People Pleasing Isn’t Always Pleasing


Do you know someone who you would label a “people pleaser?” I would define a people pleaser as someone who goes out of their way to cater to the needs of other individuals. They not only do this to an extreme but at the expense of their own well-being. This person could be your spouse, a child, sibling, neighbor, or a friend. The problem is that people pleasers aren’t always pleasing. While their motivation is to make life easier for whoever they are with, they are excessive in their efforts to please others, which sometimes comes across as disingenuous. I believe people pleasers often act this way out of insecurity and pride. By always focusing on others, it keeps the spotlight off of them and perhaps from that perspective, it gives them more worth. A people pleaser’s spouse and children, however, may not feel connected to them intimately because they are always focused on pleasing others. 

People pleasers tend to answer questions with a question. If you ask a people pleaser to make a decision about something as simple as what they’d like to drink, for example, they will typically answer by saying they’ll take whatever is easiest for you. What is generally easiest is if they would just tell you what they want instead of forcing you to make the decision.

People pleasers apologize a lot too, even when they have nothing to apologize for. They tell you they’re sorry for events in which they have no participation. Now, perhaps they are trying to empathize with you, but after someone uses some term of I’m sorry in every other sentence, it loses its meaning. 

The same concept applies when people pleasers over thank others. It’s fine to appreciate someone’s efforts, but when a person thanks you excessively, those words don’t mean as much the fiftieth time they say them. Especially when all you did was pass the potatoes!

While this personality type has its strength, it can cause stress in a marriage. The other spouse may feel as though they don’t know their spouse deeply because people pleasers rarely feel comfortable just being themselves. They greatly fear rejection and therefore position themselves to be whoever or whatever they think other people want them to be. They cater so much to the needs of their spouse that they are uncomfortable receiving praise or revealing their own desires. This can be frustrating for their spouse who may feel like they are always receiving and are never able to give. This keeps the relationship off balance.

In general, I don’t think people pleasers realize the effect they have on other people. In their mind, they are being the quintessential spouse, guest, or friend. But eventually their behavior will negatively permeate their family relationships. Because of their strong desire to please everyone, which is an impossible feat, they may eventually become stressed, resentful, and possibly depressed because they will stop feeling joy in what they are doing.

In order to find peace, people pleasers need to take care of themselves more often and learn not to let their emotions or fear of rejection direct their actions. A spouse can help that person feel more secure by assuring them of their unconditional love and commitment frequently. They can also gently nudge their spouse when they see that their behavior is becoming extreme. If spouses work together in acknowledging the unfavorable side of these personality traits, they can refocus their relationship and get it back in balance and back to winning at home.