Sally Flint

Pleasing People


I’ve set myself a June challenge, it’s nothing to do with diets or exercise or quantities of books devoured. … read on and see if you’d care to join me.
I was talking to some friends the other day and we unearthed a very similar pattern of behaviour amongst us. It came as a surprise that we have set of similar core traits in how we conduct ourselves, as my perception of our characters is that we are all quite different. Consequently, I wouldn’t have expected it. To a greater or lesser extent we all had the following in common:

  • Not liking to upset the apple cart.
  • Often being overly sensitive to criticism.
  • Always being quick to say sorry if we realise that we are in the wrong and even sometimes when we’re not.

We all fight this instinct and do make strong decisions. We stick to our guns and lead effectively in both our professional and personal lives,  but it comes at some personal cost.
I feel like I have ‘superpowers’ in these traits  and can take them to extremes. There are downsides to being a pleaser. If I know I’ve upset someone and I’m in the wrong (admittedly seldom-kidding!)  I can really ‘overdo’ making amends and live the regret for ages. Even when I’m sure that I am right I still find any kind of conflict upsetting. Over, the years, I’ve fretted over how I can choose to not follow someone’s advice or seem ungrateful for it without giving offence to them. In addtion, I’ve spent way too much of my professional life circumventing conflict and wording tactful emails to reach a desired goal. I guess that could be seen as a positive, but it would be so much easier to just be direct!

Women as Pleasers

I have been pondering if these are traits more likely to be found in women of my age than men? Or I wonder if similar traits are always likely to be found amongst a group of friends because similar types flock together? What do you think ?
I think that I think many women of my generation tend to feel this way  because as girls we were taught to be polite and amenable. This behaviour is praised, so even though I’m a fully fledged 50 year old it is hard to make waves. I will, but I don’t like to do so, Then, because of this, for many of us our first reaction is to be a ‘pleaser’.  Also, perhaps part and parcel of being amenable and a pleaser is presenting as relaxed and chilled and easy going. Therefore it is easy to defer to someone presenting a strong personality.

This all bothers me. I don’t want to confirm so neatly to generational expections! so I’ve decided it is a good time to fight the ‘pleaser within and put away my paper-thin skin. As such these are my June targets:  

  • To be direct.
  • To not over think things a million times for fear of upsetting everyone.
  • To not do a post mortem after every single difficult conversation.
  • To not assume I’m wrong until proved otherwise.
  • To use the time not wasted on ‘worrying’ to do something more productive.

(As an aside, I just shared the content of this blog post with Saint Mick. His response was “so in other words you’re going to be a bloke for a month!”)
I’ll choose to ignore that, it sounded facetious and the first productive thing I will go do is get a cup of coffee and a piece of carrot cake. This is going to be tough for me  – the challenge, not eating the carrot cake, that will be easy!
If you are a pleaser too do you care to join me…?

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