5 signs you’re driven by pleasing people.

We are all driven by different things but the majority, if not all of us, can be placed into one or more of five categories; be perfect, please people, be strong, hurry up, or try hard. The five drivers and their descriptions were defined in 1975 by psychologist and author Taibi Kahler. No one driver is better than any other and you only the driver as much as you agree with the criteria. When it comes to personality type questionnaires, I believe the value is in your interpretation of the result, rather than the result itself.

I am a perfectionist people pleaser, as are the majority of the clients I work with as a Life Coach. Being driven by being perfect and pleasing people and my clients being the same, has given me a unique window into what signs to look out for. It’s by no coincidence I am currently in the process of writing a book on the subject!

In this article, I’ll share with you the five signs you’re driven by pleasing people, and the challenges each can cause.

You find you are always aware of others’ moods.

As someone keen to please people and keep them happy, this makes you finely tuned to the moods of others. While you have the natural ability to pick up on the mood of another person you also proactively seek to understand how another person is feeling, often even being concerned about what they are potential thinking, specifically about you. You may question a person to gain a sense of whether or not they are happy or you may pick up on unwritten signals such as their tone of voice, facial expressions, or body language. Your ultimate aim is for the person to be happy, ideally because of you. Picking up on others moods can also mean you are susceptible to having your mood brought down by those who are unhappy, although you will do everything you can to elevate their mood, seeing it as a personal mission.

A focus on the moods of others can mean you feel disconnected from your own thoughts and feelings, I used to describe this as the masks I wore for others and not knowing who I was beneath them.

You find conflict difficult, and you take steps to avoid it.

Your ultimate goal is to please people, and we have an unwritten rule that no one likes conflict. Although there are some who would challenge this, they either love conflict or see it as a beneficial human process. You, on the other hand, will do everything you can to avoid it. Conflict to you is a whole drama you don’t want to be part of, and you are concerned any dispute would lead to a person disliking you, and this is one of the hardest challenges for you. Ultimately because…

You find it hard to upset others.

There is nothing you dislike more than being concerned you have upset someone else. Add to this you are finely tuned to the emotions of another person, and it means it’s a double whammy, you feel bad, and you can connect with how the other person feels too. The avoidance of conflict and the difficulty you experience in upsetting others means…

You put up with things so as not to ‘rock the boat’.

This creates the World in which you live. Adrift on a boat of someone else’s making, with someone else at the helm, lost in a sea which feels confusing and vast, seemingly with no means of escape. Therefore, to keep everyone else happy, you go with the flow. At its core, people pleasing, if left unmonitored, can lead to you ‘selling out’, never having the confidence to say what you genuinely think for fear of creating conflict and making someone unhappy. This can leave you lacking self-esteem and living a life which is less than that which you desire and deserve.

You smile when you are uncertain about your relationship to other people and use a laugh to soften statements.

When meeting people for the first time, you will always be keen to make the best first impression. As a Life Coach who specialises in mental health, for many of the people with whom I work, this can make new social interactions overwhelming and create social anxiety. Fearing what others think of you and keen to please them, you will often keep smiling until you can work them out. When in conversation with new people and arguably people with whom you feel comfortable, you will have developed a ‘get of jail card’ for saying what you think, laugh. If you laugh as you make a statement, if someone disagrees, you believe you can pass it off as a joke. Being able to play this card means no one took your comment seriously, therefore no conflict will arise, and everyone remains happy.


As a people pleaser, your greatest gift can be your biggest challenge, the ability to be everything to everyone, presenting to each individual, the version of yourself you think they need at the moment, and for which you believe you can make the most significant impact. This can leave you feeling like you are applying masks at each and every opportunity and never truly showing who you are.

Lacking authenticity can also leave you questioning the validity of your relationships with others, as you fear they don’t really know you.

People pleasers need to focus, as I have had to, on identifying what it is you want from your life, and your relationships, and who you truly are, beneath the masks. Then make a commitment to living a life on your terms and being you. Then the magic happens, you achieve authenticity to discover the majority of the time, you make people happy without this being your specific aim and conflict doesn’t arise. I hope you, like I, discover just being you pleases other people after all. As Oscar Wilde said,

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

If you want to know what drives you, you can download a free questionnaire here.

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