I am a hardcore people pleaser. I love people. I love to talk to them, get to know them, share in their lives and experiences. I have the gift of gab and I USE it. There’s rarely an occasion when someone strikes up a conversation with me and I don’t join in with what some might call over-enthusiasm. Being a people pleaser also means when I love, I love hard. I may not be the person with a hundred friends, but the friends I do have will be my friends until the end of time. They can trust me. I’ll keep their darkest secrets, protect their insecurities, and always, ALWAYS have their backs no matter what they may be up against. People pleasers are the best friends to have because they won’t easily let you down.
Being a people pleaser also means I’m an inherently positive, enthusiastic person driven by my emotions. I want everyone around me to be happy all the time, so I go out of my way to lift up the people around me. Nothing makes me happier than to put a smile on the faces of the people I love. But, if I see a stranger struggling or that looks in need of a laugh, I won’t hesitate to act. I’ll crack a joke, offer a hug, or even just an open ear — anything I can do to make someone’s day just a little bit brighter. When I see someone down, it makes me feel down. But, when I can make someone happy, it genuinely fills me with joy knowing I helped put that smile on their face.
But, I can be selfish. I can put way too much stock into what others think of me. I can be lazy and inattentive. I can be a bad listener. And, my biggest fear as a people pleaser? — being excluded or unrecognized, being invisible. Since I love to please others so much, when people don’t like me, I take it way too personally. Obviously, in life not everyone is going to like you, but us people-pleasers really take it seriously. We want to be liked by all, and get offended, hurt, or even aggravated when we can’t get certain people to like us.
I can also be the laziest, most inattentive person on the planet. Sure, I hate to let people down and I don’t want my boss or teachers to be disappointed in me, but sometimes us people-pleasers can be the most unmotivated people. Why? Because we’re selfish. If I don’t necessarily care about the project I’m working on, or if the work I’m doing doesn’t apply to me, then I just won’t have the motivation to do it. But, I can be selfish outside of work, too.
If I don’t watch myself and my behavior carefully, I can accidentally take advantage of people without realizing it. People pleasers are very persuasive people by nature, and we’re great at talking to people. So, if we’re not careful, we can end up getting people to do things for us that we didn’t mean to do. We can manipulate those around us just by being our charming, friendly selves. And then people, our friends or significant others, may resent us for our actions later down the road. Maybe us people-pleasers don’t do this intentionally, and maybe some of us do, but we all do it.
Dealing With a People Pleaser
So, how are my friends and family supposed to deal with my difficult self? Sure, I love them so much it hurts like a child that squeezes its new puppy too hard, and I would do absolutely anything to see them happy. But, I can also be an incredibly selfish, manipulative person who only cares about what others think of me, lazy, and a bad listener. I’m far from perfect, but then again, who the hell isn’t? That being said, here’s my tried and true advice for dealing with me, a lovingly selfish people pleaser. Feed me a compliment sandwich.
Feed Them A Compliment Sandwich
What’s a compliment sandwich? The absolutely most delicious way to give someone constructive criticism, that’s what. It’s also your best tool when dealing with a difficult, not so self-aware people pleaser. First, hit them with a compliment — we love those. Then, tell them the not so awesome bit that you actually need to say. And, lastly, top it off with another one of those compliments we love so much. And, bon appetit! We’ll eat it right up every time.
Let me give you a real-world example that one of my professors gave me who knew all too well how to deal with my personality. I struggle a lot with the technical side of my classes. Basically anything to do with technology, I’m lost. My professor wanted to tell me, “Maggie, your video looks like crap. The color is way too overexposed, the camera is shaky, and the framing sucks.” But, being the nice guy he never fails to be, he knew those harsh words would most likely damage my fragile feelings. So, what he actually said to me went something like this:
“Maggie, can I talk to you about your project?”
“Why of course, Professor! I’d love to discuss my work with you!” I replied much too enthusiastically, as is my usual style.
“Well, right off the bat, the story is great. You’re really talented at finding good stories to tell visually, so good job on that.”
“Thank you so much!” Oh, how I beamed at the praise like the people pleaser I am.
“But, the video is not as great as it could be. You see the color? There’s a feature on the camera you can use to fix the exposure. Also, you need to use the tripod so it’s not so shaky. And, make sure to use the rule-of-thirds when you frame your subjects.”
“Oh…” and my smile quickly faded as my shoulders began to fall and I slowly lost my normal spunk.
“But!” he recovered himself, “The story is great! The writing goes to the video, it’s well told and conversational, and your characters are strong. Let’s just focus on sharpening up the video next time.”
And, you know what? I left that conversation happy, feeling praised, and that my hard work on the project had been recognized. Even though all my professor probably wanted to tell me was my video was absolute trash, instead, he criticized me in a way that still made me feel happy and proud of the work I did. He fed me a compliment sandwich.
So, what does all this tell us? The best way to deal with a difficult, self-absorbed people pleaser, is to make sure they still feel included and recognized. Make them feel seen and heard, even if you need to tell them something they may not want to hear. Now, you may be thinking, why should we give selfish, self-absorbed people even more attention and praise than they already get? Good question. This article isn’t about how to like people like this, but about how to deal with them. All of us are unique individuals with our own talents, quirks, strengths, and weaknesses. The bleak truth of it is, we all have good qualities and we all have bad qualities. Yes, I can be difficult, selfish, lazy, and inattentive. But! I can also be friendly, optimistic, passionate, and the most loving person you’ll ever meet. Knowing who I am and how to deal with my quirks is important for building both personal and professional relationships. After all, that’s what Profile’s all about — increasing behavioral awareness to help people get better at people. And, I like to think that working here helps me get a little better at understanding people and myself every day.
Chad Q. Brown’s Profile is a retained consulting firm incorporating distinct team building and talent strategies utilizing proprietary technology and behavioral assessment infrastructure. Our mission — help people get better at people.
Chad Q. Brown