Easy Steps to Stop People Pleasing

Super Simple Tips on How to Say No

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You know that feeling when you want to do the right thing by everybody? When you’re constantly trying to people please, to do what’s expected of you by others sometimes without even knowing exactly what that is?  Do you find you guess what their needs are and do what you think will be helpful for them, but then you start to realise it’s impossible to please everyone?

I hear you. Sometimes this can lead to tricky situations. For example, we don’t like to cancel when we’ve made an arrangement with someone because we fear we may be letting them down. Or worse, that they’ll be angry. Or you know you’ll feel guilty so rather than live with that guilt you decide to say ‘no’ to yourself by saying ‘yes’ to someone else.  But this can cause you unnecessary stress and anxiety.


Here’s a question for you – what if you accept that you can’t please everyone all the time, but you can learn instead to be happy yourself and let go of people pleasing?

Now I’m not suggesting you don’t help other people, but I am saying it’s really smart to take care of your own needs first. Whatever they may be.

In Harriet Braiken’s book: The Disease to Please: Curing the People Pleasing Syndrome, she mentions that ‘niceness is the psychological armour of the people pleaser’. What she means is that people pleasers like to be nice – they are nice.  People pleasers say ‘yes’ when often they really want to say ‘no’.

Harriet explores whether it’s selfish to take care of yourself. People pleasers tend to take care of other people’s needs first. But actually by not taking care of your own needs, in a roundabout way, you are endangering the people you care about.

Think about it.  You keep doing what you think will please other people, but don’t listen to your own inner voice. When you constantly stress and exhaust yourself by caring for other people at your own expense, you are courting illness, depression and stress. Despite your good intentions, those people who depend on you will suffer as well.

I’m no longer a people pleaser these days. I follow my own path and try to let other people down gently if it is not the right time or activity for me. It’s not easy though! I find there are moments when I still say ‘yes’ without thinking and then feel uncomfortable pulling out of a particular event or situation.  It takes practice!

As Paul Coehlo says: “Saying yes to someone else is saying no to yourself.”  


It’s critical to prioritise what’s really important to you and to stop overcommitting.

In her book the Art of Self Care, Cheryl Richardson talks about having an absolute ‘no’ list. This is a list you write for yourself to help you prioritize what is really important and what you don’t want to do anymore.

As an example for you, when I did this list for myself I wrote the following:

  • I no longer push myself when I am feeling tired and I take time to rest.
  • I no longer compare myself to other people.
  • I no longer get involved in my children’s arguments and I let them sort it themselves. Okay, I will be honest. This one is still a work in progress!

It’s important to keep in mind that you’re not being mean, you’re not being selfish. You’re taking care of you first so that you can better help those around you. After all as they say on all flights – put your own oxygen mask on first….


Step 1

  • Decide what saying no means for you – and write it down.  Think about how you feel when you don’t say no and how you feel when you do say no. This will help you crystallise what saying no means for you.
  • List the circumstances where you’ve typically found yourself saying yes and then regretting it. Be mindful. These may be situations to avoid in the future.

Step 2

  • Prepare your own absolute NO list – all the things that you will no longer say yes to.
  • For each item on the list write a short sentence as to how you will present that ‘No’ to the person asking.

If you want to find out more about how to stop people pleasing and how to Prevent Burnout & Find Balance, why not buy my book ‘Softer Success’. It’s available on Amazon here

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