What is a People Pleaser?

I’ve been coaching People Pleasers since 2013, and I am a People Pleaser in recovery myself (sometimes I referred to myself as a Nice Guy). I’ve read everything there is to read on the subject, and there are some common themes plus some variations and differences.

First, there is a difference between people pleasing (a type of behavior) and People Pleasers (a type of person). Almost everyone engages in some form of people pleasing at some point in their lives, but People Pleasers do this kind of behavior with high frequency and consistency, either in specific situations or generally in all social situations.

What is people pleasing – the behavior?

On the surface, it often looks like “good” behavior – the kind of words and actions that the local culture approves of and finds emotional pleasing or comfortable to experience and witness.

This is different in different places around the world. In Japan, deferring to elders is good. In Nigeria, allowing family to live with you is good. In Australia, being able to get through a whole box of beers in 30 minutes is good. In Brazil, being an extroverted dance enthusiast is good. In New Zealand, being modest about your strengths is good.

People pleasing is about doing what is considered good by your family, friends, partner, culture and community, as often as possible. But unlike genuinely kind and confident people who do good simply because they have decided for themselves that it’s the right thing to do, people pleasing is about doing it for darker reasons.

See, it’s not so much WHAT you do, but WHY you do it.

People pleasing is when you do what you know other people think is good (even if you disagree), so that they will feel happy and comfortable, which will make them like you, approve of you, validate you as a “good person”, and give a chance of maintaining a lovable reputation.

In people pleasing, the PRIMARY motive is to be seen as good. This is not the same as doing what is right because it aligns with your principles. This is not the same as doing something simply because it makes society a better place. Sure, those reasons might also be present, but they’re not the main reason (if you’re honest with yourself).

This video goes more into how to tell if you’re doing things for the right reasons:



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What is a People Pleaser?

A People Pleaser, therefore, is simply someone who consistently does “good” things for the reason of trying to control people’s emotions to make them feel a certain way that seems to benefit the People Pleaser.

They won’t do the “right” thing if the social cost is too high. If being a good person would also upset, offend, disappoint or enrage people, then the People Pleaser simply won’t do it. People Pleasers will back down from conflict, humiliation, rejection and difficulty if making people happy is easier.

People Pleasers compromise their values when doing the right thing would risk disapproval. This might not happen in all situations, but it will consistently happen in situations where the People Pleaser considers the “risks” to be too high.

While some People Pleasers are like this all the time, others are only like this when they feel unsafe. Maybe it’s with an aggressive sibling. Maybe it’s at work where your paycheck is controlled by your boss’s mood. Maybe it’s with the partner who you’re scared will leave you.

How can I know if I’m a People Pleaser or just a good person?

As people pleasing is no different on the surface from accepted and “good” forms of behavior, it can be easy to tell yourself that you’re simply good, and not fake or manipulative or needy. 

People Pleasers don’t like to face the truth about who they really are, because they are so attached to seeing themselves as a good person that they would be devastated to find out they’re the opposite.

So take a breath, because here are some dark truths that will show you if you’re a People Pleaser or just a good person.

People Pleasers spend a lot of time worrying what others will think. They constantly try to read people’s minds to figure out what the next best move will be. They lose sleep over finding out someone hates them, and they obsess much more over negative feedback than positive. Confident people don’t care that much how others react.

People Pleasers avoid conflict and confrontation. Setting boundaries and standing up for yourself are definitely good behaviors, so if you fail to do this as often as you please people, that’s a red flag that your pleasing is really about making people like you. Confident people are assertive and respect themselves, willing to risk disapproval to do what’s right.

People Pleasers hide their true preferences and desires, especially sexual attraction. They believe that they should sacrifice their own needs and hide their true desires for fear of upsetting people and getting rejected.

It’s good to be honest with others about what you like and dislike, and what you want, even if others don’t want it or would make fun of you or would try to take it away from you. And you can’t hope to build good relationships if your potential partners don’t know how you really feel.

People Pleasers try to control others with help and advice. It’s good to allow people to make their own mistakes and learn from trial and error. It’s good to let people process life through the whole range of emotions, including the ones you find uncomfortable like anger, confusion, fear, sadness and anxiety.

If you find that your “support” is often about steering people away from doing things “wrong” by your standards, or it’s about making people feel “better” so that YOU feel more comfortable, then you’re not being a good person, you’re being controlling.

Try NOT helping anyone with anything for a whole month (unless they beg for it). If that idea makes you squirm, then you’re a People Pleaser.

People Pleasers have a secret point-scoring system. They are mostly only nice to people when there’s something in it for them. They almost never help anonymously, because then they can’t fulfill their real goal of getting approval and validation.

If you’re nicer to people who will thank you and notice you than you are to people who take you for granted or don’t even realize you’ve helped, then you’re people pleasing. If you get mad at people for being ungrateful and consider helping someone who won’t notice “pointless”, then you’re a People Pleaser.

For more on this, check out my video about covert contracts:

And finally, People Pleasers hide their “negative” emotions, which means any emotions that are not generally accepted and liked in your culture and inner circle, just so that other people always feel comfortable around you (and therefore like you more). You’re not being good when you do this, you’re being fake, which means you’re a People Pleaser.

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Thanks for reading

Hope to speak to you soon

Dan Munro



Wanna escape Nice Guy Syndrome and become a confident authentic man? Take my social confidence quiz now to receive free advanced content: 



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