4 Easy Ways To End People-Pleasing Habits

Deadlines. New demands. Rising expectations. If you're like most accomplished professionals, you spend most of your day fending off requests from other people. They want your time, energy, and expertise.

Since you are a loyal team player, you are happy to give it. You may also be the last to leave at the end of the day and the first to take on new responsibilities.

While taking care of your work is great, giving too much can quickly become exhausting. As a result of people being chronically happy, you may feel overwhelmed, overworked and unappreciated for all the extra support you are providing, which can lead to burnout and resentment. 


How do you break the people-pleasing cycle? Here are four steps to try:

1. Identify your underlying fear 

Typically, pleasing people is the flip side of tremendous strengths like sensitivity and commitment. Your intention to help may be for good reason, but it's important to face the fears that drive your "need to please." Are you afraid of rejection? To fail? Simply putting a label on your fears can lessen their power over you.

2. Be radically honest about what it costs you to please people

Ask yourself if it's worth the consequences of always being the personable or reliable person in the office. Fulfilling every desire can not only tire you but also undermine your personal integrity. You may implement ideas that you don't really believe in. Conversely, the ability to assert yourself appropriately, take pride in your ideas and prioritize your own needs can help you succeed in your career. 

3. Teach others how to treat you 

If you don't value your time, no one else will. Instead of making yourself overly accessible, set boundaries. Take action against unreasonable requests. Learn to say no.

Slowly practice answers like, "I have a big deadline coming up and I'm fully focused on it. Try asking Angela for help” or “I can work on that after I finish this report.” You may also want to set time frames. Example: "I can help on Tuesday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m." Practicing phrases like these will make turning down a project feel a lot more natural, which can allay concerns about damaging your relationships. 

4. Do the opposite 

If stepping in to help is your standard response (even if it's counterproductive or self-sabotaging), borrow a psychological technique known as "opposite action." It's exactly what it sounds like. It's about redirecting unhelpful responses to healthier behaviors by doing the opposite of what our emotions are telling us. If your urge is to intervene and mediate with every problem, do the opposite, such as coaching people to take solutions into their own hands.

Striving to always make everyone happy is unsustainable. It may be possible in the short term, but ultimately you are the only person you have complete control over. Make yourself your number one priority, and you'll be happier at your job and a better professional at it.

Check out Head Habitat's course on people-pleasing