Living More AuthenticallyRealizing a Vision

Ending People-Pleasing: Interview With Jen Smith

By April 28, 2010 25 Comments

Today I’m very pleased to have my first ever interview at Wise Living! Jen Smith is a life coach and personal development blogger, and she’s based in England.

I encounter so many blogs and writers online these days, but Jen’s energy really stood out for me. I could feel her kindness and integrity popping off the page.
Over the past several months, Jen’s been on a journey successfully changing her own habits of people-pleasing—which we all know is no small feat.

I asked Jen to share her wisdom about what allowed her to make real change in this area of her life, and the kinds of tools she uses to help her coaching clients do the same.

There’s a lot in here to think about, including many simple, practical steps you can take to reduce people-pleasing in your own life.

You can read more from Jen at her site, Reach Our Dreams., or subscribe to her RSS Feed here. I encourage you to soak up Jen’s positive energy and let it enrich your life.

Tara: You describe yourself as a recovering people-pleaser, which is an issue so many people struggle with. Can you tell us a little bit about how people-pleasing affected you and how you came to recover?
Jen: When I am in ‘people pleaser’ mode I worry too much about other people and what they think … “Are they ok?” “Are they happy?” “What can I do to make them happier?” It is exhausting!
I have realized that people pleasing is often more about me than other people … What I mean by this is that I want others to be happy but more importantly I want them to be happy with me, which ultimately is about me!
I think for many of us this is a lifelong journey. What I am beginning to see is that I have to learn to know myself and what makes me happy and be able to take care of those needs. The more we can do that, the more conversely that we can be there for other people. This isn’t about being selfish, but about being true to ourselves and knowing what works for us and what doesn’t work for us.
Another thing to mention is that it is about letting go of control. It doesn’t mean anything about me if someone else isn’t happy, and it can be draining for others to feel like your happiness depends on them being happy!
Tara: Your point that people pleasing is really about us — not the other people, is so important. That in fact, as you say, it can be draining for those around us to sense that our happiness depends on theirs.

What do you see when you are working with people-pleasers in your coaching practice, and what strategies do you use to help people-pleasers recover?
Jen: I think when you are a people pleaser you know what you are doing on some level or see the pattern when it’s pointed out. I know for myself, people-pleasing was something I was acutely aware of. I knew something was off when I was in that mode, in comparison to genuinely helping people.
One strategy I use is to ask people to start catching themselves when they notice they are people-pleasing, and to implement a new behavior. Learning to say no, being authentic and listening to your intuition are all powerful strategies that make a real difference.
Tara: Yes, about “learning to say no” — can you say more about that? You’ve written about developing your “no” muscle and the surprising results.
Jen: If you are not used to saying no to requests, start with small things and build your confidence up with doing it. That is what I have done and it has helped me realize that it’s not as hard as I used to think it was.
There is a skill to saying no and leaving others feeling good too. For example, I recently said no to a request for my time, but genuinely thought the idea was great. I was honest about why I couldn’t do the request but also made sure I let the other person know that I thought it was a great idea too… Being honest and sensitive at the same time has helped me a lot in this area.
Another thing to mention is the trap of “over-explaining” why you are saying no. This can leave both yourself and the asker uncomfortable. Take the time to get comfortable yourself and why you are saying no first, before you respond. When you have decided to say no, be confident in your decision.
A final tip is if you feel ‘put on the spot’ explain to the other person that you need some time to think about their request and that you will get back to them. I often do that and it helps me take the time to decide what to do. It helps me not agree to things straight away because I didn’t know how to say no in the moment.
Tara: Got it. That idea of really getting comfortable with myself first — why I’m saying no — is such a powerful one. I love these other great tips too: taking time to consider something, watching out for over-explaining, being sensitive and kind while saying now. So simple, but we forget that we have them at our disposal.

In your blog you wrote, “others respect your boundaries when you respect your boundaries.” Can you tell us more about that?
Jen: Great question. I think this relates closely to what I said about saying ‘no’. I used to worry so much about saying no (for example.) I would put the other person’s feelings ahead of my own. I am seeing these days that that helps no-one. Eventually you feel burnt out or resentful or your feelings come out in another way.
Taking the time to know what’s right for yourself helps you be clear. You can then be clear with others. With regards to my quote, I think we do teach others how to treat us. To explain a little more, if we respect ourselves and are clear about our own boundaries, we let others know where they stand and we don’t give mixed signals. They know we respect ourselves and our time and that we expect others to do the same.
Tara: Last but not least, one thing I’m enjoying right now is making up “rules” for living. So, what are the three “rules for living” would you like to share with readers here?
1. Be yourself.
2. Trust yourself. Listen to your intuition.
3. Enjoy life and make the most of each day.
Jen is a Life Coach and Personal Development blogger who can be found at You can also connect with Jen on Twitter @jennmsmith.

