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From Master-Pleaser to Expert Ex-Pleaser

The 5 best practices for perfect People Pleasing

Have you always dreamed of being the ultimate harmonizer and best in securing connection? Worry no more! Lore Blancke, self-proclaimed Doctor in Conflict-Avoidance, has compiled the ultimate toolbox for aspiring master-people-pleasers. Whether in the grocery store, negotiating contracts, at the dinner table, or in the bedroom, your Expert-Pleaser has you covered with these '5 best practices'!

  • Just do it exactly right Your touch should be in perfect harmony with their preferences. Anticipate what they want to hear, when silence is golden, and when to offer a compliment. While one size doesn't fit all, aim for that near-perfect lineup of actions that satisfies most. Facing unpredictability? Focus on reading their cues and adapt swiftly to keep the connection safe and rejection-free.

  • Apologize and over-apologize This one is wildly underestimated and often overlooked in the world of people-please-teachings. Apologizing is a powerful tool to smooth over potential turbulence or discomfort. Whether you've been too expressive or too reserved, an apology can work wonders. It's a surefire strategy in any situation where you aim to prevent others from feeling bad or uncomfortable, even if you haven’t done anything wrong.

  • Your default responses: "That is okay for me." "I don't mind." and "It's all the same for me." These phrases are your lifelines. They fit almost any situation, taking up minimal space and giving maximum choice to others. They're your ticket to safety, ensuring smooth transitions into whatever activities the other person desires. True, this might hinder others from knowing the real you, but at least no one gets offended by your true nature. In some cases it can become very difficult to make decisions. This is just a minor side-effect that appears most often when you came across someone that is also a pleaser, or someone who doesn't like engaging with pleasers. In the case of the latter, you can save yourself by apologizing even more for your own behavior than you already did.

  • Take responsibility for their emotions, their well-being lays in your hands People might be adults, but it's safer not to assume they feel like one. Take charge of ensuring they have the time of their life. With a lover, make them feel attractive and sexy at all costs, even if it means sidelining your own needs for relational conversation or re-connection. In the worst case, they can start feeling like they aren't a good lover - which is something you definitely want to avoid if you want to keep being important to them.

  • Stick to what you promised Reliability is your watchword. Whether it's something explicitly stated or an implied expectation, sticking to your word is paramount. Fulfill your role as a gender/partner/parent/... to the letter. The world may not find you the most adorable, but you'll be sufficiently appreciated to stay moderately happy. The regular people-pleasing etiquette is one where you don't change your mind. If you started with step A, you continue up until the last letter, whether there are 4 or 26 of them. This counts for sure also in the bedroom. If you want all your five stars, you stick with the plan that someone else made for you.

On the Other Side: the Post-Pleasing Reality

You can choose to step out of this damn habit*. Yes, a journey awaits you or maybe you are already on the road. Transitioning from a master-pleaser to an ex-master-pleaser has opened my eyes to a whole new world of interactions, especially when it comes to dealing with fellow pleasers. Here's a deeper look at my experiences:

  • The Challenge of Authentic Connection: Engaging with master-pleasers often leaves me in a state of constant vigilance. I find myself continuously checking in, wondering if their actions and responses are genuine or merely a performance. It is hard to trust that they are taking care of their own boundaries.

  • Negotiating Desires and Boundaries: When it's not clear whether a pleaser is acting out of genuine interest or just to appease, it becomes challenging to express my own desires. I hesitate to bring myself fully into these interactions, fearing that they might not be able to meet me halfway with their own authentic needs and boundaries. This lack of mutual negotiation often, unintentionally, puts me in the driver's seat, steering the dynamics of the interaction.

  • The Dominance Dilemma: Since negotiating is difficult, I frequently find myself in a dominant role. This isn’t about a preference for control but rather a default position when the other person is in the pleaser mode. While I enjoy dynamics with polarity play where one person occasionally leads, I yearn for these moments to be a conscious and consensual choice, not an unconscious result of people-pleasing tendencies.

  • Hyper-Sensitivity to Pleasing Dynamics: My past as a master-pleaser has left me acutely aware of similar patterns in others. I can easily sense when someone isn’t fully engaged or neglects their own needs and desires in an interaction. This hyper-sensitivity sometimes makes it hard for me to relax and enjoy the moment, as I'm constantly aware of the underlying unspoken dynamics.

