Episode 108: Being People-Pleased

The Less Stressed Lawyer with Olivia Vizachero | Being People-Pleased

How do you feel when others try to please you excessively? While being a people-pleaser can be uncomfortable, dealing with someone else’s people-pleasing behavior often leads to frustration. How can recognizing and understanding the people-pleasing tendencies in others help you manage your own?

People people-please because they think it’s better than honoring their own preferences and doing what they actually want to do. If someone is prioritizing your wants and needs over their own, something is going on, and this episode is here to help you get to the bottom of it.

Tune in this week for a fresh perspective on people-pleasing, viewed through the lens of being on the receiving end. You know how uncomfortable it can be to be people-pleased, so let’s unpack this experience from the recipient’s viewpoint. By understanding this dynamic, you can better avoid falling into people-pleasing habits in the future.

If you want to start helping yourself first, it’s time to join Lawyers Only. This is my signature coaching program only for lawyers, and you can click here for all the details!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why people decide to people-please others.
  • The unintended consequences of people-pleasing.
  • Why being on the receiving end of people-pleasing can be an incredibly unpleasant experience.
  • The most common ways I see people people-pleasing.
  • How you might be people-pleasing without realizing what you’re doing.
  • My tips for understanding your people-pleasing, so you can ultimately choose a different way of operating.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript:

You’re listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast, Episode 108. Today, we’re talking all about being people pleased. You ready? Let’s go.

Welcome to The Less Stressed Lawyer, the only podcast that teaches you how to manage your mind so you can live a life with less stress and far more fulfillment. If you’re a lawyer who’s over the overwhelm and tired of trying to hustle your way to happiness, you’re in the right place. Now, here’s your host, lawyer turned life coach Olivia Vizachero.

Well, hello there. How are you? I hope you’re doing really, really well. I am doing so great. I am catching my breath after a couple of weeks away. I was in New York for a little while, and then I spent quite a bit of time in Italy, which was just absolutely amazing. It’s my favorite place on earth. But now, I’m back stateside, I’m back to work and getting ready for a bunch of exciting stuff over here. 

Most importantly, the launch of my next retreat which is going to be in Palm Springs. I think I’ll do a whole episode talking all about that, just to fill you guys in. But that’s what I’ve been up to, and I’m excited to get back to putting out podcast episodes after my time away resting and relaxing. 

I’ve got a doozy for you this week. This is an episode that I’m really excited to record. I remember when I was first introduced to this concept, and really it started to shift the way that I think. I’ve been reminded of it recently, because I’ve been on the receiving end of this myself as of late, and I wanted to talk to you about how it feels. 

So, without further ado, let’s dive into today’s topic. We’re talking all about being people pleased. Now, why is it so important for us to talk about this? Well, I want to give voice to what it feels like to be people pleased, for the people who are on the receiving end of this. Because if it’s leading to some frustration for you, mind you, our thoughts cause our frustration. 

But if you’re feeling a little frustrated being on the receiving end of this, I just want to normalize that for you and give you some tips on how to navigate that. More than that, I want to talk about being on the receiving end of people pleasing as a way to dissuade the people pleasers from people pleasing. To offer you a different perspective about people pleasing, 

Because here’s the thing, people people-please because they think it’s better to people please than to honor their own preferences and to do what they actually want to do. Alright? That’s why we do it. You wouldn’t make yourself your last priority, and put yourself at the bottom of your list, and then prioritize other people’s wants and needs if you thought that was the bad thing to do. If you thought that that didn’t lead to something good. 

You think it leads to something good. That it’s better for them, and that it might ultimately be better for you because remember, we people please out of fear, we do it out of guilt, out of worry. You take an action that goes against your own wants, needs, and desires, prioritizing someone else’s wants, needs, and desires instead because you think it’s better. 

And you might not just think that it’s better for them, but also better for yourself. That you’ll avoid some negative consequences if you do that, if you take care of other people before taking care of yourself. 

