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How To Stop People Pleasing At Work & Rebuild Your Self-worth

People pleasers share many common characteristics; low self-worth, seeking approval from others, taking the blame or apologising a lot; taking responsibility for other people's happiness, along with many others. Hopefully you have read my recent post that outlines 6 Warning Signs You May Be A People Pleaser. If not, I suggest you start there and come back to this page.

At work, people pleasing can increase risk of burnout, as you are more likely to take on things for others, volunteer for additional duties, or feel unable to say no to extra work.

Here are some practical tips to help you stop people pleasing at work and rebuild your self-worth:

1: Add A Delay

Whenever someone asks you to do something, go somewhere or help on a project, as a people pleaser the chances are that your immediate response is yes. Closely followed by an internal groan of 'why did I agree to that!'.

It is critical that people pleasers learn to not give an answer immediately and buy themselves more time to think. Fight your instinct to say an immediate yes and learn to be comfortable with the silence while you really think about the request. If you need more time, try saying, "Let me get back to you," or that you need to check some other things first. You don't even need to explain what those things are. So fight your natural urge. Oh, and don't add, 'Is that Ok?' on to the end of your sentence. It is ok because it's what you want.

2: Say 'No' Better

For a people pleaser, nothing is harden than saying no. It often comes with a wash of worries about what the other person might think, how it reflects on you and even whether it was the right decision.

Sometimes in order to 'be nice' about saying no, people pleasers say no really badly, opening themselves up to being railroaded into changing their no to a yes.

Avoid saying you have other obligations, or making excuses, and stop saying 'I can't...' do whatever it is, because the obvious follow up is 'why?' Which some people will take advantage of and try to make you change your mind.

Instead be polite but direct and say 'I don't want to.' This is much more powerful and will allow you to decline the request without feeling the need to add any other details about your reasoning. (Fight that urge!)

3: Stop Apologising

Saying sorry is necessary. After all, we all make mistakes and have to own up and apologising when you've done something wrong is a real strength. But apologising too much can undermine your authority and negatively impact your career.

And people pleasers need to make sure they are saying sorry for the right reasons. For people pleasers who are women this is doubly true, as a Canadian study showed women were more likely than men to apologise, as they have a lower threshold for what constitutes offensive behaviour.

So, make sure you only apologise for mistakes or errors you had direct involvement in or control over. Chances are there will be very few of these. It might help to start a log of all the times you say sorry in a day or week. Look for potential triggers like certain people or situations that make you over-apologise.

And watch out for sneaky apologies like those trickling into your emails. Things like. 'I hope you don't mind, but...' or, 'If it's ok with you...' or 'Would you mind if...' or, 'I'm sorry to have bother you, but...'.

If this is something you need help with, you could try the Chrome plug in Just Not Sorry which, 'helps you send more confident emails by warning you when you use words which undermine your message.'

4: Re-build Your Intrinsic Validation

One of the biggest problems that keeps people pleasers stuck is their need for external validation. Because people pleasers often have very low self-worth, their confidence relies on external factors and they look to other people to tell them they are 'good', or 'nice', or have done well, or are liked.

The tactic here is to slowly rebuild your intrinsic validation. You can do this by increasing your self-awareness and understanding of your mindset, strengths and skills. Coaching is a great way of doing this because you are choosing to make the time and space to focus on you, which is not something that comes naturally to people pleasers. A qualified, experienced coach can help you gently explore the underlying mindset and negative thought traps that may contribute to your people pleasing. They will then help you understand your strengths and skills and how you can use them to help you move forward.

Another strategy is to spend more time with people who don't ask you to do anything for them. People who you feel relaxed around.

5. Identify & Avoid Toxic People

One of the most helpful things you can do is identify people who take advantage of your people pleasing generosity. Is there someone who always wants your help but is never there for you? Or people who know that you find it hard to say no and so manipulate you into doing things you don't want to?

Increasing your awareness of both your people pleasing and those taking advantage of you can help you set boundaries and protect yourself from being manipulated. When you identify toxic people, practice saying no politely and firmly. It will take practice and courage, but you can do it.

6: You Can't Please Everyone

This one is fairly simple and really just serves as a reminder that some people are never happy, and it it not your responsibility to make them happy. In fact, you are not responsible for how anyone feels, except you. So accept that some people just won't like you and that's ok.

You should also remember that the people who do like you (genuinely like you) won't expect anything from you, they won't mind if you say 'no' and they will just want you to be happy and relaxed too. Anyone who doesn't make you feel like this is not a real friend.

7: Expect Give & Take

On the subject of being a real friend, strong, positive, healthy relationships generally involve a bit of reciprocity. If one person is always giving and the other is always taking there is an imbalance that means one person is sacrificing everything for the needs of the other. Check and see if the people you are trying to please are returning the favour.

8: Identify Your Values

This is a step I advise all my clients to take. Your values are the things that matter the most to you in your life. When you know what your values are it makes it so much easier to say no to things. This is because you start to choose to spend more time on the things that you value, such as spending time with your partner or children, or on self-care; which means you need to say no to helping others as much.

Knowing your values also helps you build better boundaries and set clear goals. If you want to work out your values, try my free download 'Identify Your Values in 3 Easy Steps' - which includes a list of 240 possible values to help you get started.

9: Set Boundaries

As I mentioned above, knowing your values makes it easier to set boundaries, especially between work and home. In the office, communication skills are key and it is important that you are clear and specific about what you are willing to do, and that you speak up if someone is asking too much.

At work, other boundaries might look like only taking calls at a specific time, or saying you are only available for a specific time. It also might mean saying no to additional unpaid 'admin' jobs, such as tidying up, and organising birthday cards, social events or meetings.

10: Set Clear Goals

Finally, setting clear goals that are driven by your core values will help you learn to prioritise your time and stick to your boundaries. Knowing what you want your life to be like and what you want to achieve (no matter how simple), will help you dedicate your time and energy towards you and your life instead of towards other people.

By breaking down your goal into actionable steps, the sense of achievement from completing each step will help you continue to build your new internal validation and self-worth.

It isn't easy to stop being a people pleaser and many of these steps require behavioural changes, which can take time. But it is possible, and if people pleasing is impacting your happiness and wellbeing at work or at home, now is the time to do something about it.

Get in touch if you want to talk about your situation and explore how you could take the first step to breaking the cycle.

It is possible to learn to put yourself first, trust your judgment and re-build your self-worth, and set better boundaries, without feeling like you are being rude or unkind.

Coaching can be a great way to achieve this and I have supported many people to overcome their people pleasing tendencies and remain kind, while also standing up for themselves.

I am starting a group coaching program in June, so if you want to try out coaching, this could be a good option. Check out the video below for an overview of the coaching program and visit my 'RISE & Thrive!' page using the button below the video.


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