Do You Have the People-Pleasing Syndrome?

Pleasing other people—who could find fault with that? Isn’t it a good thing to consider the needs of others, to be gracious, to be nice? By all means! But for many, the desire to please becomes an addictive need to please others, even at the expense of their own health, happiness as well as leadership effectiveness. 

According to The Leadership Circle©, in their 360 Profile assessment tool, “Pleasing” is a reactive behavior and the need to seek others’ support and approval in order to feel secure and worthwhile as a person. People with strong needs for approval tend to base their self-worth on their ability to gain others’ favor and confirmation. For people-pleasers, avoiding personal rejection is key.

“As a people-pleaser, you feel controlled by your need to please others and addicted to their approval,” writes Harriet B. Braiker, Ph.D., in The Disease to Please. “At the same time, you feel out of control over the pressures and demands on your life that these needs have created.”

Do you have people-pleasing tendencies?

Take this quiz to see whether you can benefit from learning to say no to others more often—and yes to yourself.

  1. I put others’ needs before my own, even when the cost to me and my own happiness is great.
  2. If someone needs my help, I can’t say no. In fact, I often find it difficult to say no. And when I do, I feel guilty.
  3. I focus on how other people react to me.
  4. To avoid reactions I’m afraid of, I often try to be who others want me to be, to agree with them, to fit in.
  5. I keep my own needs and problems to myself; I don’t want to burden others with them.
  6. I always have a smile on my face and an upbeat attitude, even if I feel sad or angry or hurt.
  7. I am quite sensitive to the criticism or disapproval of others.
  8. I go out of my way to avoid conflict and confrontation; it’s better just to keep the peace.
  9. I am often on the go, rushing to get things done. When I take a moment for myself, I feel selfish, indulgent and guilty.
  10. I should always be nice and never hurt other people’s feelings.
  11. I’ll do whatever it takes to get someone to stop being mad at me.
  12. I hold back my ideas and suggestions, because I am worried my peers or superiors won’t accept/like them.
  13. I hold back from saying what I really think or from asking for what I want if I think someone will be upset with me for it.
  14. I have a tendency to set low performance standards for my direct reports.
  15. I want everyone to like me…all the time.
  16. I feel like a failure if I’ve displeased anyone.
  17. It’s my job to make sure everyone else is happy.
  18. I will change my behavior, at my own expense, to make others happy.
  19. I spend a lot of time doing things for others, but almost never ask anyone to do things for me.
  20. If I ask people for help and they agree, I’m sure they must be giving out of obligation; if they really wanted to help, they would have offered without my asking.

If you answered True more often than False, you may need support in saying Yes to yourself!

The motivations for being a people pleaser are varied and usually quite unconscious. Transforming these patterns requires that we understand our pleasing behaviors and motivations, and heal the childhood wounds that usually underlie people pleasing.

While seeking approval (people-pleasing) is not in itself unhealthy, if it’s a consistent pattern, it could be blocking you from reaching your full potential in life or in your career.

Interested in exploring your need for seeking approval or people-pleasing tendencies? Please call Linda at 416-617-0734 or email

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