So, I want to offer you a different perspective about people pleasing by talking about being on the receiving end of people pleasing, aka being people pleased. Because I want to offer you that it actually isn’t great to people-please people. 

And when you see what I’m talking about, you’ll understand exactly what I mean. You’ll see the nuance here. You’ll see why it might not be the best route for you to choose, the best course of action for you to take, and that there are some negative consequences. Maybe they’re unintended, but they are there. And if you can start to see that, in the instances that you people please in, you may be less inclined to do it. 

So, I always tell you that it is more than enough reason to just do what you want simply because you want to do it. You don’t need a better reason than that. That’s plenty of reason enough. But this is another reason to not people please, because it’s not always a pleasant experience being on the receiving end of it. 

Let me give you some examples of what this looks like. One of the most common areas or ways that I watch someone people please is that they promise or agree to a deadline that they can’t meet. I used to be so guilty of this in my professional life, back when I practiced law. I was a really serious people pleaser. 

I would agree to deadlines that I had no business agreeing to because I thought it was better to give an answer that sounded good in the moment, to just agree with the person, to give them the answer that I thought they wanted to hear. Now, in hindsight, after I’ve learned everything that I’ve learned through coaching… 

And people used to tell me this, I just didn’t believe them. People used to tell me, “Please, don’t just agree to something that you can’t meet. Give me a realistic answer instead.” And I wouldn’t think that that was the best case scenario. I wouldn’t think that that was the best course of action. I thought that telling them what they wanted to hear was the best thing that I could do at that moment. 

Then I would try my damnedest to meet an impossible deadline, while I had other things on my plate. Now, in hindsight, I recognize that what they really wanted was some certainty on when they could expect work for me. So, when they told me they really wanted the truth, they were being honest; they weren’t lying. I just couldn’t see it at the time, because I was so focused on making sure everyone was always happy with me. And I was always focused on doing that in the most immediate sense. 

So, I wanted to make sure that they were happy in the moment, even if it led to them being displeased in the long run because I would fail to meet the deadline. People would tell me that it was frustrating to work with me because I wouldn’t hit the deadlines that I agreed to. I wasn’t on the receiving end of this at the time, so I didn’t really have the full context. I didn’t experience it from their perspective, so I didn’t understand how much frustration this would ultimately lead to with my working relationships. 

Now, that I’m someone who follows through and does what I say I’m going to do. I give work to contractors, or even friends of mine. They make agreements with me or make promises to me, and then they don’t follow through because they overestimated their ability. They were a little too optimistic. And then, I’m on the receiving end of them going back on what they said. I realized what it feels like to be on the receiving end of that. 

I had this epiphany that the people that I used to work with, who used to beg me to just be honest with them, they really did mean it. They preferred certainty and they preferred knowing when they could reasonably expect something from me, rather than just receiving the answer that sounded good on the front end. They used to be so frustrated. 

Again, their frustration is caused by their thoughts, but it is really likely, highly likely, that someone is going to think negative thoughts if you promised something by a certain point in time and then you go back on that, you miss that self-imposed deadline, or that deadline that you agreed to. People are going to feel frustrated. 

So, you think you’re giving the better answer, in the instant moment when the situation’s presented to you, but you’re actually people pleasing them. And it’s not in their best interest, nor is it in yours. This is an example of being people pleased, where it really sucks to be on the receiving end of being people pleased. Alright?

Another example is when you take on work that you don’t have time for. There are two people that are on the receiving end of your people pleasing here. There’s the person who you agreed to take on the work for. Maybe that’s a client, or maybe that’s a colleague that you work with, and you’re already at capacity or over capacity. So, you’re either not going to do a good job, you’re going to do a rush job, or again, you’re going to miss the deadline that you agreed to. 

