How to Stop Always Saying YES to Others

We all probably know someone like this: someone who will quickly says yes to any favor you ask of them. Someone who will willingly become your doormat at their own expense. Or maybe you yourself are a people-pleaser. Someone who would drop whatever you are doing to give a friend a ride somewhere even if you don’t have time.

Yes or no
People pleasers generally feel uncomfortable saying no to others in fear that they will no longer be accepted. People-pleasers are devoted to pleasing others while putting aside their own needs and desires. According to psychologist Linda Tillman, people-pleasers lack the internal means for gauging the value of their own behaviors, and the result is that they seek validation from others. The development into a people-pleaser generally begins in childhood. Many times parents will simply tell children what to do without encouraging the child to assert themselves.

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The child is then rewarded with love for obeying. Without realizing it, these parents are sending a message to their children that they will only feel valuable if they agree to the demands of others. This continues into adulthood and will become a fear that they will not be loved unless they say yes to everything. Because girls are generally taught at an early age to defer and accommodate to others, most people-pleasers are women.

Once developed into a people-pleaser, these behaviors are extremely difficult to correct because they are self-reinforcing and will get rewarded not only by parents, but also by friends, bosses, and co-workers as well. Despite the constant rewards that people-pleasers receive it comes at a heavy price. Such individuals put so much energy into others that they no longer know what they want in life. In fact, pleasing people all the times can lead to an explosion in passive aggressive behavior. After a while, people pleasers will build up resentment towards those they are pleasing.

Also known as pushovers, these people usually have a low sense of self-worth and breaking out of this habit can be very complex. People-pleasers cannot just start saying no to everything because then they will be replacing the behavior by becoming a narcissist. The key is to remain friendly and sympathetic, but remembering to assert your own needs more.

If someone needs a ride somewhere, consider your own plans first and then judge whether or not it is feasible for you to help out at that time. If it is not, accept that it is okay or offer to help later after you have met your own needs first. Continue to be receptive to the needs and concerns of others, but do not ignore your own.

Here are a couple of tips:

  • If you feel put on the spot, simply say “I’ll get back to you later, I’ll need to check my schedule.” This will buy you more time to determine if you will be able to help without compromising your plans.
  • Keep a check on your own motivations for pleasing others. If you want to help someone because it will make you feel happy and fulfilled, then fine; but do not do it in order to get something in return whether it be acceptance, love, etc.


Svobada, E. May 1, 2008. Psychology Today.