Why People-Pleasing Creates Shallow Relationships

Written by
Michael Wells

Why People-Pleasing Creates Shallow Relationships

Written by
Michael Wells

Why People-Pleasing Creates Shallow Relationships

Written by
Michael Wells

Originally answered on Quora...

Do you feel that people-pleasers can change and think of themselves first?

Yes, absolutely.

However, for most people, the switch you’re describing is actually the opposite - and the reason is that people pleasing is usually a selfish act.

Confusing eh?

The truth is that if you dig into the psychology behind people pleasing, most people do it because they think it will win them a reward. Friends. Love. Sex. An improved social standing.

So while on the surface, people pleasing looks like giving, in truth it’s usually all about getting.

The Seductive Myth of People-Pleasing

We all want things, and there are many approaches we could take towards improving our worlds- there are a few reasons people-pleasing is becoming so common a choice;

  1. People-pleasing feels safer. It’s entirely non-confrontational, and difficult for someone to challenge, because it looks so positive on the surface.
  2. For men, masculinity has been somewhat demonized over the past few decades, which makes men in particular feel unsafe saying “I want.” Men feel a lot of confusion about what it means to be assertive in a healthy way, v. overbearing or demanding in an unhealthy way. The book No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert Glover is a fantastic explanation of this worldview and the harm it causes to relationships.
  3. Social media means everyone is connected. So a what would have been a small spat with your neighbor 20 year ago is now a huge online war that everyone knows about. Pissing people off feels far riskier (it’s not), so we try our hardest not to make “enemies.”

The reality however is that people-pleasing is a very weak way to live. It’s very inauthentic, where you are continually performing for someone else, doing what you think will keep them happy.

In the end, no one wins, and these inauthentic relationships remain shallow.

Becoming Authentic

The process of changing from a people-pleaser to an authentic person is something that my self-development group BROJO specializes in, since it’s such an important topic.

It comes down to understanding these things;

  • People-pleasing is unhelpful. It’s in-authentic, since you’re not saying what you truly feel, and that means no one actually knows you. You can’t build deep relationships with a “pretend version” of yourself. It’s also exhausting to live this way; social interactions become hard work.
  • Healthy confrontations are helpful. They might push some people away, but those people were bad fits in your social world. Those same confrontations will bring other people far closer, because they know who you are and can trust what you stand for. Think of it as weeding your garden. People pleasers NEVER weed their garden, so they spend a huge amount of energy feeding weeds - while the flowers and fruit trees get no water or space to grow.
  • You can survive someone not liking you. In fact, when that happens, it’s usually a very good thing for you, because they simply remove themselves from your world.
  • Meaningful relationships (fruit trees) are worth 1000x the effort you put into them. Meaningless relationships (weeds) cost you 1000x the effort you put into them.
  • Trying to make someone happy doesn’t work. No matter how hard you try. Only that person can make themselves happy. So the most effective way to build relationships is to be yourself, 100%, and let other people decide whether you are the right friend/partner/workmate for them. Some people will be attracted, some people won’t, still others might be repelled. That’s all perfect for you, since you end up with the best friends possible, and zero shallow relationships.
  • Giving should be entirely about giving - meaning you give something fully from your heart, because giving makes you happy, and you expect absolutely nothing back. The act of giving, itself, is your reward. This is the opposite of people pleasing.

Give it a go, and remember...

Be the flame, not the moth.

First published on 
. Last updated on 
December 9, 2018

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