You also might be people pleasing the person who came to you last in time, and you agree to push back someone else’s work, or to put that on the backburner, so you can jump on that thing that just came to you. So, the person that you were supposed to be doing the work for originally, you’ve now put that work on pause. They’re also on the receiving end of your people pleasing. Okay? 

Neither of these people are getting your best, right? The person who you’ve just paused for, they’re going to feel frustrated because you’re supposed to be doing work for them, and now you’re not doing what you said you were going to be doing. 

And then, the person who you’re now doing the work for, they’re not getting the best you. They’re getting like half of you, or rushed you, or 40% you, or last minute you. And that’s not what they were expecting when they asked you to work on that project. They were expecting you to be fully present and all-in, and to have the capacity to work on it. So, they’re getting shortchanged, too. 

You know what it feels like if you’ve ever been in this position, to ask someone to do something and then they keep making excuses. They keep pushing it back, they keep asking for more time, because they have too much on their plate and they’re being overly optimistic, or better yet, unrealistic about what they’re able to do. Okay? It’s not fun being on the receiving end of that. 

So, if you’re tempted to be a “team player” to help out another person that you work with or help out a client, do them a favor, check in with yourself. Are you really doing them a favor? Are you going to be able to show up the way you want to show up? Or are you being unrealistic? Is it not going to go the way that you want it to go? If it’s not going to go that way, I really want you to consider saying no; apologize if you want to. 

You don’t have to apologize for being overcapacity, but communicate that you’re not able to take it on and you can explain why. Say, “Hey, I’m not going to be able to do it the way that you want me to do it. And I’m not willing to put you in that position, or myself in that position, where it’s likely that you’re going to be disappointed by what you receive from me.”

People will want to push back on this sometimes, alright? Maybe not everyone, but I’ll see a lot of people who are like, “No, no, it’s okay. You can do it. I trust you. Anything’s better than nothing.” But you’ve got to be honest with yourself. Are you going to be able to give it what you would normally be able to give it if you weren’t overcapacity? And if the answer’s no, you can’t give it your all, take a step back. Just communicate that you’re not able to work on it. 

Another example of people pleasing someone is if you stay on a call too long, when you’re supposed to end a call in an hour, or maybe half an hour, and the call’s running over. I watch people do this on calls with me all the time. And I can see them people pleasing me. Now, I don’t mind staying on a couple minutes longer, if I don’t have something that is back to back. I don’t schedule my calls back to back, so that’s not normally a position that I find myself in. 

But I try and be respectful of other people’s time. Normally, I’ll ask them if they can stay over a few minutes, rather than just making the assumption. But not everyone’s going to do that, right? I can even watch people, if we’re coming up at time, and they’re worried the call’s going to go over and they’re people pleasing me by not speaking up, saying that they have another call that’s about to start.

They’ll get really distracted, they won’t be present, they won’t be focused on our call, on what we’re talking about. And I can see them starting to freak out and panic, or scramble. It’s not fun to be on the receiving end of that people pleasing. They’re trying to be polite, they don’t want to tell me that they have to go, but it would be better if they were just honest with me about needing to get off the call. It’s totally fine. 

Or they can communicate earlier in the call, “Hey, I’ve got a hard stop.” That way I know exactly how much time we have together. And like I said, this is not something that I try and do often. This isn’t a habit of mine, but it is something I’ve noticed on my phone calls or Zoom calls, whatever the case may be. 

So, if you tend to stay over on calls, that makes you late for your next call, if you’ve got something that’s back to back. So, someone who’s waiting for you is on the receiving end of that people pleasing, in that sense, but then also the person that you’re on the original, initial call with. 

They’re also on the receiving end of your people pleasing. It doesn’t feel good to get someone’s lackluster focus or concentration because you’re in your head freaking out about getting to your next call. Just be honest. Don’t people please the person. Tell them you have to go. 

Another example of this, and this can come up both in professional settings and in personal settings, is if you agree to do something, or you volunteer yourself for something that you don’t want to do, and then you end up being resentful about it. Alright?

