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The problem with being "too nice"
Avoiding conflict helps keep our relationships in line. But being over-eager to please attracts stress, energy vampires, and bullies.
Most of us strive to be kind and accommodating to others.
We try to ensure that people view us as helpful and approachable, because experience has shown us that interpersonal skills are important—especially in the workplace. But, being too much of a people-pleaser can actually set you back—allowing yourself to be taken advantage of, undermining your authority, and stunting your personal growth. It’s important to recognize the boundary between being viewed a nice person and being an overeager people pleaser, but the difference between the two can be complicated.
Are you a chronic people pleaser? Here are some people-pleasing traits you might want to look out for.
When you have a legitimate reason to apologize, apologies are acceptable. The problem arises when you continuously apologize for things you're not sorry for. You know who you are. “Sorry for the late reply. Sorry about the typo. Sorry about the noise in the background of our call.”
A people-pleaser will often go out of their way to apologize—even for circumstances out of their control—as long as the apology serves to smooth over an awkward situation. Instead of apologizing for a late reply with “sorry for the delay,” try “thank you for your patience.” After all, we all know what it’s like to fall behind on emails.
Do you ever catch yourself asking someone to double-check an email to your boss? What about a text to your ex? A response to a problematic client? People-pleasers do this all the time to make sure their work is perfect.
“What's wrong with that?” you might ask. While feedback is important, asking for approval every time can diminish your work and others' perception of your abilities. Communicating from a position of confidence is often undervalued.
Think about it: how would you feel about a coworker who always asks you to check their work? Instead of defaulting to feedback, first ask yourself if you’re capable of self-editing and verifying your own work, rather than asking someone else to do so for you.
"Hi, K! How are you?" You repeat this process every day, but K barely notices you and never sends even a smile your way. Your head starts spinning, and you're starting to feel anger towards K. Why don't they like me?
While it's great to be polite and get along with everyone in the workplace, you don't have to be everyone's cup of tea. As long as it's not interfering with your work or anyone's work—who cares? Don't get caught up in who may or may not like you, and remind yourself that the energy and chemistry different people bring to the table is something to celebrate, not to be threatened by. Your workplace relationships, like most areas of your life, should feel harmonious, and not forced.
We all wear different hats throughout our life. People-pleasers, though, are continuously shapeshifting depending on who they're talking to.
I'm not talking about using professional language at work with your boss and a more casual tone with your peers. Personality matching means adapting your views and tending to agree with others so much so that you find yourself automatically nodding along, smiling, and not challenging perspectives that you disagree with.
Remember to practice honest check-ins with yourself in the middle of your conversations. Are your ideas being represented in your dialogue? Are you afraid of how this person might reply to a disagreement?
While some stress motivates us to move forward, achieve more, and become better, trying to maintain and protect the way others see you can be exhausting. Of course, it feels great to be on peoples’ good sides. It feels fantastic to avoid conflict. And we have to do a certain amount of conflict avoidance to keep our relationships and stress levels in line. But the self-exerted pressure that comes with being a chronic people pleaser generates its own form of stress. And we all know what stress can do to our body, mind, and spirit.
When you're a people-pleaser, energy vampires and bullies are drawn to you like a magnet. When someone has weak boundaries and the insatiable desire to please, they instantly transform into the perfect target for individuals with more manipulative characteristics.
And to make things worse, unconsciously, you (the people-pleaser) feel you're being needed and wanted, so the toxic cycle continues.
No, for real. It's time for you to stand your ground. But that doesn't mean you should do a complete 180, either. In the long run, constantly repelling the energy of others is not going to guide you to the healthiest place.
Instead, work on building mental strength to let go of your people-pleasing behavior. Not to sound like a broken record or anything, but your "too nice" personality can really harm your relationships.
Start by saying no to small asks to start. Let people know when you’re feeling too busy or overwhelmed. Express your honest opinion about things, from the marketing team’s latest campaign to politics. Take a stand for something you believe in, even if it means disagreeing with someone you care for. Little steps here and there will help you gain more self-confidence and mental strength to break away from the pleasing behavior, so you can start setting boundaries for yourself.
You got this! And, hey, you don't have to agree with everything I wrote, either. We'll count that as your first step to saying goodbye to your inner people-pleaser.
Being nice is still underrated, however...
When it's hard to speak your mind, remind yourself that disagreeing, even if it sometimes means letting others down, is OK.