Are you a people pleaser and have trouble saying no? Are tortured by the idea that someone might not like you? If so… Boy oh boy, do we have an article for you. We were also given permission by the incredible Sarah Cooper (thanks, Sarah!) from The Cooper Review to share her hysterical cartoons about people pleasing (see below).

For some people, they can’t help to want everyone around them to like them. Sometimes, at the sacrifice of their own wants, needs and desires.

The only person I want you to please is you. 

Okay to say ‘No’?!

According to Dr. Susan Newman, people pleasers want everyone around them to be happy. And they will do whatever it takes to keep them that way. They put everyone else before themselves. Dr. Newman said, “for some, saying ‘yes’ is a habit.” For others it’s almost an addiction, it makes them feel like they need to be needed. This makes them feel important and like they are contributing to someone else’s life. So here is what you can do to start saying “no” to others and say “yes” to yourself:

6 Ways to Stop Pleasing

#1 Internal Validation:

Most people pleasers are desperate for validation and appreciation. They want to feel needed, so they become over-the-top helpful and say “yes” to everyone. This makes their confidence purely based on on external forces. The approval of others and not internal forces. I want you to rely on internal validation, not external.

The best way to fight people pleasing is to build up what makes you feel good. If you feel good, you don’t need others to make you feel good. Do activities that make you feel like a ‘baller’. Hang around people who make you feel awesome without having to do anything for them. Remind yourself that you already have a lot going for you, which leads me to my tweetable for today.

[Tweet “People pleasing is an addiction that pleases no one.”]

#2 Start with Small No’s:

It’s hard to go cold turkey on pleasing people so start with small no’s. For example, if you really don’t want to go to a party, but you feel guilty, say you’ll go but you will be a little late. You don’t have to stay the whole night. Or, if someone wants to grab dinner, do a shorter coffee date instead. Start with small no’s to practice for the bigger ones.

#3 Give Yourself Time:

It is extremely hard to say no to someone else’s personal request; it’s even harder when you are a people pleaser. So when a friend asks you to help her find a new outfit, you default to “sure”. Or when a colleague asks you to be a part of their project, you’ll say “okay,” but then immediately you regret it. Then you are angry at them and at yourself for saying yes. That is why I always tell people pleasers not to give an answer immediately. Make a rule that if someone asks you for something, your default answer is, “Let me get back to you.” You can say that you have to check your schedule, your to-do list or your spouse. Do whatever you need to do to buy yourself some time, then you will have some space to think about it and respond on e-mail or text with a polite “no”. This is so much easier than doing it in person and gives you time to make the right choice. Remember: the right answer, “Let me get back to you” is always best.

#4 Know Your Goals:

It’s much easier to say no to other people’s lives when you know what you are saying yes to in your life. Once a week I sit down and re-evaluate my long-term goals and short-term goals for the week. I want to know what I am doing this week that gets me closer to where I want to be in 5 years. When I have this clear in my head, it’s much easier to say no to a request because I have to make time for my goals right now.

So my questions for you are:

  • Where do you want to be in 5 years time?
  • What are you doing right now to get yourself there?

These answers will make it easier for you to focus on you.

#5 Get Rid of Toxic People:

As you have been reading this article, is there one specific person you have been thinking of? You might have a toxic person in your life who is constantly asking you for things that you are sucked into. If you have a toxic person, please get them out! Check out my post on the 7 Types of Toxic People.

#6 Stop Apologizing:

When you say no, say it with meaning. Don’t apologize because you have to prioritize. Don’t feel bad that you have something to take care of. You are standing up for you; and remember, if you don’t stand up for you, no one else will.

I know you can do it! It’s time to stop people pleasing and start doing what is right for you! I am rooting for you like Rob Schneider in The Waterboy.

You can do it

Bonus: The People-Pleaser’s Guide to Pleasing People

#1 Always seem happy with everything

sarah cooper

Sarah Cooper /


Never show negative emotions. Make sure there’s always a smile on your face. This will make people feel good, as if you’re totally fine with everything all the time. They’ll love being around you even if they sometimes feel really uncomfortable.

#2 Never end a phone call

sarah cooper

Sarah Cooper /


When talking on the phone, never be the first to say you have to go. Wait for the other person to say she has to go before saying goodbye. This gets tricky with telemarketers sometimes, but remember, you need them to like you, too.

#3 Never say what you want

sarah cooper

Sarah Cooper /


If someone asks you what you want to do, ask him what he wants to do. Never be the first to offer up a suggestion. This way you avoid disagreeing with anyone as well as any real enjoyment in your life.

#4 Offer to do things you don’t want to do

sarah cooper

Sarah Cooper /


If there’s something you know your friend would like, offer to do it for him, even if you have no intention of doing it or don’t even know how to do it. Ultimately, this will piss him off, but in the moment it will feel like you really made him happy.

#5 Get so used to going along with other people that you don’t even know who you are anymore

sarah cooper

Sarah Cooper /


Always go along with the group even if the group wants to do something you hate. Get so used to saying yes to everything that you forget your own likes and dislikes. Your suffering is the key to fitting in anywhere you want to go.

#6 Don’t ask for anything

sarah cooper

Sarah Cooper /


Never come right out and ask anyone for anything. Always give them several ways of saying no, if you even end up asking them at all. People will appreciate how much you don’t need anyone and you’re fine being all by yourself and God why are you so alone.

#7 Always leave without saying goodbye

sarah cooper

Sarah Cooper /

The Irish exit is your friend. It means you don’t have to admit to anyone that you don’t really want to be there anymore. The last they’ll remember of you is what a great time you were having, and none will be the wiser.


About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People has been translated into more than 16 languages. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma. She regularly leads innovative corporate workshops and helps thousands of individual professionals in her online program People School. Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more.


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