Join the discussion 25 Comments

  • Jay Schryer says:

    Hi Tara!

    Jen is a good friend (Hi Jen!) and a wonderful personal development blogger. She does so much to help promote other bloggers and people in general, and it’s good to see her getting some recognition. Like you, I was immediately drawn in by her positive attitude and generous spirit. Thanks for this interview, and Jen, thank you for your awesome advice that you’ve given here, but more importantly, thank you for being you!

  • Jen Smith says:

    Oh Jay! You’ve made my day …. Hi!!! πŸ™‚

    Thank you for such a wonderful comment! I am really touched. πŸ™‚ One of the things I love about blogging is meeting like minded people like yourself and Tara.

    Thank you!

  • Jen Smith says:


    Thank you for interviewing me and your kind words! It has been great connecting with you and a real delight to be here. πŸ™‚

    Jen x

  • There is so much wisdom here! I am really going to take some time to think about these issues in my own life, especially this truth: “I want others to be happy but more importantly I want them to be happy with me, which ultimately is about me!”

    Thanks, Tara, for introducing me to Jen and her blog! I can always trust your instincts about people.

  • Jen Smith says:

    Hi Kristen πŸ™‚

    Great to meet you. I’m really pleased this resonated with you.


    ps – love the name of your blog btw!

  • Wilma Ham says:

    Hi Jen.
    How fun, I just did a talk on The Stepmom’s Toolbox Radio Show about martyrs aka people-pleasers and I too was talking about recovering from that habit.
    Oh it is a huge topic for us women, isn’t it and I love how you have covered it. Getting beyond pleasing people requires skills we simply have to learn and practice and that gives us hope that there is a way out.
    I personally could not believe how sleazy I was and how I sacrificed myself for my own satisfaction. It was a huge shock but a great one to get me into action and do something about it.
    I love your honesty as I do think when you have experienced it yourself at least you know what we can and can’t do and help us with where our real barriers are.
    I also love that your sharing will help us to become more open about it as well, so others can support us in changing that behavior and others can learn from our stories.
    Love to you both, Wilma

  • Jen Smith says:

    Hi Wilma

    What good timing! I think you’re spot on – it really is about learning skills and practice, practice, practice!
    Yes, it is good although hard to see how sleazy these behaviours are. On the other hand, I think it can make us realise that we are not victims in these scenarios.

    Thank you – sharing my journey with these issues has made me realise what a prevalent issue it is for so many people. I think it’s always helpful to know we’re not alone with the challenges we face and as you said it is a good way to support and learn from each other.

    Thanks for your insight Wilma.


  • Topi says:

    I do love an interview post! And, as an almost-recovering people pleaser I’ve really enjoyed your discussion of this topic. I think that subconsciously I see is as a badge of honour to never say “no”, but consciously I know that drains me of energy and enthusiasm that would be better spent in other ways. I think I need to practice saying “no”, so I can get comfortable with it (I’m a chronic over-explainer), and then commit to flexing my “no” muscle a bit more! Thanks for your tips on how to do this.

  • sophiashouse says:

    HI Topi,
    So glad to hear this struck a chord with you and is relevant in your life. Interesting about the “badge of honor” never saying no thing.
    I thought it was interesting how Jen pointed out that just practicing saying no is helpful – starting with little things to develop the skill.
    And yes, loved how she pointed out the over-explaining tendency!
    Thanks, as always, for being part of the conversation here!
    Warmly, Tara

  • sophiashouse says:

    Thanks Cheryl, so glad it spoke to you.

  • sophiashouse says:

    Wilma, I love your use of the word sleazy here – made me laugh because I think so often women think they are being righteous and “good” when they are doing this behavior. We can easily convince ourselves of that and go into martyr mode.
    I agree – this is a huge topic – for women in particular – and its fabulous for us to just be talking about it more and sharing stories of “recovery.”
    Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts.
    Love, Tara

  • sophiashouse says:

    Kristin –
    I so agree – I found that line about “ultimately its about me” to be so fascinating. Usually when I’m people-pleasing its because I’m scared others won’t like me/stick around/think favorably of me, if I say/do what I want to. Really fascinating.
    And I’m delighted that this was your introduction to Jen!
    Hope you are enjoying the new work space lots and sending you all the best,

  • sophiashouse says:

    Jen, thanks so much for being here!

    It feels so nice to read through the comments and see how this topic has struck a chord with people, and how your practical tips are giving people ideas for what to try out in their lives, to help them kick the habit!

  • sophiashouse says:

    Hi Jay,
    Thanks for your words – and for your very heartwarming tweet about this interview!
    Yes, Jen’s positivity and kind spirit is so strong – I could really feel it from the first time I visited her site. It just popped off the page, truly.
    And its true, she really has a remarkable capacity to highlight and “host” other bloggers in such a personal, loving way.

