Nov 1, 2014

3 Signs You're A People Pleaser

How was your week?  Honestly, I've had better, but as the old cliché says it's the tougher times that build character and make us appreciate how far we've come in our lives and careers.

Throughout my own career, I learned a lot of things about how to work in an office, and how to work with people.  I'll be honest, just like some people crave coffee while others prefer to drink something else, I have never had a strong craving for dealing with people. So, any skills I have learned have been purely for tactical reasons, to make me more effective in my job.

If there is one thing I have learned along the way, it is that people respond to incentives, even more so than reason.  Because of this, it is so important to check your incentives on a regular basis to ensure that they're working to support your goals, and not pulling you farther away from your goals.

Introverts are natural people pleasers

For us introverts, it can be natural to develop feelings of guilt when we start to realize that we don't quite fit into the mold of the extroverted workplace. Because of this, we might welcome any opportunity to feel wanted and accepted, even if doing so will set up the people around us with some toxic assumptions about how they are allowed to engage with us.

What's the result of these toxic assumptions in a workplace?  You guessed it, people pleasing!

Do you think that you might be a people pleaser?  Know how to spot the signs, so you can start to deal with them head-on and help yourself out of these traps:

1) You get a lot of unannounced visits
Have you ever noticed how people will start to "drop by" your office or cubicle as they get to know you better?  For the longest time, I thought that the people around me were just being friendly as they got to know me more, until I realized a very important thing.  I finally realized that the friendly chit-chat was a formality, in advance to the real reason for their visit: they always wanted me to do something for them.

If you are an introvert, you can probably appreciate how difficult it can be to engage in conflict by saying that dreaded word "no".  Well guess what, the extroverts around you also understand this, and just like mice running through a maze to find some food, they'll seek out your cubicle and ask you to do something for them if they know you'll likely say yes.

They will also visit you more often, because they are responding to their own incentives, just like you are responding to yours. You provide them with what they want, so they'll come back for more.

2) You're not the best person to do your work
After you've worked at a job for a couple of years, have you ever noticed how people will ask you to "get out of your comfort zone" and try doing new things for them, because you've been so good at doing all of your other stuff for them?  This is also a classic sign that you're engaged in the ancient art of people pleasing.

Try to think of it from the perspective of the other person.  If you're really skilled at one thing and not so skilled at another thing, that won't stop people from asking you to do the other thing, because asking you is still the path of least resistance to getting things done.  Think about that for a minute.

I honestly believe that many offices today have the wrong people doing the wrong type of work, because of this exact phenomenon.  Remember, the person who asks you to do something for them at work does not need to pay for your time.  So, take that into consideration the next time they tell you that you are the best person for their job.  You probably aren't, instead you're just the path of least resistance.

3) People take "no" personally
It has been shown time time and again that human beings are reluctant to change.  Resisting change in the workplace is no different, which usually means that any sudden changes in your behavior won't go unnoticed by your peers.

If you have been the "yes" person at the office for years, then your coworkers will automatically assume there is something wrong with you the first time you say no.  Your coworkers' reaction to your first "no" will also enable those feelings of guilt you have held for so long as an introvert at work.  Suddenly, you feel like the difficult person that nobody wants to work with, because they have to be on pins and needles every time they deal with you.

There is a big difference between the fiction that's occurring in your mind, and the reality of what's happening when you tell your coworkers no.  What is actually happening is you're sending a clear message that your time is a valuable commodity that has a finite supply.

The funny thing is, the more you limit other peoples' access to your time (within moderation), the more valuable your time will be to others when they get it.  This is your first step to navigating out of the people pleasing trap at work.

At the end of the day, the workplace will never be perfect, and it is ultimately a habitat designed for extroverts.  I sincerely believe this.  When we accept this however, we can also accept into our lives some better skills to effectively deal with the challenges of this environment, so everybody can win at the end of the day.

What do you think?  Do you have any of your own personal experiences with people pleasing, and ways that you have dealt with these in the past?  I would love to hear from you in the comments!

All the best,

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