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    Six Symptoms of the “Disease to Please”

    November 20, 2014

    imageI recently heard someone say that people-pleasing is not actually about pleasing people; it’s about pleasing yourself by doing or saying things that will get you the kind of response you need from people to make you feel okay. I quite agree.

    So how do you know if you’re a “pleaser”? Here are what I believe to be six symptoms of the “disease to please.”

    1. Undue apologies. Pleasers are always apologizing unnecessarily. For example:

    “I am sorry I missed church (or the book club meeting or mothers’ group).”
    “I am sorry I didn’t answer your message right away (the minute or hour or day you sent it).”
    “I am sorry I couldn’t answer the phone when you called.”
    “I am sorry I couldn’t bake for the bake sale this Saturday.”

    In each of those cases, it is both unnecessary and inappropriate to apologize for living life and having priorities or unforeseen circumstances. Replace “I’m sorry” with non self-blaming phrases like, “I’d love to chat but I need to cook dinner.”

    2. Undue explanations. Pleasers feel the need to explain everything, even when no one is asking for an explanation. Unnecessary explanations creep into everything from Ebay descriptions (“I’m selling this dress because I gained weight”) to daily living (“I can’t come to your jewelry party because I just need a night at home.”)

    3. Fear of offending. Pleasers are afraid of offending people any time they express their opinions, no matter how gently and politely they express them (and pleasers tend to be gentle and polite). This is turn leads to symptoms 1 and 2.

    4. Fear of disappointing. If number 3 has to do with words, this one has to do with deeds. (I believe pleasers can be broken into two main categories: those who please by “saying,” and those who please by “doing.”) Pleasers are afraid of letting others down by not doing, doing, doing to exhausting levels. This is turn leads to symptoms 1 and 2.

    5. Inability to say “No.” See number 4. A pleaser cannot say “I’m sorry, I can’t” because she may disappoint. And because people pleasing is so utterly self-centered, not others-centered, the pleaser cannot live with the fact that someone is disappointed and is therefore disapproving of the pleaser. Bending over backward for someone is a guise for selfish grabbing of approval.

    6. Paranoia. Because pleasers are so self-centered, they are often paranoid of being talked about. For instance, do you suspect this post might be about you? (It is not. It is about me, a recovering pleaser. See number 3.) If so, you might be a pleaser.

    What do you think? Have you identified other traits of a pleaser?


    image credit: archive.firstcoastnews.com/news/article/307874/483

    9 thoughts on “Six Symptoms of the “Disease to Please”

    1. Jeff Hatch says:

      Wow! I don’t know what to “say” or how to “feel” about this one! No ‘Apologies” , no “Explanations”, no “Paranoia”. Perhaps “compassion” is rarer than realized. I am truly at a loss here. Thankfully ‘honesty” wasn’t listed in the article. Jeff

    2. Jeff Hatch says:

      Actually I will present a “Fear”. When someone is “Mentally Healthy” they can look at life as a series of choices they are “Free” to make. Sometimes the “Mentally Ill” are “Unable” to view life as such. They may be consumed in a twisted world of false perceptions that are not entirely of their own making. Sometimes , especially in childhood, the cruelty of others so scars them that they feel compelled to “create” a place within them where they can “Feel OK about themselves”. Although it’s unhealthy, they try desperately to insulate and re-insulate this hidden place of false peace. They are powerless in their personal prison and perhaps see no way of complete “Freedom” this side of death. Some choose death. Sometimes Psychology can not “Breach” these inner walls; Only the Sovereign Hand of GOD can. Our compassion may be all that allows them to open their heart and receive the “Healing” that only GOD can give them.

    3. Jeff Hatch says:

      Faith, I did not take it personally and have no problem about the “missing church” part. Who knows why I “over react” to things. I talked with Lynne and she said she didn’t understand why I was directing so much energy at this situation. She then shared how God was speaking to her out of James about faith and works having a balance in life. I am thankful to have her in my life. Please disregard my earlier input- who knows why I reacted the way I did?! I will endeavor to act with more restraint in the future. I am known to be impulsive and that is seldom an asset. You do a Great Job and I am thankful to have found WCC. Maybe it’s because I saw so much of me in the post. That’s not your fault. Jeff

      1. Faith says:

        Thank you, Jeff. I saw so much of me in the post, too! 😉

    4. I agree with everything except point one. While needless apologizing may be a symptom of people-pleasing, such as your examples, I consider a tasteful and timely apology to be one of the most valuable tools of relationship. I’ve created potential enemies by offensive things I’ve said, and only a humble apology has restored the relationship. Sometimes I find out that I alienated someone by something I said but never knew it until they brought it up years later.

      How I wish more people I know would humble themselves and apologize so I wouldn’t have to bite the dust myself and agonize over forgiving them. (Well, if I have to agonize, it only shows I’m in need of more brokenness and a closer relationship with God.)

      I know you know this and are very transparent yourself. But I just wanted to balance the boat a bit rather than give non-apologizers a good excuse to ignore something so extremely valuable.

      I’ve only recently learned people are offended over not receiving a returned call quickly. So now I’m trying to stay on top of that. I should understand, however, because I don’t appreciate not getting a timely response. When someone apologizes for not returning a call promptly, it takes the edge off my negative opinion of him for lack of concern.

      All in all, I’d rather stay on the side of over-apologizing than risking hurting the people I love. When you really love people, you’re willing to humble yourself even if it’s not necessary.

      I’ve made potential enemies at the jail among inmates and officers; when I find out, I go out of my way, even writing a letter, to apologize, to undo the damage. Once I answered an atheist rudely and walked off feeling justified, only to realize I had driven him deeper into atheism. I turned around and went through the extra trouble it took to gain access to the inmate through the locked doors and holler through a tiny trap door for the inmate whose name I didn’t know. He finally came and I apologized for the answer I’d given. He melted right before my eyes and I walked away profoundly grateful I’d responded to the voice of my conscience. Your dad.

      1. Faith says:

        Dad, remember this is a post about pleasers, who habitually offer “undue” apologies.

        Yes, I too hope non-apologizers will not use this as an excuse to avoid apologies. We live in a world of imbalance, where people either do too much, or do too little; say too much, or say too little; “love” too much, or love too little. (By the first “love,” I mean “enable.”)

        As for people who are offended by not receiving a return phone call (or email, or Facebook message) quickly, I think we all know one or two of those. We do them and the world a disservice by catering to their childish demands. They can learn to wait. I am specifically speaking of individuals who look for offenses because they have nothing better to do. Those who are sure you’re standing there ignoring them as they’re leaving a message on your machine, while you’re in fact not even at home to answer the phone.

        Of course common courtesy and professionalism in answering people in an appropriate amount of time is another matter altogether. But that wasn’t what this post was about. 🙂

    5. Katrina says:

      You nailed it for me. I am reading this for a third time. I may re-read it every so often 🙂
      It is so easy to slip back into my old pleasing ways! I have a situation that I need to handle graciously but without undue apologies.
      Grace, such a gift!

      1. Faith says:

        I’m glad this is helpful to you, Katrina. Thanks for your encouragement!

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