Think of the last time you volunteered to do something at your kid’s school. Maybe it was something that you really didn’t want to say yes to, but you felt guilty so you agreed to do it. Maybe you agreed to help with a family event or party, and you really don’t enjoy doing those things, or you don’t have time to do it, but you agreed to do it anyway.

Then you show up and you’re kind of a sourpuss about it, and everyone there that you’re working on this project with has to deal with you being in a bad mood, being resentful, being a sourpuss, being disgruntled about the action that you agreed to. You did this to yourself because you people pleased. Think about what it feels like to be on the receiving end of someone else’s bad mood. 

This came up for me recently while I was traveling. There were some activities that I didn’t want to partake in, and I really thought about how I was going to be if I went along with it; if I people pleased to the people that I was with, okay? And the older I get, and the more that I spend time in coaching, I really don’t enjoy faking it. I don’t enjoy baring my true feelings about something. I’d rather just communicate my no and honor my own preferences. 

So, I know that if I people please someone, and I go do something that I don’t want to do, I’m not going to be very pleasant to be around. I really do think about, “What is the impact of that on other people?” An example of this is I don’t enjoy going to see the Colosseum. I’ve never liked it. I’ve been once; once was more than enough for me. I think you get the gist from seeing the outside of it. I don’t enjoy going inside. 

My friends who I was with in Italy wanted to go on a tour of it. I was totally fine with that, more than okay with it. I just didn’t want to go. So, instead of people pleasing them, because I was telling myself that they’d be upset with me if I didn’t go, or that if I wanted to be a team player or a good travel companion I would go on all the things with them, I just let myself opt out of it. 

I also opted out of going on a wine tour. I’ve really cut back on my drinking, and I just didn’t feel like going to an event that was going to be an all-day drinking activity. I know you’re not drinking a ton at vineyard tours, and things like that, touring a winery. You’re just tasting the wine, but it just did not sound enjoyable to me. 

And rather than going, and being resentful that I was there and I was spending my whole day bopping around Tuscany, what I really wanted to do more than anything in the world was stay at our beautiful villa, sit by the pool… it was super-hot out, it was like 96⁰… read my book, chill by the pool, get in the pool, go for a swim and just relax. I have been uncharacteristically tired lately, and I just wanted a chance to rest, relax, restore, by myself. Just have a moment to myself, some downtime. 

I really did think about what I would be like if I people pleased and partook in this activity that I really didn’t want to take part in. I realized that it wasn’t fair to the people that I was traveling with. To go do an “activity” for their benefit, when it really wouldn’t be for their benefit. I would be doing it to avoid their judgment. So, I’m doing it for my own benefit, but then I would be a sourpuss on the excursion. 

And yes, am I in control of how much of a sourpuss I am? Yes, but I also don’t want to shove and bury all of my feelings down. And if you’ve checked in with yourself when you’re “faking it”, you probably don’t do as good of a job as you think, right? Our true feelings tend to bubble to the surface and come through. People are perceptive, they can pick up on what we’re thinking and feeling. 

With that being said, I just chose to opt out and resisted the urge to people please other people. Because I didn’t want them to have to be on the receiving end of my people pleasing. 

Alright, last but not least, a really common way that people people-please… and I was recently on the receiving end of this one. I did not love it… you lie or withhold your preferences or your opinion about something. So, think about hanging out with a group of friends. I travel a lot with friends, and I’m normally the one in charge of picking restaurants.

What I typically like to do, is I like to offer a couple of different suggestions for people to choose from. I really do want their input. So, this came up on my recent trip. I would ask people, “Hey, do you want to go here? Do you want to eat this? What are you in the mood for?” It can be daunting to be in charge of making all the decisions all of the time. 

Now, I like to think that I’m good at making decisions. So, it is a skill that I can exercise, and I’m more than capable of doing it, but when I ask someone for their input, I really do want it. What I’ll notice is people are afraid of voicing their opinion because they don’t want to be “difficult”. They don’t want to be disagreeable. They want to just “go with the flow”. 

