How to Help a Loved One who is a People Pleaser
I've had a few emails this month all with the same question - what can I do to help someone I love stop people pleasing. They see it out in the open, yet the person they deeply care for just doesn't get it. Their acts of kindness feel like love, their sacrifice is for the greater good. It tears your heart up!
Honestly, it can be really hard to watch someone we love give their power away. To play down their strengths, and close off.
Well, being the savvy person you are, and wanting to help. The first thing I need to ask you is...
Where is your need to help this person coming from? Yes, I have to ask, this site is predominately all-around people pleasing and I don't want you doing the same thing in order for someone else. However if you have got yourself sorted and this is coming from a place of love and kindness, awesome, let's move forward.
As you know, people pleasing is a learned behaviour one that either stays with us, or we grow out of. Sometimes it sneaks back up on us after being triggered, which then causes a relapse of behaviour favouring others over ourselves.
When we find ourselves on the receiving end of a people pleaser it can sometimes feel suffocating because they are working so hard to do all the things to make us happy.
What to do about it?
How to help a loved one stop people pleasing.
#1 Open Communication
When it comes to supporting a loved one who has trouble people pleasing, it's really important to open up the communication airways. Honesty is where it's at. Now, most people pleasers hate to think that they have not been honest all this time, saying what others want to hear instead of being truthful about things. So demonstrating to them that open communication is about 1 - listening, 2 - answering and 3 responding. Each person goes through the motions and that it's safe to share how they feel, set boundaries and it doesn't necessarily have to affect/alter the relationship. Open communication actually strengthens bonds between people because it removes the need to second guess ourselves. So if you have a loved one, now is the time to be honest, and demonstrate honesty to the point that they can see that it's safe for them to open and share too. Ask questions and get them talking.
Asking your people-pleasing friend to be honest will feel really uncomfortable for them. It's not natural for them to speak their minds. Encouraging them to dive a little deeper into what is actually going on for them will help them to unlock feelings, thoughts and emotions. This will help them to understand their inner workings. If you can tell that your people pleaser friend is trying to deceive you, ie actions speak louder than words for example. You might want to gently call them out. "Hey, right now I'm sensing that something is wrong, what's going on, do you want to talk about it?' Just because they may have shrugged off how they were feeling, doesn't mean that you may know otherwise. It's okay to ask again, its okay to call out the truth and its important to acknowledge those true feelings, and thoughts that we are experiencing.
#3 Encourage Individuality
This is something I strive for all people to know and understand about themselves. That they are freaking magical. AKA - they have special skills, attributes, quirks that are uniquely them. Those things are worth their weight in gold, because if we were all the same we would be boring. So, that person is altering who they are for others, make sure that you gently remind them of how freaking awesome they are. For example - your friend secretly has a quirky eye when it comes to fashion and you love them for it, praise them for this. Instead of letting them go out for a girls night in a simple black dress, nudge them towards the accessories to make that outfit their own, or suggest they pick something that feels like them. We don't need to impress others ever. We should all be comfortable in our own skin. And having a support person like you in their corner will help them to settle into their skin more.
#4 The Power of Saying No
I will never forget the first time I taught someone to say no, it was hilarious, it bit me back within days. But I was so freaking proud of my friend she went from being a yes person who started standing up for themselves. Let your people pleaser partner know that it's safe to say no, its safe for them to choose themselves, its safe to set boundaries. There is no rule in life where you have to do anything, we always have a choice. An event doesn't have to feel like an obligation, a friend shouldn't be feared incase you upset them. No, will actually set them free. Give them permission to practice the art of saying no.
#5 Ignite their Self-Care Practice
All people pleasers find it really hard to do things for themselves. AKA they feel all kinds of guilt around being indulgent and this can actually look like going to a yoga class, taking an hour away from their kids to buying a shirt. It's crazy what people pleasers will sacrifice for others. As a friend help your people pleaser friend to find things they love - not what you might love, but they love. Don't let them turn it back around on you to make a decision (NOTE - People pleasers hate making decisions too!) Encourage them to take charge of planning an activity or go to that yoga class that they keep talking about and never go to. Help them to see that its okay to do things for ourselves and it doesn't mean that we are a bad person. Get those nails painted, take up soccer or go out with friends. If you want to help, yes you can hand hold to get them to try new things, but ideally, we want our people pleaser loved one to thrive, be able to choose their happiness and know the things that light them up and be comfortable doing it on their own.
Side note on self-care - this looks different for us all, it doesn't mean massages and facials for everyone, for me I need time in nature close to mountains, this fills my cup. Sometimes I like company other times I am really happy on my own. That walk is a practice of self-care.
Honestly, give them some journaling prompts to help them to realise their habits, they aren't going to stop unless they can see what they are doing. Grab my 10 Journal Prompts for People Pleasers, print it out and suggest lovingly that they work through it.
Now the other thing they could focus on is frustration - Yes, I know its not the most positive thing. However, what I would suggest is that each time they feel a rise of frustration to write down the experience. Why did they get frustrated, what happened, who was involved, and question the situation and why it upset them? Is there a boundary that needs to be placed?
Journaling is a wonderful tool to work through problems and lay out the feelings, thoughts and emotions we experience and from there we can see what is really happening.
Just remember, we can't change anyone, it's up to them to create change, we can be a gentle support system to encourage, cheer and celebrate their lessons. However, if they don't want to change, it's going to be really hard for you to hold on to that. So, it's important that while we can educate, and be a role model that person really has to want to do it for themselves.
The list of suggestions is a subtle way to help bring the conversation into the light. At the end of the day its a behaviour, we can call out our friends and ask why they always do a certain thing, but it needs to come from a loving heart, in a way that helps them to see with compassion what they are doing. This requires delicacy. A blunt, "why don't you fucking just say Fuck Off!" will not inspire anyone to be a badass, especially if they are so far from that.
My final recommendation for any people pleaser is to get help Cognitive behavioural Therapy is great as it's all about re-wiring those behaviours and thoughts that we have currently settled with. It's a process and one that can take months to years to unravel. And your loved one needs support, a safe place to feel heard without judgement.