People pleasing can be cultural but it’s also a symptom of codependency and relationship dysfunction

The people pleasing definition can be confusing. Are you the kind of person who is always eager to be helpful to others? Kindness is one possibility. But that’s only a part of it. People pleasers are also be taught by their culture or religion to do for others before caring for themselves. Sadly, it’s also a common trait of girls and women who are considered less than in many cultures. Your people pleasing tendency could also be a way to control situations by warding off other people’s anger or dislike. Quite simply you may want to be loved. But it also breeds powerful feelings of rage. your people pleasing habits may be a simmering cauldron of resentment and blame.

Wait a minute there’s another definition. People pleasers are rampant in families with substance and alcohol addictions where life is chaotic and unpredictable and dangerous. Family dysfunction can mean a narcissist dominates others, who become people pleasers to stay out of harm’s way. Communication can help. Here’s how.

When communication is not effective, blame is bound to follow

I am a people pleaser because I don’t like confrontations. On the other hand, I don’t like to be told I’m wrong when I know I am right. So get this, I won’t speak up and then silently blame others instead. So I am a people pleaser and blamer at the same time. It’s a paradox. Instead of setting reasonable boundaries, communicating effectively and picking my battles, I am creating resentments. How can I avoid placing blame on others when the people pleasing in me promotes toxicity instead of true harmony? With tension heightened because of COVID, I know I am not alone in this.

Communication is horrible for people pleasing in the time of Covid 19

Effective communication is important on so many levels. The Coronavirus has caused obstacles in how we relay information and socialize … we had to adapt. When wearing masks, we are covering the portions of our faces that correlate with expressions. It can be difficult to interpret the message being conveyed, because you’re primarily relying on tone. Up until this point, I believe the role of mouth expressions were underrated in social interaction. Now, we rely on a muffled tone to decipher what someone is communicating to us … sounds like a danger zone for misinterpretation to me.

Other kinds of misunderstandings that plague people pleasers

Let’s face it, misunderstandings are going to happen more now than ever. Our heavy reliance on technology-based communication has grown exponentially. Text communication is a breeding ground for miscommunications. There is no tone, and we are left to our own perceptions to decipher what a message means to us. A “hello.” can come off aggressive due to the period at the end of the greeting instead of an exclamation point — or because you woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day. Healthy communication is difficult even when you’re not a people pleaser.

Email chains can be deadly for people pleasers who feel undermined

This is how people pleasing leads to blame in an office setting. Last week, I was in the midst of an email chain with several editors from a company I work for. There is a newer editor on the team with whom I was emailing. I already explained everything to her in Skype messenger, but she found it necessary to ask the same questions to staff members who are not in out department. I was fired up … I’m getting fired up thinking about it.

As a people pleaser, I thought I was being kind to her. Then I felt undermined by someone who constantly blame on everyone else. She always says something like, “Oh that’s strange, Mary told me…” or “How interesting, Jeff said it was done this way…” I’ve checked with these people, they never said anything. Naturally, I resented her even before the email chain. The point was my people pleasing made me react and get fired up when it just didn’t matter.

So many of us do this. It’s easy to ride with our emotions and place blame on others without considering all the variables of the issue at hand. It’s also important to remember that the way we are feeling prior to an event can change our perception for how we receive something. When the issue is you, understanding helps you lighten up.

Setting boundaries and choosing battles are the solution for people pleasing

So where is the solution in all of this? Setting boundaries and choosing battles seem to be the winning forces to avoid placing blame on others. These are both delicate skills to master. Setting boundaries will help troubleshoot a situation. Once a boundary is established, when an issue arises again, you can nip it in the bud. Choosing your battles comes when an issue is established you must decide “is it worth it?”

When setting boundaries, stick your guns. If you say “no,” be consistent. Boundaries are a powerful form of self care. In following up with my above example, the editor wanted my department to do work that isn’t our responsibility. I assertively said no across the board. She asked in multiple ways — the answer was always “no.” You’ll feel better in the long run, and the more appropriate boundaries you set, the healthier you will feel. This applies to all areas of life.

People pleasers need to pick their battles

As for picking your battles, ask yourself: Is it worth it? Or (as my sponsor suggests) how big is it? Like how much weight does this situation really hold to you? You’re in the grocery store and the seemingly unenthusiastic cashier seems to snap at you when you ask them to repeat the total for your order. You can only see their eyes looking back at you not giving many clues are to the level of friendlies they are exhibiting. So do you jump to your conclusion and complain to a manager? Or realize they are probably overworked as an essential employee and didn’t snap at you, but rather raised their voice to repeat the total you asked for (remember, the mask … muffled taking … ah.) How big it is? Not that big — carry on.

People pleasing can be lessened when you step back and calm down

In taking a step back from a situation and responding instead of reacting will allow you to better choose your battles. Whether in public or at home, placing blame on others may seem like an easy way to redirect your emotions. In the long run, it builds toxicity and causes resentment. By avoiding habits such as blaming others, you will clear the potential toxicity it carries and live a healthier life.


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Alexandra Ashe
Alexandra is a sober woman who loves animals, writing, nature, horror movies, fitness, and self-improvement. After suffering a relapse in late 2016, she revamped her lifestyle and has been sober since March 2017. She is also the CEO and founder of Kinkatopia, which is the only kinkajou-specific organization in the world. Alexandra literally lives and breathes kinkajous — in addition to working a full-time career, taking care of her health, and giving back to the world in other ways. She is a woman on a mission ... the Mother of Kinkajous. Follow Alexandra’s articles to relish her experiences staying sober and running a kinkajou sanctuary. There is never a dull moment, that’s a promise. Kinkatopia.org

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