There are some traits that are admired by society and deemed part of being a good person: agreeableness, kindness, flexibility, compassion, obedience, reliability, and several more that could also describe someone as being a people pleaser if possessed in excess. People pleasing traits come from socialization, which is started at a young age. Many times people who struggle with people pleasing feel obligated to say, “Yes, I’d love to help,” without feeling free to decline. We see how others before us have modeled these certain people pleasing traits, and people pleasers will fall right into the trap in an attempt to be more likable, lovable, or wanted.
People pleasing can be detrimental to relationships because they foster an environment in which the power dynamics are often skewed toward the non-people pleasing partner. Knowing that your partner is reliable and will most likely be willing to do anything you ask makes it tempting to take advantage of that kindness. In any relationship, it’s important to consider the boundaries and expectations placed on each person.
To keep things fair, I’d recommend sitting down for a frank conversation about the rules of engagement. What is expected of each person in the relationship? What is each person willing to do in the relationship? Now, more importantly, what is each person wanting to do in the relationship?
Having the conversation about boundaries and expectations can be tough, but in the long run it sets the stage for a people pleaser to feel safer asserting their needs and boundaries in the future. The people pleaser’s partner should try a gentle approach to listening and receiving feedback from the people pleaser. Be mindful of a people pleaser’s boundaries. It takes a lot of courage for a people pleaser to speak up and state that they’re uncomfortable or unwilling to do something that could help someone they love. The sense of obligation to say yes and seem agreeable to others could create resentment in relationships and lead to further conflict down the road. Having these conversations is an important part of having healthy relationships!
An Thai, MS, LMFT provides couple, family, and individual therapy in our Sterling, VA office and virtually to those located in the State of Virginia. Please call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary consultation with An!