How many times per day do you find yourself saying something nice just to people-please? Things like saying “no problem” when it really is a problem…or hearing yourself say “sorry” when you’ve done nothing to be sorry about can really start to wear on you. You’re a good person, right? You can’t say no to helping a friend out even when you are exhausted. When you are made to feel uncomfortable you just sit there and take it rather than making your real feelings known. Face it! You are just too darn nice! A recent major university study sites that this “happy face” approach to difficult situations is particularly common for women. Women are 66% more prone to smile through tense situations then men. It should come as no surprise that women have been taught to people-please from an early age. Girls are taught to be kind, to share, to help others and to put aside their feelings in order to make others feel more comfortable. This happy-face habit can actually prove detrimental over the long haul. Disregarding you own personal needs has been linked to an increase risk of anxiety, depression and other health issues. Just think about a pressure cooker that can’t let off steam. Hiding how you truly feel can take a toll on relationships. Keeping things bottled up can ultimately lead to an explosion that is not good for anyone. The problem is that we automatically think that the opposite of too nice is too bitchy…right? So how do we step off the people-pleasing treadmill and stand up for ourselves without crossing over to the bitchy dark side? Here are some ideas to help: FORMING A QUESTION IS A POLITE WAY OF MAKING YOUR EXPECTATIONS KNOWN Saying Yes Isn’t Always the Best Answer: Take a look at your calendar. How did it get so full? You can’t possibly do everything and still have time for yourself or your family. Over booking is a common problem for people pleasers who think that an immediate yes if the only way to go. After all, you don’t want to disappoint anyone. The answer to this is: Take a beat, don’t give an immediate answer and when you do respond, avoid the word “no”. The word “no” has been shown to actually set off a physical stress response for both parties. The best strategy is to let the person with the invitation know that you will get back to them with an answer after you have been able to check your calendar. Then go back to them with a firm, nicely worded refusal that avoids the word “no”. “I wish I could but I already have plans.” No need to go into details. Easy. Stop Apologizing When You Are Not At Fault: Someone at work has missed a deadline, yet you are the one saying sorry for following up. (“Sorry for piling on, but…”). What you are actually doing is apologizing in advance for making that person feel uncomfortable. All that does is make you look weak. Not good. Fix the problem by making your demand for performance in the form of a question. This is a polite and direct way of making your expectations known. Next time try asking: “Could you send me the project by 3pm? I need to approve it no later than end of day.” You have made you expectations clear without being accusatory. Win. Win. Fix The Awkward Situation: We have all been in those situations where someone in the group goes a little bit too far in sharing very personal information about themselves. The next thing you know is that you are following suit by revealing a little too much about your own life. Awkward. Reciprocal over-sharing is actually another common trait of people-pleasers that focuses on empathy and our need to help the other person not to feel out of place when that’s actually exactly where they are. Let’s make sure you never have a cringe-worthy moment again. The key is to shift the focus back to a more neutral position for the group as a whole. Say something like: “I get what you’re saying, but”…and move to another topic. You’ve used tact to get the conversation back to middle ground without revealing too much about yourself. Also, you have gently let the person know where the more comfortable boundaries of the group actually lay. You Actually Deserve The Compliment: You get a compliment from your boss at the weekly staff meeting and you laugh it off with “I was only doing my job.” We don’t want to appear to be bragging so we actually try to down-play the accomplishment. This kind of reaction has a really bad negative connotation. It says you don’t deserve to be recognized and you’ve disrespected the person giving you the compliment. Just saying Thank You can make you feel weird at first. But suck it up. Thank you actually is the best response. But if you must, you can soften the thanks by saying: “Thank you, it’s kind of you to say.” Or you can add that you appreciated the opportunity to work on the project. Everyone feels good. All this goes to prove that you can be nice and no push-over at the same time. It’s nice to be nice…just not too nice.