When it’s the holidays, and the family is together, do you stress about how everyone is feeling? You might be a people-pleaser.

Do you think: ”Oh, I hope she doesn’t bring him up.” Or, ”I better not add that to the meal. I know how he complains.” You are always in the kitchen helping prepare a meal. Then when everyone else heads to the living room, you stay behind to clean. Sound like you? You’re definitely living to satisfy others. That’s not a bad thing, but it can be taken too far.

In her book, How To Deal With Difficult People: Smart tactics for overcoming the problem people in your life, Gill Hasson addresses the passive personality. “While passive people are easy-going and easy to like, they can be difficult to deal with. Rather than speak up, passives take the path of least resistance by either avoiding or accommodating people and situations.”

Most times, I have a passive personality. I bought this book thinking I would prepare myself to better deal with those I find hard to handle. I found I am the problem. Passive people are not productive.

I am often unreliable and overcommitted. I have not learned the power of the word “no.” In an effort to please everyone, I  please no one. Someone is always disappointed when a passive person is involved.

In college, I was infamous for being a “flaky” friend. I say yes without thought. Later, I have to reschedule because of my indecisiveness and overcommitted schedule.

Passive people can’t keep up with all of the yeses they dole out.

As people pleasers, we need to be aware that our constant efforts to make everyone happy are driving the most important people in our lives away. Honestly, not everyone deserves your time. I am learning to say yes to the right people.

I have three priorities: first, is my wife. For these first two years of our marriage, I’ve missed many Netflix binges and date nights because I committed to an evening activity at school, because I accepted a freelance job, or because I felt like I needed to be doing something “productive” (like reading a book). There’s nothing more productive than saying yes to my marriage.

Second, there is my family. I cannot tell you how many times I missed a call with my parents, or a weekend with my in-laws, or a chance to see my sister and her family because of prior engagements. I mean, how many free online seminars on self-publishing a book should one guy attend? Answer: zero.

Then there are my friends. I spent most of my college career telling them I couldn’t hang out for less critical events. I still have that habit. I’m flaky. I will commit to a game night, but I end up canceling due to another event I promised to attend. It’s time I learn to say no. Pleasing everyone is impossible. You can’t serve on every committee, attend every meeting, tackle every assignment, or bake every cake.

Give yourself a break. Write down the three to four people and a few priorities and stick to that list. Your family. Your friends. Your job. Nothing more. I’m going to start keeping a journal to help me reflect on whether or not I am trying to please everyone. But I’m not committing to this journal. If it gets in the way, junk it. PTO in your way? Cross it out. Did the boss ask you to work another week of overtime? You’re busy.

You’re occupied with what matters most.


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