  • It’s always nice to meet new folk through interviews, especially a fellow coach and a Brit. Hi Jen!

    I’ve just come back from a week’s holiday in a sunny French chateau in Bordeaux and it’s amazing the different
    ‘permission’ we give ourselves on holiday…so much easier to say “No, I don’t fancy that,” or “Do you know what I’d really like to do today?” I always coach folk to get more of that holiday clarity in their daily lives.

    The fascinating thing was watching our teenagers unwind. They are so used to being expected to do things at school and feeling they have little chance to refuse. It was almost like watching them get their real voices back. My daughter’s friend lay on a sunbed in the garden reading one day and said “I’m glad you don’t make us do ‘tourism’; this is heaven.” They didn’t complain about sharing the cooking and cleaning either, because they knew that the sooner we got it done, the sooner we could all get back to pottering and doing what we wanted; when life’s simpler, it makes the no’s – and the resoundingYes!‘s so much easier.

    An important topic – thank you both!

  • Jen Smith says:

    Hey Topi! πŸ™‚

    It is lovely to see some familar faces as well as lovely new ones!

    It seems this is an area many of us have struggled with at some time or another. Like Tara, I found it interesting what you said about the “badge of honour” of never saying no. I hadn’t thought of it like that, but now you say it I can see this is what sometimes stops people saying no too. Like maybe saying no is a sign if weakness?

    Practicing saying no and cutting down on over-explaining has been what’s really made a difference to me. I sometimes still find it hard but I am a lot more comfortable with it through practicing it. As I mentioned a big thing that helped me if I felt on the spot is to ask if I can come back to the other person with an answer. It gives me a chance to check what I really want to do and get comfortable with how to say it to the other person too.

    Thanks for your comment Topi – it helped me look at this topic in another way too.


  • Jen Smith says:

    Hello Janice! πŸ™‚

    Yes, it is always great to meet a fellow coach and Brit too!

    You make some really interesting points here… you are right, I think many of us are different on holiday to our day to day lives. I love the phrase ‘holiday clarity’. Definately something to bring more to our ‘normal’ lives…. following our bliss, rather than what is ‘expected’ of us.

    It is fantastic to hear about your observation of your teenagers and them getting their real voices back on your holiday. Your giving them the space to do that is an important factor as well (i.e. not making them do ‘tourism’). Like you do with your teenagers, giving others the space to say what’s right for them and say no if they want to, is a real gift and makes life easier all round!

    Thanks for your insightful comment Janice. The comments here are giving me food for thought for some new posts!


    It sounds like you give them the space

  • Jen Smith says:

    “Thank you* πŸ™‚

  • Peggy Nolan says:

    Hi Tara and Jen!

    People pleasing must be in the air…or how to recover from people pleasing that is! I just did a radio show on the same topic!

    My co-host and I interviewed Wilma Ham of Women Like Me – and while my radio show is geared towards stepmoms, this particular show is for anyone and everyone who’s caught in the trap of being a people pleaser!

    Great article and I can’t wait to meet Jen!

    Thank you!


  • sophiashouse says:

    Hi Peggy!
    Ooh, I look forward to checking this out. I have a long drive this afternoon and this will be my listening choice!
    It really is a topic that deserves a lot of attention…let’s keep talking/thinking/writing about it!
    Warmly, Tara

  • sophiashouse says:

    Hi Janice,
    Thanks for sharing this. Unfortunately, probably the #1 thing we are (really) teaching kids in school is how to subliminate their actual desires because of whatever they are supposed to be doing in the moment.
    So no wonder it takes time and a different context to get back access to those desires…and no wonder so many adults lose touch with what they really want in any given moment.
    Also interesting how when there is more space for doing what we really want, we don’t mind the unpleasant little tasks – like dishwashing – as much.
    By the way – it’s also a credit to the safe environment you’ve created in your family…I know plenty of families who don’t have this kind of dynamic when on vacations or ever….because there isn’t a safe space or constructive communication when people share what they want.
    Hugs to you my dear, Tara

  • Jen Smith says:

    Hi again Peggy!
    It’s funny how that happens isn’t it? I’ll have a listen to your show this afternoon. Great to link up.
    Jen x

  • […] interested, because I have issues with such and such aspect of what’s being proposed…whatever. I want to be nice. To not be the one to cause conflict or make a mess. I don’t want to offend or leave you feeling […]

  • I am wondering what Lara says with this =D


  • Google says:

    No one routes for the evil villan who’s run off with the hero’s beau, same applies to a site that’s been stuck in Google’s naughty corner.
    But unfortunately not every request will get approved.

    The only tab of your concern is Public Templates, and no actions are necessary as it is already on the screen.

We are on a mission to help you realize your playing big dream.
Dive into our resources here: