The Power of No: 8 Tips to Stop People Pleasing

The Power of No: 8 Tips to Stop People Pleasing

As women, we are often socialised to prioritise the needs and desires of others over our own. According to a study published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly, women are more likely than men to engage in self-silencing behaviours, such as suppressing their opinions and feelings, to avoid conflict and maintain relationships. This type of behaviour is commonly known as people pleasing, and it can be detrimental to your career, your health and your relationships. One of the things we know from several studies is that women who report higher levels of people-pleasing behaviour also report greater levels of burnout and emotional exhaustion.

People pleasing drives us to want to please, to be liked, be helpful, and not ruffle any feathers. It’s incredibly prevalent in the workplace and it’s one of the 12 most common factors that we see derail women’s careers. All that to say, if you struggle with people pleasing, you’re not alone, but it’s important to develop awareness around it and have some tools you can use to stop it.


1. Practice saying "no" to requests that don't align with your values or interests. If you’re not in the habit of doing this, it will feel uncomfortable at first, but remember that it's okay to prioritise your own needs and desires.

2. Set effective boundaries with others by communicating your needs and expectations clearly and respectfully. Boundaries are essential to protect your time and energy for what’s most important to you, so this is a skill that’s worth mastering.

3. Prioritise your own wellbeing by doing activities that help you recharge and feel more balanced. Whether it’s movement, meditation, reading a book, getting out in nature, having a cup of tea, chatting to a girlfriend or taking a nap, it’s good to get clear on what’s in your restoration toolkit.

4. Practice communicating with power, which will not only help to rein in any people pleasing tendencies you have, but also enhance your leadership skills and executive presence.

5. Challenge your negative self-talk and any beliefs you have that prioritise the needs of others over your own. One of the things that keeps many women stuck in the cycle of people pleasing is their harsh inner critic which makes them believe that they’re not as worthy as others. It’s important to start to recognise the stories your inner critic tells and start challenging them with this 3-step process.

6. Surround yourself with supportive people who respect your boundaries and encourage you to prioritise your own needs and desires. Start to notice the people in your life who truly want the best for you and care about your wellbeing, and spend more time with them.

7. Identify and address any underlying anxiety or fear that may be driving your people-pleasing behaviour. When you start to really look at why you’re people pleasing and the stories that you’re telling yourself, you may find that you have a lot of fear or anxiety around what will happen if you say no to a particular request. Try the 3-step process to reframe your stories and if you need more support, seek professional help if necessary.

8. Practice self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness, understanding, and forgiveness. If you find it hard to be gentle with yourself, then simply ask yourself - what would I do or say to my best friend if they were in the exact same situation?

Breaking out of the people-pleasing cycle can be difficult, but prioritising your own needs and desires is essential for building strong, authentic relationships and maintaining your mental and emotional wellbeing, and what could be more important than that?

By Megan Dalla-Camina, Women Rising Founder & CEO

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