The Pleaser - The secret of always putting others first
How putting others first is not always serving them or you.
How might a hyper-focus on being ‘considerate and unselfish’ result in you getting in your own way?
It’s a phrase we hear from time to time in schools, references to those who are seen as a ….’people pleaser’. Indeed, putting others first in many situations is well regarded. As parents we can be compelled to praise and reward our children when they ‘show consideration’ for others.
Certainly, for those in leadership roles in education, we can so often be characterised on our nature to put others before ourselves. This has spawned a whole body of work around the principle of ‘servant leadership’.
I wonder how often we consciously, or unconsciously for that matter, actually engage in ‘pleaser behaviours’ or even ‘pleaser thinking’ in an extreme or excessive way?
How often do we feel the compulsion to do something that will demonstrably put another person before ourselves, with the intention to gain acceptance, acknowledgement or even affection?
After all, don’t we feel better about ourselves when we do so? Isn’t giving and serving part of the role?
Do you ever feel that putting yourself first and before others is intrinsically selfish? (In fact, to be a good person you should put the needs of others ahead of your own)?
Do you tend to believe that you help others selflessly (and even though you do not expect anything in return, you are silently looking for a ‘return’ through acknowledgment, acceptance, or even affection)?
Despite your giving nature, you can feel resentful if you perceive that you have been taken for granted (but have difficulty in expressing this frustration - worried that insisting on own needs may drive others away).
Saying ‘No’ to others can be a very challenging thing to do?
Well, if so, it turns out you are not alone. It seems that there are those in leadership who, despite having numerous admirable qualities and well-developed skills, feel an inner compulsion to put others and the role before themselves.
In leadership we can often feel we need to be that model of giving, to support our colleagues, and the community we serve. We might believe that this is exactly as it should be, and that our organisation would be a better place if everyone lived by the mantra that others come first.
We do this in a manner that shapes ways of being and doing that are very visible. And yet, there is an emotional overhead to all of this ‘giving’ that can take its toll. It often does so far more privately.
Of course, on the face of it, servant leadership can seem like a positive way of being and doing – and in many ways it can be. It could be argued that for leaders, particularly in educational organisations, being focused on others is a fundamental of the role.
In reality, it is the exaggerated and magnified compulsion to put others first that distinguishes this behaviour with normative ones. When this exaggerated compulsion is combined with a need to gain acceptance and be liked by others, we can begin to see the counterproductive effects of Pleaser tendencies on those with them, and those they interact with.
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[Acknowledgment to work of Shirzad Chamine and Positive Intelligence®]