*Even as someone who has largely moved past the habit of people-pleasing, I occasionally find myself slipping back into old patterns. It's important to acknowledge that this transformation isn't an all-or-nothing process. There are moments, especially when faced with intense relational discomfort or being on an edge, where the familiar territory of pleasing behaviour resurfaces. What distinguishes an ex-master-pleaser, however, is the heightened self-awareness and quicker recovery.

How did I move from Master-Pleaser to Ex-Master-Pleaser?

Here are the ingredients of my super special secret potion:

  • Awareness:  Recognizing these patterns is the first step towards change. Awareness is 95% of the journey. There’s often a pivotal moment when you see the pleasing behaviour clearly but still find it challenging to act differently. This clarity, though painful, is crucial for the next steps in changing the narrative and act differently next time.

  • Communicate Upfront:  Early in my transition, I communicated preferences and boundaries upfront. It's a strategy used by many transitioning pleasers when the trust in setting boundaries in the moment still feels tricky. For example, saying, "I may not want to kiss tomorrow, just so you know," can be a form of self-care, allowing for freedom where uncertainty exists.

  • Slow down: Cultivating awareness and allowing yourself the freedom to make different choices can be so much easier by simply giving yourself more time. When faced with a request for a favor, the instinctive response is often an immediate 'Yes'. But pause for a moment and assess the urgency of the situation – more often than not, there's no need for an instant reply. Let the person know you'll get back to them, whether it's in an hour, a day, or even a week, once you've had the chance to truly consider your feelings and how you wish to respond.

  • Radical pause Occasionally, it's beneficial to initiate a drastic change. In my podcast "How Sexuality Became My Path" and during my conversation with psychotherapist Louise Mazanti in "Grow up: a Psychotherapist's Insights into Mature Intimacy", I talk more about my own experience with this. I recognized how frequently I was crossing my own boundaries and prioritizing others' needs over my own. My decision to abstain from certain sexual activities for more than half a year was undoubtedly a big adjustment for my partners at the time, but it was a necessary step for me to cultivate deeper self-awareness and to establish a space where I could minimize self-compromise. For me this added without any doubt to my sexual satisfaction, opening so many more layers and possibilities for play and arousal.

  • Building Self-Esteem: Working on self-esteem and self-worth is crucial in reducing the urge to constantly please others or apologize unnecessarily. A practical approach to this is finding activities that make you feel confident and in your element. Engage more in these activities that naturally boost your sense of self. Similarly, evaluate your friendships: are there relationships primarily sustained by your efforts in pleasing, listening, and assisting? Consider investing less in these dynamics. Instead, focus on nurturing connections with people who make you feel positively about yourself, where interactions leave you feeling more fulfilled and energized, not depleted.

  • Learning to set Boundaries: Learning to set healthy boundaries is crucial. It involves understanding that it's okay to say no and that rejection is part of living fully and boldly. This requires practice! I've been immersing myself in numerous consent-focused spaces, learning to recognize what I want, asking for it, and negotiating with others. It's a cycle of messing up, feeling awkward, trying again, feeling great about myself, being proud, and then doing it all over again. Like anything worthwhile, mastering this skill demands time and patience. Bring some self-compassion into the mix: many of us were raised in environments where our own wisdom was overlooked, where our 'No' as children was unwelcome, and where we were praised for compliantly following along. These deeply ingrained patterns from early on take time to unlearn. You can do it, my dear; just don't give up.

  • Therapy or Counseling: Professional help can be very valuable in understanding the roots of these behaviors and in developing strategies to overcome them. Having someone there with you, supporting you, practicing with you, helping you to reflect, feel, and evaluate without judgment or personal bias is incredibly beneficial. I have experienced significant growth from the therapy I've invested in, and I've also helped many others shift their relational dynamics through the counseling I offer. It has been feeling so deeply rewarding.

Embracing the shift from a master-pleaser to an ex-master-pleaser is a continuous journey, marked by moments of both regression and triumph. It isn't a linear path. It's filled with learning, growth, and self-discovery.

If you have been reading to this very last bit, chances are that you are a master-pleaser or in transition to an ex-pleaser. This is about standing in your truth, recognizing your worth beyond pleasing others, and finding balance in your relationships. Together with many others, I am with you, cheerleading from afar. You can do this!

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