How to Break the Cycle of People Pleasing

Nov 20, 2013

Dr. Spano explains how to break the cycle of people pleasing & offers inspiring tips on how to embrace who you are & where you're going! Photo Credit:
angelie. via

While people-pleasing is not an easy habit to break, it can be done.

If you saw pieces of yourself in my last blog, here’s how to break the cycle:

 1.  Name It.

Before you can break the cycle of people-pleasing, you have to acknowledge that you are a people-pleaser.

Acknowledge this part of self so that you can begin to do something about it.  Determine where you specifically fall into the people-pleasing trap?  Say it out loud.

Once you have this awareness, you are then positioned to make different choices.  This is an important element because people-pleasers do not typically believe they have choices.

2.  Examine your Childhood Scripts:

Imagine a scene in your early life.  When I think back, I remember a child who was virtually invisible to her absentee parents.  My parents divorced when I was five, and my sister and I were placed with our grandmother.  We were virtually two lost kids in a household of many.  In an effort to be noticed, I worked hard to make my grandmother Isabel proud of me.  It was the beginning of a cycle of people-pleasing that would last decades.

Who were the people in your early childhood that you worked hard to please or, worse yet, felt you could never please?  Note these stories because they form early childhood scripts that may still be running your life.

Remember, with awareness comes the first opportunity for change.  It’s an exciting process once you learn to embrace it.  Once you’ve learned to come from an abundant perspective that you are enough just as you are, you can then jump into a genuine level of service to others.

3.  Define a Deeper Purpose

Again, it’s the old Stephen Covey adage:  It’s easier to say ‘no’ if you have a bigger ‘yes.”  This is the tape you want to keep replaying so that you stay focused on your priorities.

Find that deeper purpose.  Take the time to explore what it is that you are about.  What have you been called to do with your life?  Then, get busy doing the hard work of living it out.  Not just on the grand scale, but on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis.

Remember, that people-pleasers are trying to fill a void.  If you are living from a deeper purpose, you will be consumed by passion to fulfill that purpose.  That empty hole that you’re trying to fill by people-pleasing is now completed by a deeper sense of who you are and where you are going.

4.  Practice Assertive Communication

This aspect of communication is the greatest obstacle for the people-pleaser.  It is so important, it warrants a blog of its own, but for now, suffice to say that learning to practice assertive communication is one of the most important aspects of breaking the cycle of people-pleasing.

Assertive Communication doesn’t mean we make the other guy wrong.  What it does mean is that I’m fully capable of stating what I want to have happen in a direct, clear, and concise manner.  And, I can do so fully cognizant of the other person’s needs.

It’s particularly difficult for the people-pleaser to do so because their focus of communication is often on how to look good in the eyes of another.  It is therefore difficult to know, much less state, what it is that I want to have happen.  The people-pleaser simply doesn’t have that clarity.  Their message is clouded by feelings rather than factual information.

If any of this sounds familiar,it may be worth your time and energy to learn more about assertive communication.  One  of my favorite reads in this area is the Assertive Advantage by Sharon Bower.  It’s a simple and precise way to learn how to become an  assertive communicator.

All this being said, the people-pleasing cycle can be broken.  Take the time to embrace who you really are, where you are going, and learn how to assertively communicate that message to others.  This process requires balance and a desire to step into genuine service.

Q:  Have you broken the cycle of people-pleasing?  If so, how?