What people pleasers are dying to have

Posted by on Apr 22, 2014 in Blog | 3 comments

beach stonesSometimes people say to me,

“Ann, I’m a nice person.

I just like to do nice things for others.

I’m big on being kind, just because.

What’s so bad about that?

Am I a people pleaser?

If, from time to time, you do nice things for other people– no strings attached– you aren’t a people pleaser.

But before you pat yourself on the back for being so nice, take some time to turn over a few stones with me.

You may have some motivations driving you that you aren’t fully aware of. (Most of us do.)

People pleasers have strings attached to their niceness.

And most of the time, they don’t even realize it.

What people pleasers are dying to have

beach postsWhat do you think people pleasers want?

You might say, “Well, they want to be liked. They want approval.”

And you’d be right.

People pleasers are nice because…

+ They want you to like them.

+ They want you to approve of their choices.

+ They want to avoid conflict with you.

But it goes deeper than that.

Why do they want approval?

steering wheel 2Why must they be liked at any cost?

Their niceness is a way of exerting control over relationships.

People pleasers are dying to have control.

If they’re so nice, you can’t get angry at them, right?

They’re so pleasant and helpful, of course you like them.

Of course you are friends! Right?

Really, all the nice things that people pleasers do are designed to control the situation.

Remember when I talked about where people pleasing comes from?

People pleasers are often raised in a certain kind of environment growing up.

Love and care from caregivers is inconsistent.

So, people pleasers learn from early on how to act, how to be pleasing to particular people, so they can secure love.

All this niceness and pleasing behavior is an adaptation to that sort of upbringing.

A sort of “Well, here’s how I can make sure my needs are met” kind of scenario.

When you think about it, this desire for control, it makes a lot of sense.

Niceness that controls

marionetteControl? Really?

That’s what people pleasers want?

Yes. People pleasers are trying to control things.

To be fair, just about everybody wants control of their lives.

People pleasers just have a particular way of exerting their control. It’s camouflaged as niceness.

This is why, sometimes, when you’re a people pleaser, people get really mad at you and fed up, even though you’re being so nice!

It’s because, at some level, your “niceness” is not welcome.

Maybe it even feels intrusive.

At some level, people may feel controlled by all of your efforts.

Most people pleasers are not aware of their desire for control.

They usually don’t start their day by saying, “I’ll be extra nice today, as I am every day, in my efforts to control all of my relationships.” Nope.

If you ask people pleasers how they feel about conflict and anger, they’ll agree that they hate those things.

And they’ve probably been called a control freak before, by someone close to them.

But they don’t tend to see themselves as controlling. They’re just nice people! That’s what they’d say.

The people pleaser’s false gift

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASo, the nice things that people pleasers do aren’t out of the goodness of their hearts.  Not really.

And it’s not because the people pleaser doesn’t want to give wholeheartedly and openly. They’d very much like to be able to do that.

The fact is that they can’t be nice and loving in a true way, most of the time.  Their gifts and kindnesses are a little bit false, because they are offered up under duress.

This is because people pleasers are operating under the deeply held belief that if they stop being nice, people will stop caring about them.

Or people will become angry and reject them.

Or there will be big, big, conflict.

A gift isn’t really a gift if you force someone to give it.

And so it is with niceness and people pleasers.

And people pleasers feel they must be nice. It’s not really a choice, but more a way of being.

If you’re being nice because you desperately want to be liked, or because you want to avoid conflict, your niceness is sort of muddied by these other agendas, whether or not you realize it.

As always, knowing which changes to make isn’t the hardest part of change.  It’s actually doing it, and sustaining those changes over time, in spite of the resistance and backlash that may come.

Helping people pleasers is what I do!  So, if you’re in Austin, Texas, and you’re looking for a counselor who helps with people-pleasing, drop me a line.  I offer free, half hour consultations in person at the office, and I’d be glad to set one up for you.


Last year:  Check your batteries

Two years ago:  Gone fishin’

Three years ago:  You can’t make me!!


  1. I wonder why are we afraid to be rejected and not care about? That would be the answer for this control we need to have/ not want to have? I have a feeling that caring for others was the only possible connection we had with someone. I think even i should not be successful so other would ‘ t feel inefrior. Iam angry with all this “caring” for others but I am also very afraid to start living for myself. I think something bad would happen if I go end live my life. There is something deeper and I don’t know what.. But Iam more than ready to stop with my behaviour since I am only doing to avoid anger and conťempt…

    • I have never had anyone express what you just did about not wanting to be successful in case it might make someone feel inferior! This is me! I have 7 siblings and several
      who are threatened everytime I lose weight and call me mean names to my face. I have other talents I keep hidden so others won’t say mean things. Have to stop this madness now!

  2. Thank you for those thoughts. I am at present dealing with the issue of a controlling friend. She is a sweet gentle, never angry person but I realize she has been controlling me for years with her niceness. I have not been able to understand why I am so angry at her and yet feel guilty at the same time. I actually cut off the friendship several months ago but can not get free of the guilt at doing so. I keep asking how could I be so unkind to such a nice person! She is not aware that she has been controlling me but I realize that she has had a controlling hook that has dug deep into my psyche and wants to suck me back to that relationship. I need to cut that off and will do so.

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