Many of you lovely readers responded to my mention of being a people-pleaser the last time we wrote about apologizing (Katie’s here, Maria’s here) and it got me thinking: non-people-pleasers must be a little baffled by how people-pleasers go through their days. I’m surprised to learn that there is a scientific term for people-pleasing—sociotropy—and Urban Dictionary was very helpful in offering this thoughtful, gentle definition:
People pleasers are doormats who let high expectations, resentment, and saying “yes” when they mean “no” run their lives.
I thought I would observe an anonymous volunteer for a day and summarize my findings:
- In the morning, Subject 1 goes to the acupuncturist for a possible foot problem. (This part doesn’t have to do with people-pleasing as much as hypochondria and an obsession with alternative medicine.) The acupuncturist says that she wants to look at Subject 1′s tongue, as is standard procedure in Eastern medicine for assessing overall health. The subject promptly excuses herself to the restroom where she begins to get nervous about the appearance of her tongue. She feels guilty for not having consumed the recommended 8 glasses of water the day before and also for having coffee after brushing her teeth that very morning. As her heart-rate increases and perspiration levels rise, she begins flushing out her mouth with water from the sink, rubbing her tongue with her fingers, and searching frantically for any sort of device she could use to further groom the tongue and rejuvenate the taste buds, all in order for the acupuncturist to discern that Subject 1 is a Good Person Who Takes Care of Her Health. Subject 1 settles on scraping her tongue with her driver’s license, which further increases her guilt, this time directed toward the State of California, as she has not yet complied with the law stating that new residents should update their license within 10 days of moving to the state. It had, in fact, been over a year since Subject 1 became a resident and she spends the morning regretting that she ignored her husband’s prompts visit the DMV sooner.
- In the afternoon, the subject takes her 3 young children to the park. There she meets a retiree from Virgina who is visiting her daughter, a local resident who is about to give birth to her third child. The retiree has just flown in that morning and is attending to her grandchildren while her daughter rests at home. She tells Subject 1 that she refused to come out unless her daughter promised she would take drugs for the pending delivery. “She gave birth naturally to the first two,” says the retiree, pointing to her grandchildren,”and it was just crazy. My son-in-law kept telling her, ‘You can do it, You can do it.’ ” Subject 1 begins to wonder what she might have to offer to the conversation, as she had extremely positive experiences with drug-free births and very much believes it is an empowering decision that should be left to the person giving birth. However, she very much likes the retiree from Virginia and wants her to feel welcomed and comfortable, considering she’d been traveling since 4:30 that morning. “Anybody who gives birth without drugs is crazy, don’t you think?” asks the retiree. Subject 1 attempts to remain quiet, which is unusual for her, but the retiree clearly wants an answer. “Aren’t those women just crazy?” she asks again. The subject considers forsaking her own opinion on the matter for the first time in her life and lying, but as she begins to nod her head, and she finds herself saying, “It must be hard for a mother to watch her daughter suffer and not be able to do anything.” This is sufficient for the retiree and Subject 1 finds that she can then change the topic of conversation to the retiree’s love of playing bridge and drinking scotch.
- In the evening, a friend of Subject 1 surprises her with a CD recording of one of her favorite bands. “It’s a boot-legged recording of their live performance in Vancouver, so the sound quality isn’t very good at first,” he explains. “Oh, that’s OK,” says Subject 1, “I prefer poor sound quality. It makes the music more interesting.”
You PREFER poor sound quality ???
Maria. Stop. Talking. For once in your life, just smile and say, “Thanks.”