Why People Pleasing Is Dishonest and Manipulative and Two Tips For How To Change

Issue 41. September 22, 2023 ✨ Higher Power Coaching & Consulting

photo credit: Alexandra Gorn

You may be a people-pleaser if you…

  • go way above and beyond the “call of duty”
  • really want people to depend on you and you’re crushed when you’re not able to follow through on something you said you’d do
  • you jump through hoops to make things happen for other people
  • you frequently drop what you’re doing to help others who make last-minute requests
  • think you’re a nice person because you’re so focused on others and that’s what nice people do
  • you always put others before yourself rather than doing what you like
  • you sometimes get resentful of others for always asking you to do things for them, but you’d never say anything because that’s not nice
  • you decide you’re not going to keep saying you’ll do things that are a lot of trouble for you but then you always cave in and do them anyway
  • you think it’s selfish to put yourself first
  • you’re afraid people will think you’re a bad person if you say no or don’t help when asked

The thing about being a people-pleaser is that we’re often dishonest with ourselves and each other.

We say yes to things we don’t really want to do. We say no to things we actually want to do because we don’t want to put ourselves first. We’re more invested in people thinking that we’re nice and helpful than we are in actually being helpful. Then we get resentful of others for always asking for help, yet we’ve trained them to ask us for help by always being there and always saying yes.

These are all forms of dishonesty.

People-pleasing is also manipulative because we have a specific outcome in mind: please people. Our goal with these behaviors is to make sure we’re seen as good people by others. For certain, we want to be helpful, but the being helpful part of people-pleasing is not as important as the perception that we’re helpful!

That’s called manipulation.

I used to think I was “nice” and that was why I helped people all the time. I didn’t identify as a people-pleaser until I got into recovery and learned more about codependence and realized, “Oh yes I am a people-pleaser!” It occurred to me that it’s not nice to be dishonest and manipulate people!

That’s why I try to focus more on being kind than on being nice. Kind people tell the truth and directly communicate with others about what’s okay and not okay with them, and what they’re available to help out with.

If you’re just recognizing right now as you read this that you’ve been dishonest and manipulative, you’re not alone. And you’re NOT a bad person. You’ve just developed some unhealthy patterns. And you can change them. Here’s how:

There are two questions I recommend you ask yourself to stop your people-pleasing, dishonest, and manipulative ways so you can focus more on being kind than nice:

1). What are my motives? Why am I doing this? If you’re doing it because you want people to think you’re nice, helpful, or dependable (or you don’t want them to think you’re a bad person) then it’s probably not a good idea to do that. However, if you’re doing it because you truly want to be helpful and there’s nothing you expect in return, go ahead and do it.

2). Does this serve my highest good? Does it bring me into alignment with my values? If what you’re about to do is not something that serves your highest good (including that it doesn’t deplete) and/or it doesn’t bring you into alignment with what’s important to you, then you might not want to go forward. But if it’s something that serves your highest good, gives you energy to participate in, and brings you into alignment with your values, do it!

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