People pleasing might seem harmless, but it can lead to serious health risks — both mental and physical — especially when taken to the extremes.
First, people-pleasers rarely prioritize their own self-care. By putting others first, they spend less time relaxing, exercising, and planning healthy meals, and as a result, are more prone to health problems.
Second, by saying yes to everything, people-pleasers overcommit. With less time to keep everyone happy, this can quickly develop into a vicious cycle of anxiety and stress, especially at work. In extreme circumstances, this can lead to depleted energy levels, and even depression, because they can’t continue with their addictive habit.
Third, because people-pleasers feel like they can never say no, it’s easy for silent anger to build up over time. This often leads to resentment, which can damage even the strongest relationships.
Fourth, by always saying yes, especially to requests for favours, people-pleasers can be taken advantage of. Even worse, exploitive people will see them as easy targets when they realise they can’t say no.
How to say ‘no’ to people-pleasing
To stop people-pleasing, you must learn how to say ‘no’. But first, you need to get clear on why it’s important to say ‘no’.
By saying ‘no’ to what’s not important, you’ll have more time for what is, such as relationships, hobbies, and your health. Your ability to deliver, at home and at work, will increase tenfold. With fewer things to think about, your mental wellbeing will dramatically improve. Time is one of your most valuable resources, and you can’t get it back.
Now for how to say ‘no’.
Robin Bernstein, a professor at Harvard University, has spoken about her struggles with saying ‘no’. So much so that she developed five principles and wrote an article about it called “The Art of ‘No’”.
Tim Ferriss also has a deep interest in this subject, and in his book Tribe of Mentors, he asked 130 of the world’s top performers about how they’ve become better at saying ‘no’.
Leadership expert, Greg McKeown, is another proponent in the power of saying ‘no’. In his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, he wrote a whole chapter about it.
Based on the combined insights from these experts, here are 9 tactics on how to say ‘no’, and more importantly, how to do it artfully:
- Explain the predicament you’re in. If solid logic will stop a conversation in its tracks, let it fly.
- Don’t explain. Sometimes you can leave yourself open to judgement and negotiation if you try to explain yourself. So just say: “Sorry, I’ll have to take a pass”. You don’t have to defend your position.
- Decline with gratitude. Be grateful for the offer, but kindly refuse: “Thank you for the opportunity. I appreciate you asking, but I’m maxed out with other commitments at the moment”.
- Show them you thought about it carefully: “I’ve had to think hard about this because it sounds like a great opportunity, but I’ll have to take a pass. I simply have too much on right now”.
- Make it non-personal. Establish a blanket policy that applies to everyone: “I’m sorry, but I’ve made it a policy to say no to any social events until…”, or “I’ll have to take a pass, I’m on a coffee shop diet for the next two months”.
- Use your calendar. Simply tell them: “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” This will give you time to pause and reflect, and ultimately give you a chance to make a decision that suits your needs.
- Volunteer someone else. It’s often the case that people don’t care who helps them — as long as they get help: “I can’t do it, but X might be interested.”
- Say it with humour. “Nope, not for me!”
- Just say ‘no’. If it’s something absurd, just say no, or if it’s an unreasonable message, delete it.
Article Credit: Brian Pennie