How to Stop Being a People Pleaser

It’s easy to say no when it comes to giving that sleazy guy your number. But not so much when it comes to your parents, friends, siblings or bosses.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
It’s easy to say no when it comes to giving that sleazy guy your number. But not so much when it comes to your parents, friends, siblings or bosses.
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Despite the “I am woman, hear me roar” mantra taking hold of ladies everywhere, there’s one thing that seems to be holding us back – the need to constantly please and not let people down. Clinical psychologist Jo Lamble says, “Women find it harder to tell people no because we are social creatures who want to be liked. There’s a fear of negative evaluation.”

Thinking like this can sometimes be exhausting. So, we’ve got advice on how to start putting your own needs first.


Your friends are keen for another boozy night out, but you want to stay in and save some cash.

It’s a serious dilemma of having FOMO and your inner voice saying “Help me, I’m poor”. “It’s normal to want to be part of the group and say yes,” says Lamble. But when one drink turns into bottles of wine, a hangover and an overdrawn account, it doesn’t seem worth it.

WHAT TO DO: Lamble advises being assertive and telling them the truth; they are your friends, after all. If they’ve seen you ugly cry, they aren’t going to drop you for wanting to save up. “Don’t make up a dodgy excuse,” Jo suggests. “Tell your friends you love hanging out and can’t wait to go out again but you’re going to stay home and save.”


An ex suddenly wants to see you again, but you’re single and loving it.

He left. You cried. Facebook said he partied. You eventually moved on, then BAM! He makes a reappearance. Well, this makes things a little complicated. “You might not want him to feel rejected. You want to be nice and not let him down,” say psychologist Jade Tasevski.

WHAT TO DO: You’ve got some thinking to do – weigh up the pros and cons of meeting him. Next, consider the amount of growing up you’ve done while he was out of your life because your goals in life might have changed. If you don’t want to pursue anything romantic, he’ll might be glad for the honesty and the two of you may become good friends in the long run.


You have a school group project and your team has given you most of the work… again.

Group assignments are always a gamble. And if you’re paired with a couple of duds who couldn’t care less, you’ll feel like you need to work extra hard without speaking up. Jo says, “You don’t want to complain or seem unreasonable.”

WHAT TO DO: Do up a chart of the work distribution and tell them that you have too much on your plate and the workload should be better delegated. You don’t just want to be labelled as a pushover. “Try saying ‘I’m concerned I won’t get all this done. Can we rethink who does what so it’s more even?’”


Your boss asks you to work late tonight even though you’ve clocked in major OT this week.

It can often be harder to say no to your boss at work, especially when your boss seems to be working harder and staying later than you do. Jo believes that when women stand up for themselves in the workplace, they worry that they’ll be seen as diffi cult, bitchy or even arrogant. And when that happens, they might be passed up for a promotion.

WHAT TO DO: Explain your situation honestly and come up with a compromising counter-offer. Let your boss know that while you are happy to work late most of the time, in this circumstance you have particular commitments that can’t be shifted. If you have any other suggestions to help the situation, offer these so they know you do genuinely care. If you’re good at your job and work hard, chances are your manager will be cool with it.

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