People pleaser


Ever noticed that you are always saying ‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no’? Ever been determined to put yourself first for a while only to realise that you have fallen into the same patterns yet again? This blog can help you to use your body language to recognise the signs and make choices that could help you break free. Welcome to Blog Two in this five-part series about the Five Drivers.


The Five Drivers are beliefs we hold about how we need to be, which influence a lot of our behaviour. The five different ones are:

  • Be Perfect
  • Please People
  • Be Strong
  • Hurry Up
  • Try Hard

Does one of them stick out to you as something you believe you need to be or do to get on in life?

Once we recognise our behaviour we can make more conscious choices about whether we want to be driven by it, or whether we might choose to let it go some of the time. I explain more about the drivers in the first blog of the series where I talk about ‘Be Perfect’. If you haven’t read it yet, you can check it out here.


In this blog I’m going to concentrate on the driver known as ‘Please People’. Those of us who are driven by this idea are often working on the automatic assumption that we should put others before ourselves, and this can often lead to us ignoring our own needs and feelings. We feel that we must make others happy first and foremost, and we get very anxious about saying ‘no’ to people, or disagreeing with others’ viewpoints.

Take for example a client by the name of Joan*. Joan has come to counselling because she is feeling as though she might be depressed. She feels very low a lot of the time, and describes herself as sluggish and just getting through the day. When we talk, she explains she has a full time job as a secretary where she often works long hours. Joan explains how her role is meant to be between the hours of 9am and 3pm, but her boss often calls her early in the morning with errands to do on her way to work, and will expect her to stay until he has no further need of her in the afternoon or evening. Joan has been going along with these demands because she feels it is her job to do so.


As we talk about her current situation, it is clear to Joan that she needs to make some changes. Her depression feels as though it could be her body’s way of saying that it needs more rest, and we start to explore what it might feel like if she didn’t have to automatically put everybody else first all of the time. Joan begins to think of some examples from her childhood where she was encouraged to be a ‘good girl’ by looking after people, and other times when she was told she was selfish if she tried to say ‘no’ to other people’s demands.

Soon, Joan feels determined to listen to her own needs. She recognises that her boss should be respecting her contracted hours. However, she feels she is lacking in the confidence to put this idea into practice, and she struggles to say ‘no’ when it comes to being asked to do things for others.


We use Joan’s body language as a way for her to become aware of when her ‘Please People’ driver is kicking in, and choose differently.

The kinds of body language that come along with this driver are:

  • Diminishing your statements with others: Often you might find that you add in phrases like “OK?”, “Kind of?”, “Sort of?”, “If you don’t mind?” instead of being direct with others. Your voice might get higher in pitch, even squeaky or child-like.
  • Leaning postures: You might lean towards others, maybe stretch out to them. Often this includes a lot of head nodding and tilting, perhaps smiling too much as well.
  • Wrinkled forehead: The head looks up in order to look at the person being pleased. The effect is that you will end up creasing your forehead as you look up at people, often accompanied by a stretched smile. Your face is, overall, over-stretched, just like Joan was as she tried to please everyone at the same time. 


Once Joan understood her body language, she began to become more aware of it. When her boss came over to her desk to ask for the usual extra work, she practised relaxing her face and sitting up straight as she reminded herself she did not have to say yes to this. Reminding herself with her thoughts AND her body helped her to become more assertive, and to say out loud to her boss that the work would have to be done tomorrow. Once she had tried this a few times, it began to feel more natural.

Joan also practised stating her needs with other people such as family and friends, without qualifying them or diminishing them when she spoke. In our future sessions, Joan began to think about why it was that she had found this so difficult, and begin to explore the relationship dynamics that were influencing her life.


Using the body means we are sending a more ‘whole’ message to ourselves and to those we are interacting with that we mean business. Making changes from long-held patterns is not a case of mind over matter, it is a case of mind and matter coming together to represent your truest expression of self. This can be extremely liberating and empowering, and by using this integrated approach, we can achieve a more centred and grounded sense of ourselves.

Counselling can help you to understand more about where your drivers come from, and in doing so you will find you are more able to let them go, or replace them with more helpful, less critical thoughts. Get in touch with me to find out more about how understanding yourself and your drivers can improve your current and future relationships, and break cycles that are no longer serving you.

*All client material is anonymised

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