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The Champion Forum Podcast

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Escaping People-Pleasing Cycle

Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! Managing your image is an important part of leadership, but an overemphasis on pleasing others can cause leaders to damage their reputation and limit their effectiveness. In today’s episode, we’ll talk about how to know if you are a people pleaser and give you three ways to reclaim your time.

What is a People-Pleaser?

A people-pleaser is someone who goes out of their way to help others, but often at the expense of their own needs and responsibilities. People-pleasers will sacrifice their own time and energy to please people and earn their approval. Ultimately, this behavior will harm your relationships and cause you to lose credibility and the respect of others.

Signs You May Be A People-Pleaser

1. You over-accommodate.

You do whatever it takes to make others happy. The word “no” is rarely in your vocabulary. People around you see you as “the fixer” because it’s known that if there’s a problem, you’ll find the solution–even if it requires you to sacrifice your wants and needs.

2. You hate to impose on others.

If you have a need, you will ensure others are cared for first. You will sacrifice your own needs not to burden others. People see you as being very level-headed and accommodating. But below the surface, you carry high emotion and are dying inside.

3. You strive to be a peacemaker.

You do whatever it takes to ease tension. You find yourself making excuses for other people’s poor behavior. You may even have a toxic employee, and instead of addressing them, you prefer to stay quiet and avoid rocking the boat.

4. You are exhausted.

Since you are so busy attending to others’ needs, you are physically and emotionally spent. You may even be on the brink of burnout.

Q: Which signs of being a people-pleaser do you see in yourself? How long have you felt this way? What effect does people-pleasing have on your work? If you could stop people-pleasing, how would your life change?

How To Overcome The Urge To Please Others

1. Check Yourself before you Wreck Yourself

If you are a people pleaser, there is no doubt that people are dumping work on you! Here are some questions you can ask to tell if you should take something on:

Will helping now save us time in the long run?

If I don’t help, what are the risks? If I do, what’s the opportunity?

Does this project/task have a higher priority than what’s on my plate already?

Is there someone else who could complete this as well as me or better? If yes, then delegate.

2. Pause

If you are a people-pleaser, don’t trust your instinct to “roll your sleeves up” and get in there and help. Helping is probably second nature to you. The key here is to take a moment and pause. Pausing will help override your impulse to give someone the answer they want instead of the best answer. Here are some examples of how to do this professionally and manage expectations:

“Let me check my schedule. I’ll get back to you with an answer tomorrow.”

“Thank you for your input — I need a little time to take all of the options into consideration, but I’ll get back to you by the end of the week on how to proceed.”

“I appreciate you prioritizing this — I can tell it’s important to you. I don’t want to keep you waiting for too long, so I’ll return with a decision by the end of the day.”

3. Create Healthy Boundaries

You don’t have to be a monster to set boundaries. Here are some examples of how to communicate with kindness while pushing back.

“I’m afraid that won’t be practical for us given the budget/it’s outside our current capacity.”

“I’m unable to take on anything beyond my current load. Thank you for thinking of me — I’m happy to suggest someone else who could help.”

“I’ve reviewed our performance against the target. It looks like the current path is not matching with the goals and milestones we set. Here are three places we’re off. Please let me know if you see differently.”

Q: Do you struggle with healthy boundaries? Why or why not? What do you think the line is between having boundaries and being lazy? How have you set a boundary in the past? What were the consequences, good or bad? How did that situation impact your willingness to set boundaries?

Application Activities:

  1. Do you think that you are a people-pleaser? Take some time to write down your thoughts on the topic. How do you handle setting boundaries? Do you feel comfortable setting them with your boss? Peers? Employees? Why or why not? Use this journaling session to evaluate where you are right now and pinpoint whether or not you need to become better at pausing and setting healthy boundaries. If you are prone to people-pleasing, set aside time to check in with yourself at least once a month on this topic. Fifteen minutes before you start your work day could be enough to help you stay intentional about protecting your time and energy.

  2. Come up with a list of responses you can use to help you avoid people-pleasing. That way, when asked to do something, you know how to decline. You can use the examples above or some of these:

  • Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m overscheduled right now.

  • That sounds interesting, but I know someone who is a better fit for that project.

  • I don’t have room to take that on this week, but I can take care of it next Tuesday.

  • I can’t commit to that at the moment. Let me check in with my calendar/supervisor and get back to you by tomorrow morning.


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