But if someone’s asking you for your preference, and you actually have a preference, voice your preference. Because if someone gives you options, and they’re hoping that you choose or narrow it down, because they’ve already done some of the narrowing and they’re trying to empower you to make sure that you get what you want, and you drop the ball and you don’t give them your perspective, it can be really frustrating to be on the receiving end of that. 

So, maybe you’re trying to choose what movie to watch. If you have a preference, voice it, alright? Now, someone else can disagree with you and ask you for a favor to watch something else instead; same thing with restaurants. But if you have a preference, voice your preference. Think about the person on the receiving end. 

Or think about when you’re on the receiving end of this, when you’re asking someone for their input, and you actually really do want it. Now, don’t ask people for their input if you don’t want it, okay? That’s another way that we people please. If you just want to be able to make the decisions and do what you want to do, then make the decisions and tell people this is the itinerary, “You’re either in or you’re out.”

But if you really do want input, ask people for input and then hope that they give it to you, or press them to give it to you. And if someone asks you for their input, give it to them. If you have input, it can be really frustrating to not get an answer when you want an answer from someone. Alright?

So, these are different ways that people can be on the receiving end of people pleasing, where it’s a less than ideal experience. I wanted to introduce you to a lot of these examples so you can start to pay attention to the instances that you people please in. And I want you to put yourself in that person’s shoes. How does it feel for them to be on the receiving end of your people pleasing? 

Now, if you’re on the receiving end of someone else’s people pleasing, or at least you suspect that someone is people pleasing you, the thing that I want you to do is I want you to call it out. Not in an antagonistic way. I just want you to ask people… I asked people this all the time. 

“Hey, are you people pleasing me right now? Because I don’t want you to do that. I want you to give me an honest answer. Please, don’t people-please me. It doesn’t feel good for me to be on the receiving end of your people pleasing.” Tell them what you’re experiencing. Explain what you’re experiencing. Highlight it for them. 

When you do this, it gives people a chance to check in with themselves. Are they people pleasing you? They can sort of take inventory. And sometimes people will be like, “Yeah, I really don’t want to do that. Amazing. Thank you so much for being honest with me.” Don’t get mad at people if they’re honest with you, they communicate a no, they resist the urge to people please you. That’s what you asked for. 

You can’t punish someone. It’s not fair to punish someone if they were honest with you when you asked them about it. Now, if they give you an honest, “No, I’m not people pleasing you,” then take their yes, or their answer or whatever it is that they’ve agreed to do, take it at face value and move forward. 

But give people an opportunity to check in with themselves. Slow the situation down. Because a lot of times people pleasers are operating so quickly that they just knee jerk their people pleasing response. They’re not even thinking about it, it just happens so fast. So, slow the situation down. Give them an opportunity to check in with themselves. 

“Hey, I love you. Are you people pleasing me right now? If you are, please don’t. It doesn’t feel good to be on the receiving end of your people pleasing. It doesn’t feel good to have you agree to do something that you don’t want to do. Alright? I want you to be honest with me. What is it that you want to do? What’s better for you? At this moment, you can tell me. I’ll respect it. Just tell me the truth”. And then honor whatever it is that they tell you next. 

That’s my advice for you, if you’re suspecting you’re on the receiving end of someone else’s people pleasing. I hope this helps challenge the way that you’re thinking about people pleasing, if you’re inclined to do it. And if you’ve been on the receiving end of someone’s people pleasing, I hope this normalizes what the experience is like, being on the receiving end. It doesn’t always feel good. And I gave you a tip for how to navigate those moments moving forward. 

Alright, I hope this helps you. I hope you have a beautiful week, and I’ll talk to you in the next episode.

Thanks for listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast. If you want more info about Olivia Vizachero or the show’s notes and resources from today’s episode, visit www.TheLessStressedLawyer.com.

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