People Pleasers in Conflict

Conflict
Management Blog
by Cinnie Noble

For this week’s blog I thought I would bring back a blog that was very popular a few years ago. So, this one is from the archives (originally posted January 12, 2016):

Some of us have a pattern known as people-pleasing. When it comes to conflict this may refer to a tendency to avoid expressing ideas, thoughts and feelings when they differ from another’s for fear of offending them. Afraid to say no, or to defend ourselves, or having a tendency to comply rather than assert a different idea or suggestion, are other examples of behaviours that reflect people-pleasing.

This way of being often means living our lives according to other’s values and beliefs and, as a consequence, acting in ways that are continually out of alignment with ourselves. Having low self-esteem and trouble envisioning ways to manage dissension that will serve us better are commonly prevalent. This makes engaging in conflict a huge challenge.

Not all people are fully aware of how our people-pleasing patterns adversely affect conflict engagement. Others of us are fully aware, but prefer to accommodate others or give in so as not to be part of a conflict. In any case, we may experience self-anger, feelings of inauthenticity and dishonesty about the conflict and its impact.

It’s not a straightforward and easy process to change people-pleasing patterns. However, the following questions may help to open up an internal conversation to be able to gain some sense of who you prefer to be if you tend to be a people-pleaser in some or all conflicts – and don’t want to be.

  • Consider a conflict in which you know you behaved as a people-pleaser. What was that situation?
  • In what ways did you interact as a people-pleaser?
  • How did being a people-pleaser help you? How did it not help you?
  • What need (or needs) remains unmet for you due to being a people-pleaser in that situation?
  • If you were good to yourself rather than the other person, what would you have said or done differently in that situation?
  • How would it feel if you said or did that (your answer to the previous question)?
  • What different outcome might have resulted if you said or did what would have pleased you rather than the other person?
  • If you are a people-pleaser and, for instance, have trouble disagreeing, expressing the impact of the conflict, asserting your views or saying no, what messages might that convey?
  • What messages do you prefer to convey (if you don’t like the ones you referred to in the previous question for you)? How are those messages more aligned with your values and beliefs?
  • What will it take to interact in ways that are more aligned with your values and beliefs?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
                        author

Cinnie Noble

Cinnie Noble is a certified coach (PCC) and mediator and a former lawyer specializing in conflict management coaching. She is the author of two coaching books: Conflict Management Coaching: The CINERGY™ Model and Conflict Mastery: Questions to Guide You. MORE >

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