How to be less of a people-pleaser and learn the art of saying ‘no’

Wirral transformational mind coach and therapist Alison Blackler of 2MindsNLP says offering support to others is positive but when the urge to help becomes a compulsion it can have a negative effect on our wellbeing

Supporting someone else is a positive thing to do but people-pleasing can become compulsive


Ask yourself these three questions: Do you try to please others and never seem to be able to? Are you finding yourself exhausted and stressed? Do you overcompensate trying to have people like you?

It is so common to find ourselves in a position of a ‘people-pleaser’. From this place, we tend to put other people and their needs before ourselves.

Just for clarity, this is quite different from helping each other out and being supportive. We can all do that successfully.

Always saying ‘yes’

For some, saying “yes” is a habit – for others it’s almost an addiction that makes them feel like they need to be needed. This can heighten their sense importance make them feel and like they’re making a real contribution to someone else’s life.

Typically, the intense need to please and care for others is often deeply rooted in a fear of rejection … “If I don’t do everything I can to make this person happy they might leave or stop caring for me.” 

There can be a tendency to become overly nice and completely submissive to others’ requests in order to make them happy. People-pleasers yearn for outside validation. Their personal feeling of security and self-confidence is based on getting the approval of others.

Alison Blackler, founder of Wirral-based 2MindsNLP. Picture by Daniel Dawson Photography


People pleasers are usually at serious risk of burnout and exhaustion. Their sleep can be effected, their own self care can be neglected, with intense feelings of anxiety and getting upset all based on the huge pressure they have put themselves under.

Fear and resentment

When we are desperately trying to please others, we are rarely pleasing ourselves. Often we have our own ideas and hopes and ultimately we will feel disappointed, frustrated or exhausted.

We can often feel like we are unable to say no or express our own needs for fear of the repercussion. While pleasing others does feel like we are gaining, the reality is it will result in a lack of fulfilment and satisfaction, which subsequently can build up as resentment.

It can be like a vicious circle; we need to feel loved, we adapt ourselves to try to make the person like us and then we become unfulfilled. Then we start all over again.

There are a number of things you can do to change this mindset:

  • Realising that you have a choice
  • Learning to say ‘no’ or ‘not right now’ setting a realistic timescale
  • Set your own boundaries and priorities
  • When someone asks you a favour, stop and check in with yourself, ‘can I do this right now?’
  • Check whether you are being used or manipulated
  • Be more assertive

If we fuel our journey on the demands of others we will run out on petrol.

Happy and fulfilled

When we are able to check our own boundaries and be assertive with ourselves and others, then we start to feel unfulfilled and happier in our own lives. 

To be successful, we need to be able to look after ourselves first rather than at someone else’s beck and call.

This can be in any kind of relationship, friendships, family or business relationships and most definitely in intimate ones. When we take more control of what is right for us then we can have personal fulfilment and joy.

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