Trying To Please Everybody

Are you a people pleaser?  Do you absolutely hate the idea of anyone being unhappy, dissatisfied, or angry at you for any reason?  Is it hard for you to make a decision and take an action when you know it will make someone feel disappointed or mad?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, or even if you answered “sort of” to any of these questions, you are probably trapped in the destructive world of trying to please everybody.

This is especially problematic if you are an executive because part of the job involves making tough choices that some people may not like. If this sounds like you, here are some executive coaching tips to help you shift away from this behavior pattern into something more empowering and useful as an executive.

Why would a person want to please everybody?

There are many, many reasons why a person might feel obligated or compelled to try pleasing everybody.  Sometimes it is because they lack self confidence, sometimes it is because they do not want to disappoint someone whom they care about a great deal, and sometimes is it because they just do not want to be the person that other people describe as mean or heartless.  These are just a few examples, of course, but the common theme is that people who have a strong desire to please everybody usually feel that way because they do not want to deal with the consequences of someone else being displeased.

It may sound sexist, but women are often more prone to falling into this trap than men.  A large number of men are this way, of course, but for women it is typically more of a danger because so much of their lives are spent focusing on the needs of others.  Caring for a child, caring for an aging parent, and the like are common situations women experience where their primary concern is the comfort, safety, and health of another person.  It can be extremely difficult to shift out of this mode, then, when faced with different circumstances.

How to overcome the trap of wanting to please everybody

Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, there are a number of executive coaching tips you can use to help overcome the trap of wanting to please everybody.

Take a look:

1) Someone is always going to be unhappy – Face it, no matter what you do and no matter what you say, you will never succeed at pleasing everybody.  Every time you say something, make a decision, or take an action, there will be somebody somewhere who would rather that you say something different, make a different decision, or take a different action.  Maybe you decided to assign a particular project to a newer employee when a more senior employee thinks she is entitled to have that project instead, or maybe you decided to go with a new Customer Relationship Management system for the company and some like the existing system better.  As you can see, someone is always going to be unhappy.

2) Remember that there is no “everybody” – Sometimes we start thinking of the entire world around us as “everybody”, as though it were a single person with specific wants and needs.  When we try to please that “everybody”, however, we run up against the reality that there is no “everybody” at all.  The world around us is made up of a huge collection of individual people, each with their own wants and needs.  We simply set ourselves up for failure if we set the expectation that it is possible to please “everybody” all the time.

3) Weigh your choices and make your decision – Ultimately, you must weigh your choices, consider your options, and then make your decision about what to say or do.  Make it a habit to make decisions based on the best information available and with an understanding of the effects your decision will have.  As long as you honestly approach the situation with as much objectivity and common sense as possible, you don’t have to accept the complaints or attacks from those who disagree with you.

4) Allow others to disagree – You do not always agree with or enjoy being around every person you meet, so allow them to sometimes feel the same way about you.  Not everyone will be a good fit for you as a friend, a customer, a partner, or the like, and that’s okay.  Let go of the desire to have everyone “like” you and give others the freedom to disagree with or not like you.

5) Be assertive – This is a hard one for many people, because the lines between being assertive, being aggressive, and being a pushover are often a bit blurred.  They in fact shift in different situations and different circumstances, so you must always be conscious of yourself.  It’s okay to stand up for your beliefs, values, preferences, and decisions, but it is not okay to force them on to other people.  On the other end of the spectrum, it is also not okay to abandon your beliefs, values, preferences, and decisions at the first sign of disagreement or unhappiness from someone else.  This only establishes your reputation as a “pushover”, prompting other people to challenge you and disagree with you more often.

Pass it on to others

One of the greatest gifts you can give to another person is passing along the skills you have learned to escape from the trap of pleasing other people.  This does not mean you should lecture or correct someone whom you think is showing this behavior, but it does mean you can support and encourage them to be more confident while at the same time setting a good example for them.

Help your children learn to resist peer pressure and make good decisions about their own life by teaching them how to avoid the trap of pleasing other people.  Mentor a young employee who is just learning the ropes in the workplace to help them avoid developing the habit of pleasing other people.  There are a great number of situations where you can pass on what you have learned and by doing so provide a great deal of benefit to those around you.


  1. This is some excellent advice for executives and executive coaches alike! I’ll be sure to forward this out on our @noomii Twitter handle for our executive coaches to see.

    Cole Brown

New York Executive Coaching