Today I heard myself utter the words “I just don’t think that people-pleasing is always productive,” and I’ve never been so surprised by (and also… proud of?) myself ever before.
I’ve always been afraid of conflict. I think it stems from my overwhelming need to be said people-pleaser, but, as I grow, my feelings are changing.
According to Psychology Today, “a people-pleaser is one of the nicest and most helpful people you know. They never say ‘no’.”I realize that many people do this for many different reasons, but typically (as is in my case) it’s to avoid conflict.
It’s seen as helpful, but in actuality, it’s the opposite.
For example, let’s envision a day of registration at a college—a day when students and parents alike are given mounds and mounds of information to process and remember. Now, let’s add the free Wi-Fi that they’ve been asking for to the mix. Of course, the college wants to seem gratuitous and “isn’t free Wi-Fi always a wonderful attraction to incoming students?” There doesn’t seem to be much of a downfall to this brand of people-pleasing… that is until you ask yourself how much information retention is going to happen when everyone’s eyes are glued to their twitter feeds and not to the presenters feeding them valuable information.
Therefore, although the students and parents may ask for free Wi-Fi, it may not be beneficial to them if the institution were to give it to them. It’s a counterproductive incentive. And might even come across as an invitation to freely pull out a phone, even if the timing isn’t entirely appropriate.
This is true for a lot of people-pleasing instances. So why do we continue to do it? Well, for me, as I previously stated, I know that it comes from a deep-rooted fear of confrontation. I’d rather be uncomfortable than in the midst of an argument.
Now, I’m learning that standing up for what you believe in is much more self-defining. So, while I realize that, yes, I still people-please in small instances such as deciding on where to eat with my friends (because, honestly, change is a process, and we must still compromise and pick our battles), I will stand up for myself on the things that I believe in. I won’t bend to match someone else’s opinion just because I’m afraid of what they will think of mine.
Still, I will be quick to listen because conflict is best done with understanding and kindness. You can disagree without becoming angry. God calls us to instruct gently, and to not be quarrelsome. I wish that we could find more people who tried to follow this doctrine. If we did, the world might be happier, might be more willing to share their thoughts, and would be less likely to opt for people-pleasing (for the fear of conflict would be gone!). Because like I said before—people-pleasing isn’t as productive as we’ve made it out to be.