“People Pleasing” Behavior, Part 1

Traffic jam, Author Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz Mariordo (GFDL, CC Attribution 3.0 Unported)

  • You make a left-hand turn at an intersection, with your signal on well in advance.  The driver behind you stops in mid-roadway, and exits her vehicle to shout at you.  You can see her in your rearview mirror, gesturing wildly.   Puzzled, you re-examine your actions for several hours, in a fruitless effort to identify what you did wrong.
  • The vehicle behind yours persists in tailgating.  You can feel the sweat break out on your brow.  You check and re-check your speed.  Finally, the other driver tears past, and you breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Alone at night, in a deserted area, you nervously speed up after the vehicle behind yours repeatedly flashes its high beams.  When you do stop at a lit plaza, the other driver pulls alongside to berate you.  You are mortified, at a loss how to respond.

Admittedly, there are bullies and lunatics on the road these days.  And all of us make occasional mistakes, whether driving or otherwise.

The truth is that we cannot please everyone, even when we adhere perfectly to the rules of the road or the rules of civil society.  Unlike the rules of the road, of course, the rules of society are often ambiguous.

But the inability to please others is extraordinarily painful for those of us who are “people pleasers” as a consequence of child abuse.  Domestic violence only adds another layer to our distress.

We long for peace, and try to achieve it through compromise.  We twist ourselves into pretzels trying to please.

The problem is that we have deep reservoirs of undeserved shame.  Our first assumption, in the face of any confrontation, is that we must be in error.

Since all human beings are fallible, we can generally find flaws in ourselves.  These do not, however, justify abusive behavior by those with whom we come in contact.

This series will conclude next week.



Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

21 responses to ““People Pleasing” Behavior, Part 1

  1. This is great. Concise and to the point. Thanks for your words.

  2. This is so annoying when moving across lanes and people are intolerant not thinking their driving is at fault. We have a hand gesture in the UK which means drive over the top for those who want to pass an impossible situation.

  3. Singhshma

    Wow Anna, This is so insightful. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Yes, so many people carry a deeply entrenched sense of shame, something that is very painful. When this is our experience, we desperately want someone – anyone – to tell us we’re OK – in order to temporarily ameliorate those negative feelings and beliefs. A great post. Thank you.

  5. At least 40 years ago, a car started harassing about mile five. At mile five, I was so distraught, and sure that I had something to atone for that I stopped my car abruptly in front, and exited to approach. I immediately felt fear of something physical about to happen, so jumped back in, and don’t recall what happened next – except I obviously came to no further harm, beyond that I am still shaking to this day.

  6. Great article, Anna! ⭐

    I could relate to your painful ‘traffic experiences’ at once. It has become clear to me that people are getting more and more upset with our current life and work conditions so that they need a situation where they can vent. Isn’t it often the time before or after work when we meet them? 🙄 As I have been occupied with the topic of manipulation lately, I just decided to paste the following excerpt from Wikipedia.

    “According to [ Harriet B.] Braiker’s self-help book,[3] manipulators exploit the following vulnerabilities (buttons) that may exist in victims:

    the desire to please
    addiction to earning the approval and acceptance of others
    emotophobia (fear of negative emotion; i.e. a fear of expressing anger, frustration or disapproval)
    lack of assertiveness and ability to say no
    blurry sense of identity (with soft personal boundaries)
    low self-reliance
    external locus of control


    Sometimes I find it helpful to take away the focus from the victim to the manipulator instead. If there was no wrongdoing, there would be no need for forgiveness. But between being offended or hurt and forgiving our manipulators (read enemies), there lies the process of acknowledging THEIR guilt and recognize the strategies they, knowingly or not, used to make us feel guilty although we were not.

    With love ❤

  7. Francisco Bravo Cabrera

    Excellent post Anna. And so true about the intention of always pleasing. It must come as a leftover part of childhood when we all tried to please our parents…now, reference aggressive drivers, I know a little about from my days on the force. And I tell you, they don’t even respect the police car! I’ve had a case or two of people honking at me and also following me trying to make me see that they were writing down my tag number! Of course, if they were not a threat and really not doing anything wrong I would just ignore them, giving them a time limit and if they persisted beyond the limits of my patience I would pull them over and if they acted respectful and apologised I would let them go, but if they decided to act like a wise guy, they would certainly be ticketed. But I didn’t work traffic details so I never actually made an effort to go after any of the bad drivers in Miami, which there must be millions of them! You make some excellent points and I fully concur. Take good care and all the best,

  8. Great post Anna!
    Although I do not drive, I can surely relate..
    God Bless 🙂 .

  9. “The truth is that we cannot please everyone” …absolutely true!
    Excellent post 😊

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