We all know a people-pleaser! That would be the person in your marriage, friend group or in your family – or possibly even at work – who closely monitors others, attends to the emotional climate of the group, and speaks and acts in ways that helps others just feel better about the relations underway.

The term “people pleaser” is used to describe a person who is “nice” to a fault. It can be considered an emotional style-of-sorts, one that shows up, especially in close relationships. In some ways, people pleasers are the relational opposite of narcissists, who are so self-centered that they can only attend to themselves and their needs. People pleasers, in contrast, must attend to the emotional needs of others, and in turn, often deny their own needs.

This is the second installment of a blog about people pleasers, who they are, what they do, and how to navigate a world with people pleasers in it. As I discussed in part one of this newsletter, I’ve come to notice in my professional practice, couples and individuals get into emotional ruts when one member of the group becomes a compulsive people pleaser and shoulders too much of the caretaking of feelings and ‘works too hard’ at maintaining a positive emotional atmosphere. Compulsive people pleasers pay a cost for their behavior, the effects of which can both negatively affect them and the relationships they are trying to care for.

In this blog, you will:

  1. Learn about the benefits of people-pleasing
  2. Discover how to navigate the challenges of being a people-pleaser
  3. Get some solutions!

Benefits of People Pleasing

Parenting and caring for children often puts us in situations where we must smooth the emotions of anxious little ones who do not understand and are easily overwhelmed. The people pleaser’s high monitoring of others allows them to be responsive to children’s fears. They can anticipate situations that make little ones anxious and be ready with methods to calm them down. The parental people pleaser here plays a much-needed role in many family situations.

In my experience, I have found that “pleasers” are often highly intuitive people who appear to “know” what the appropriate thing to say or do in a situation that will make people happy. They are often right on target when they speak or act in pursuit of good feelings for all. Not surprising that they are often well-liked by others. In this regard, the ability to people please can be seen as a gift. It also takes practice, and first appears as a childhood adaptation to family of origin issues. Pleasers were often the “easy” “agreeable” or the “peacekeeper” child and therefore received accolades for behaving in this fashion, which helped to reinforce this behavior and make it an automatic response.

A major component of being in a healthy relationship is doing your best to make your significant other happy, which often takes the form of acting to please them. In this regard, a people pleaser would be a great partner! The best-selling book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, categorizes five distinctive behaviors that people use to please their significant others. These categories are based on their partner’s personal preferences that allow their partner to feel loved. If people pleasing comes naturally to you, then it would follow that speaking your partner’s love language would be a simple act. It can become problematic, however, when the desire to please your partner is excessive and at the expense of your own needs.

Navigating the Challenges of Being A People Pleaser

I see cases of compulsive people-pleasing in my practice, where it clearly has become an obstacle to the relationship. When that happens, I use several approaches to deal with this issue:

1. Open Communication: Fostering an environment where open and honest communication is valued is a central goal of couple’s therapy. Encouraging each person in a relationship or family to express their needs, desires, and concerns without fear of judgment or reprisal is often a key to improved relations. In a couple or family dealing with the negative blowback of compulsive people-pleasing, this becomes an essential first step in restoring a healthy relational balance.

2. Self-Reflection: Understanding the roots of one’s behavior is crucial for initiating positive change, and that includes restoring a better balance in a relationship with a people-pleaser. Couples are encouraged to engage in self-reflection to identify people-pleasing tendencies within themselves. Uncovering memories from our families-of-origin and the roles we learned to play there provides much needed insight into the origins of this relational style.

3. Setting Boundaries: Compulsive people pleasing creates situations where things are out-of-balance in large part because interpersonal boundaries are weak or non-existent. Establishing healthy boundaries is essential in any relationship. People-pleasers must learn to set and communicate their limits, and partners should respect these boundaries.

4. Stress and Anxiety Management: Since compulsive people pleasing can create undue levels of fear and anxiety in both the pleaser and their relational companions, individuals and couples struggling with this issue learn to identify the causes of their fear, tension, and anxiety and learn techniques to effectively manage them.

For people struggling with this issue seeking the guidance of a couple’s therapist can provide invaluable support. Professional intervention can help couples explore the underlying issues, improve communication, and develop strategies for building a healthier, more balanced relationship.


We all want mutually respectful, enduring, and authentic connections to others. Unfortunately, our all-too-human-side can get in the way of reaching those ideals! Recognizing and then addressing compulsive people-pleasing tendencies is a crucial step towards fostering authentic, loving relationships. By embracing open communication, setting boundaries, and prioritizing self-care, couples can navigate the challenges posed by excessive people-pleasing behaviors and build a foundation for a more fulfilling and resilient partnership.

Are you a “people pleaser” and have a comment or question about this 2-part post? I’d love to hear from you by email at: julie@julieschmitcounseling.com.