Are You A People Pleaser?
Have you ever known you should say 'no' something, but found yourself (reluctantly) saying 'yes'?
Maybe it was a meeting. Or, coffee with someone that wasn't a great use of the time God has given you. Or maybe it was joining a board, or serving as a volunteer in an organization that isn't a good fit given your stage of life.
In other words, are you a people pleaser?
If you are, you're normal. But with God's grace, there's hope for people like us.
In today's video (and post), we'll cover:
- why we need to say 'no'
- 3 principles for evaluating any opportunity (instead of caving in)
- a simple formula for saying 'no' when you have to (which should be more and more often!)
Ready? Let's dive in!
A People Pleaser Case Study: A Time I Almost Blew It
Not long ago, a good friend asked me to speak at event he was holding for his area ministry. I LOVE this friend, and I LOVE his ministry.
So, when he asked me to speak, I almost said 'yes' on the spot.
Problem was, it would take me over a day's work to do the preparation, speak, and travel there and back. At a time when I've already got a ton on my plate.
I really, really wanted to say 'yes' but felt like I needed to say 'no'.
The Consequences Of Our People Pleasing
I know you guys get it.
You have a million things flying at you everyday: emails, texts, phone calls, mail, requests from family, friends, pets and random robocallers you can't get rid of.
You manage to pass on most of it, but find yourself caving when you probably shouldn't. And it all starts to add up, until you don't have any margin, work-life balance or the priorities God is calling you to. Including our most important priority: pursuing God himself.
And, to the point of this blog - to help you get ready for, and enjoy, a marriage that glorifies God, serves others, and brings you joy - there's a sneaky cost here.
If we indulge our inner people-pleaser and keep saying 'yes' to everything, then we find ourselves without quality time for our boy/girlfriend, fiance(e) or spouse. We get disconnected, and start to struggle.
In fact, my wife and I are dealing with this right now. Which is partly why I'm making this video.
So, how we start to move in the right direction?
People Pleasing: Two Bad Solutions
So usually, we respond in one of two ways.
- A quick 'yes' - when a request comes at some of us, we often just say 'yes' without really evaluating. It takes the relational pressure off... for now.
- A knee-jerk 'no' - others, like me - usually when we're stressed out - give a terse 'no' without really considering the request. Time saved, right?
Of course, sometimes we give in to requests we shouldn't, get overwhelmed, then do a one-eighty. We do our snapper turtle impersonation and bite everyone's head off by saying 'no' to everything.
While these approaches seem different, they're really not. Both make people our faulty starting point.
People-pleasers make others their starting point, which the bible calls the fear of man. As Proverbs 29:25 reminds us, this will prove to be a snare.
Those who lean toward 'no' are focused on pleasing ourselves. We set ourselves up as self-sovereigns where our agenda dominates.
A Third, Better Way
Instead of focusing on others or ourselves, God calls us to focus on him and his will for each moment.
Ephesians 5:16-17 talks about 'making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.'
It may not be easy to discern God's will, but desiring it is the critical, necessary first step. In all honesty, this is a massive struggle for me in the moment. Maybe you can identify.
How To Evaluate Any Opportunity (Before You Respond)
Instead of just saying 'yes' and caving to the pressure, here's a simple alternative in three steps.
When an opportunity comes up...
- Don’t respond in the moment! Thank them, then let know you'll think or pray about it.This overcomes our natural tendencies, and buys us time to...
- Think and pray about it. Yes, now you have to actually think and pray about it. Doing this well may require some time, which is usually a sacrifice.
- Seek outside input if necessary. It's hard to know what to do when you're so close to the situation, so get some external perspective if you need it. Proverbs 11:14 illustrates the principle: 'Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.'
The Power Of A Positive No
So, are you a people pleaser? If you are, knowing why you need to say 'no', and when to do it are huge.
But you also need to know how to do it in a way that's clear, yet doesn't burn any unnecessary bridges. We can't always guarantee that someone will respond well, but we can always honor God.
Here's a simple, 3-part formula I'm re-gifting from Michael Hyatt. It's called a ‘positive no’, and I’m adapting it to make it more centered around God, rather than ourselves.
Here it is: yes-no-yes.
- ‘yes’ to God and your sense of his calling in your life. First, you affirm God's will for this situation in your heart. Remember, he's our focus. Then, you affirm the other person, and their request.
- ‘no’ - then, you give a clear 'no' that doesn’t open the door to doing it again later, in the future. Don't give the person false hope, which ultimately breaks trust and will tempt you to get off-track. If things change later, you can always say 'yes' then.
- 'yes' - affirm the other person again, and offer another solution. You let them know how much you value them and their request, and point them to someone, or something else, that might be helpful. If you can, of course.
To return to the example of my friend's request that I speak, here's what my 'positive no' looked like.
Yes - I thanked him (sincerely) for the chance to serve his ministry, and affirmed that the event, and his ministry, are really valuable and important.
No - I let him know that, after thinking and praying, I simple didn't have the time to do it. I didn't offer to do it 'another time' because I probably won't have more time later, either.
Yes - I offered to pray that he would find another speaker, and, let him know of any ideas that might come to mind.
As I anticipated, he totally understood, and wasn't offended in the least. Not long after, he found another speaker who can have a longer-term relationship with his area ministry and the people who attended. (I had no reason to worry or fear!)
Worth The Practice
This is a formula you can return to again and again. Again, not so you can get your way, but so you can preserve the margin you need to focus on God's priorities and relationships for your life.
Like your spouse, fiance(e) or boy/girlfriend.
We all have the same amount of time, and all the time we need to do all that God is calling us to do.
If we learn to step back in the moment, then think-pray-seek input, we can make a good decision. When the answer is 'no', a 'positive no' will help us love the other person in a way that affirms them, and yet preserves the priorities God has given us.
In closing, I want to challenge you to start practicing this today. You will feel an unbelievable amount of peace and freedom.
In what situations do you think it would be most helpful for you?
Let me know by leaving a comment below.