Reading time: 4 minutes
Thinking time: 1 minute each time you get stuck

We all know at least one person that goes out of his or her way to meet others whenever possible. Not meet as in ‘seeing other people’ but meet as in ‘meeting them in the middle’. Not disappointing. Compromising. Satisfying the other ones needs whenever more or less doable. Making every effort thinkable to make the other one happy. Often without earning much respect nor reward in the end for all that matters. ‘Story of my life’, someone told me the other day, ‘I just never seem to be able to satisfy everyone’.

People that tend to please others often experience a lot of pressure. All they do is try to do good for everyone. To be good enough. Day after day. They find it extremely difficult to upset others, especially those that are close to them. Yet, they often hear that they are acting selfish, distant and cold. Speaking about a contradiction in terminis.

What are they doing wrong? In fact, nothing. Except for one important thing. They don’t ask themselves: what do ‘I’ really want?

Downside one: you forget about yourself
Question to be asked: is what the other one is asking me (to do) important to ME?

For those amongst us that constantly lack hours in a day or repeatedly feel drained and pressured to be at more than one place at the same time, this is by far the number one issue: not thinking about what is important to you first. What do you want? Instead, the focus is on ‘not failing the other one’, whatever the question. The one with the loudest voice is presenting you the most pressing and most urgent problem. For you to be solved. If possible, right now.

This not questioning the importance for yourself is no doubt the source of all evil and the first downside of pleasing others: in all your pleasing efforts, you forget about yourself. While you avoid dissatisfying the other, after time the only conclusion to be made is that you harmed no one but yourself. Doing the wrong things instead of what makes you happy or brings you closer to your own goals. Built up stress. Self-doubt. Lying awake at night. High blood pressure. Sometimes even burn-out.

Downside two: you hurt people that are important to you
Question to be asked: how much do I value this relationship?

When pleasing others, most of our attention automatically goes to the one that makes it the biggest drama. Commotion creates leverage. Nevertheless, pleasing that loudest voice often makes you end up hurting people that may be far more important to you. Without you even being aware of it. People that refuse to make a fuss, simply are not seen nor heard. Understandable, as you do have a limited amount of time and energy. You disappoint the more understanding, patient and loving people by unconsciously telling them what they want and value is not important enough to you.

In the end, chances are real that they will feel as if ‘they’ are not important enough. After which they’ll probably suffer in silence for a while and may end up breaking up the relationship with you completely in time. So, before you constantly say yes to the noisiest, ask yourself how much you value that relationship. Think about what is important to you and how you want to spend your time and energy.

A roadmap for choosing

Again, it is all about what you want. You decide. Asking the above two questions, leads to 3 possible scenarios. As a reminder, question 1: Is what is asked from me important to me? And question 2: Do I value this relationship? The answers:

  1. It is important to you
    • Whether or not you value the relationship: say yes. Commit.
    • Do it, right now if urgent and possible. Schedule for later if you can.
    • Do it because you want to. Not because you have to.
  2. It is not important to you, although you do value the relationship
    • Feel free to say no, delegate if possible, and stand by your decision.
    • Focus on the relationship by telling the other one you do care whilst standing up for yourself.
    • Make your own choices on how and where you spend your time and energy.
  3. It is not important to you and you don’t value the relationship
    • Say no. Be clear.
    • Dump.
    • Move on.

We all agree we can’t please everyone. There simply are not enough hours in a day for that to be even possible. Next time you feel the urge to get out of your way to make sure you make everyone happy, simply start by taking a minute to ask yourself: what do I want?

Whenever you find yourself in a seemingly hopeless situation, where you want too much and can’t satisfy everyone, not even those that are important to you, think about your own wishes and desires first. What do you want to spend your time on? What do you value most? What brings you closer to your goal? Ask. Decide. Act on it. You have a voice. And a saying. Listen to it.

Your time. Your energy. Your life. Your decision. Choose and don’t regret. You might find peace of mind, happiness and personal fulfilment in return.

I wish you good luck

About me – Being a certified executive and personal coach, I am associated to the Global Coach Group and Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching team and owner of the global executive coaching practice where I am working on an ambitious scale-up plan now that I’ve learned to ‘not having to do it all on my own’. Next to that I’ve co-founded in December 2018 and started working some hours a month for my old love, the Adecco Group (LHH) as well as for one of the biggest Dutch coaching practices in Amsterdam. My passions include playing my quarter grand piano and messing around with acrylic paint on large sized linen canvas. When I’m not catching some proverbial Big Fish, for now I’ve partially replaced the gym for my now brand-new mountain bike, and I am loving it. But then again, I am still luckiest doing what I do best, challenging others and myself to perform at ‘our’ best