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 jenmsmith.com. You can also connect with Jen on Twitter @jennmsmith.