Hi. I’m Tami. And I’m a recovering People Pleaser.
I am happy to report that most of the time, at this stage of my life, I am successful in living my life doing what is right for myself and my son, and not worrying about what others think. Most of the time I can create boundaries between private and social life, work and play, and desire and obligation.
But every once in a while when my guard is down (sometimes it happens even before noon) I find myself uttering an impulsive “Yes” to an innocent request for my help, or my time, or my pledge. This is when things begin to swirl and fuzz around me.
And it’s not like I drew the curtains and was “Yes-ing” in the afternoon or that I went out “Yes-ing” all night long. No, it started as just ONE. One hasty “Yes” can start the slide down the slippery slope of People Pleasing for me, until I find myself face down in a pile of commitment and obligation trying to be all things to all people, and having a panic attack because I forgot to SCHEDULE a time to PEE!!! Who’s with me? Who’s off the wagon right now?
Here is a super secret to staying on the People Pleaser Wagon. Whenever anyone asks you to be involved in something in any way, smile and say “Let me get right back to you on that.” It’s an easy and polite way to buy a little time to shove the People Pleaser back in the cupboard, and to check-in with yourself. Do you have the time, the energy, the room in your life to say Yes?
If so, great! Yes away! If not, here is another line for you, “I’ve checked into it, and I’m afraid I have to decline.” You don’t need to give any more information than that. Be direct, be polite, be firm.
Another time my People Pleaser tends to try sneak out is when I am about to go on stage and deliver one of my Humorous Motivational Keynote Speeches. To combat that feeling, I always have a quick ask Up that I might help at least one person with my words and ideas. It calms my nerves immediately, as it is no longer about me, but about helping others, which is the whole reason I do what I do. That moment of clarity allows me to do the very best job I can.
It is in this spirit of striving to be my best, that I often reach out to participants after an event to get their feedback, positive and constructive, both of which I consider a gift. Often I will use an on-line survey tool where the members who wish, respond to questions anonymously, and the data is sent to me with no identifying information.
While it is nice that almost all of the feedback I receive is of the positive flavor, I have definitely used the constructive comments to develop and grow as a speaker – I have improved the way I move or annunciate or tell a story based upon helpful feedback from willing participants.
Once in my experience I received feedback that was negative to the point of being painful. I was scrolling through the comments about things people had learned and how they would use my ideas in their daily life. It made me smile to hear what a good time 99% of the respondents had laughing and learning with me on that occasion. Then came Anonymous #27 who gave short searing answers that indicated they felt my program was neither informative nor humorous, and actually used the phrase “waste of time” to answer one of the questions. Now, I would absolutely expect that some of the members of my audiences might not agree with all my ideas or even my style of delivery, and I am ok with that. I know I cannot reach all the people all the time, I just have to deliver what I believe to be the best and most helpful tools in the very me-est way I know how. As Wanda Sykes says, “Imma Be Me!” and try my hardest to assure my message reaches the people it needs to.
Here is what I wish I could say to Anonymous #27; I sincerely thank you for taking the time to complete the survey and to share with me the fact that you did not enjoy yourself, I am truly sorry about that, HOWEVER, it would be so helpful if you could please fill out the sections where I ask for ideas on how I, and your experience, could improve, all three of which you left BLANK!
But dropping a Yuck Bomb on my head and running away is not the real problem with Anonymous #27. The real problem with Anonymous #27 is… that I remember the words they wrote, still today, and I do not remember any of the many many many positive responses I received from that same event.
This is where I know my People Pleaser would love to come out and play. And this is where I sit my People Pleaser down hard in a chair, look her in the eye and say, Don’t. You. Dare.
Even if I could ever track down and find Anonymous #27, show up at their office with homemade pesto and apologize for wasting precious moments of their time on Earth, it wouldn’t help either of us because 1) Anonymous #27 would most likely, not even REMEMBER me or the comments they pounded into the keyboard that day and 2) If they DID remember me, neither pesto, nor anything I have to say, is going to change their opinion. Period. It might not even have ANYTHING to do with me.
My friend and speaking mentor Christine Cashen used to hand out surveys at the end of her programs containing boxes to check off, rating aspects of her program from 1 to 10. After several years of seeing nearly all 10’s returned from her satisfied audiences, she was surprised to see all 1’s checked off on a survey being handed to her from the last audience member to leave the room. Believing he had misunderstood the directions she smiled and said with a wink “You know, if you enjoyed the program today, the 10’s are the boxes to check off. “ He leveled a cold stare and replied, “I know. I hated the program today.” Flustered she responded, “I’m so sorry! Why did you hate the program?” He growled, “Because you remind me of my ex-wife and I hate my ex-wife.”
There is NO WAY you could ever People Please your way out of a situation like that!
So, as you continue to embrace your resolutions, strive to broaden your horizons and reach for higher heights in this bright shiny new year, remember that there MAY be people along the way who are not thrilled by your aspirations. Do not let them stand in your way. Do NOT let someone else decide what your tomorrow is going to look like.
Take a deep breath. Take it one day at a time. And take whatever time you need to secure the lock on your People Pleaser cupboard, and climb right back up on that wagon!