People Pleasing

People pleasing can feel like an endless spiral of exhaustion. Although it can be challenging, learning to say no to others and drawing boundaries can be life-changing. If you are trying to stop being a people pleaser, the ideas below can help you.

Take Control of Your Worth

Take a step back and realize where your worth lies. Taking control of your worth back can help you to feel more self-validated and feel like yourself. The authenticity of living this way can help you to find sides of yourself that you did not know were there before. It will also be incredibly refreshing knowing that you can say no to someone and not have their opinions affect your worth.

When evaluating your self-worth, consider what you mean to those who matter. You could be an amazing spouse or a fantastic parent. Or, you could be the most generous and selfless friend. You may be the best employee a company has seen. If you are religious, your worth can be found with that as well. No matter what, evaluate what you mean to those who matter in your life and what you are great at. This can be incredible for building your self-worth outside of people-pleasing.


Stand Up for Yourself

The next time someone asks something that is too much of you, stand up for yourself, and know your boundaries. Do not let someone bully you into thinking that you owe them something if you really do not. People may try to belittle you for not giving into them like you previously have. It is perfectly healthy to pivot away from the way you used to act. People change over time and evolve and adapt as they need to. No one is completely sedentary in their lives and people changing is something that needs to be noted.

If you feel that someone is always pushing you to be a people pleaser, be vocal about it. There are many ways in which you can respectfully say, “I have a lot on my plate, and don’t have time to help you. I’m sorry.” This can feel incredibly uncomfortable at first, but you will get used to it over time. If a coworker or boss is pushing you outside of your comfort zone or job role, consider discussing it with Human Resources if it becomes excessive. They can help you draw boundaries for your position and help you know what you are obligated to do.

Give Yourself Some Time to Think Things Through

If you are unsure of what answer you want to give to someone’s request, consider saying, “Let me think about that and I’ll get back to you with my answer.” A prime people pleaser moment would have been just to say yes right off the bat and probably regret the situation later. Giving other people’s requests more processing time can help you to better manage the many things that are on your plate. This way, you won’t become overwhelmed or anxious because you said yes to something you shouldn’t have taken on.

Hold Your Ground

So, what do you do when people question you for not giving into them? Hold your ground! Stand firm in what you want to do with your life, your time, and your energy. You will likely feel empowered by the fact that you stuck to your guns and were not submissive in this situation specifically. According to Cherilynn Veland in her article on Psych Central, building a healthy inner dialogue can help you hold your ground. Build up your internal confidence so you can feel firm in making your decision to say no to others.

Don’t Say Sorry for What You Want to Do

A common thing for people who are trying to please others is that they will profusely apologize for just about anything. The truth is, you don’t have to say sorry for doing what you wanted to do! It may be polite to say sorry while you are saying no to someone, but you shouldn’t need to do it excessively. You should not have to apologize repeatedly for being yourself and working on your own tasks, rather than helping others. You don’t need to be apologetic for taking care of your responsibilities and living your life. Go about each day with confidence and no regrets for doing what you need to do.

Know When You are Being Used or Peoples’ Intentions are Not Good

Knowing peoples’ intentions for you is important for when you are doing things for them. There is a difference between people asking for help because they genuinely need it and when people ask things of you because they are using you. Unfortunately, some people have ulterior motives and are use others selfishly. While you shouldn’t become paranoid when learning to say no to others, it is important to keep this in mind. If people know that you are too nice to turn them down, they may just use you to get their daily tasks done. So, be sure someone truly needs help before you take on a project or do something for them.

Say “No!” and Mean It

It is important to mean what you say when you are overcoming the habit of people-pleasing. If it hurts you to say no to others, even after being intentional about saying no, this is a problem. You should, over time, feel more comfortable saying no. You should mean what you say and feel content doing so.

Know That You Cannot Please Everyone

Saying No To Others Can Be Challenging, So We’re Here To Help

When learning to say no, it is vital to understand that you cannot please everyone. It is normal to have people that love you and people that do not like you. A part of being successful or happy is having people that won’t like everything that you say or do. Even the kindest, most giving people in the world cannot please everyone. So, remember this as you go along the journey of learning to say no.

Overall, being a people pleaser is not an easy thing to overcome. But once you can get past the need to be approved by others, you will likely be more content with the choices that you make and the life that you live. If you cannot bring yourself to learning to say no, you should consider trying out counseling. A counselor, such as one from BetterHelp, can help you understand your self-worth and help you feel confident enough to say no to others. This step could be what you need to get through this journey.

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