Balance Coaching Managing Self Personal Development

Making the shift from people-pleasing to altruism

Written by Allison Wolf

Are you a people pleaser?

Do you agree to things before you’ve had a chance even to think it over?

Do you find yourself overcommitted and taking care of so much business for others that you have no time left for yourself?

Altruism is the instinct to help others and can be intrinsically rewarding. It feels good. But, people-pleasing is the dark side of altruism. It is saying ‘yes’ and doing things out of a fear of rejection. It can also arise out of your feelings of insecurity.

To learn more about this pesrpective, I asked my colleague, lawyer coach Rob DeToni, for his advice for people-pleasers. Here’s what he had to say on how he handles this:

I describe myself as a recovering people pleaser. From a coach’s perspective, here are some of the questions that I start off asking myself:

  1. What is causing me to people please?
  2. What stories am I telling myself or assumptions that I am making about the consequences of me saying no?
  3. When I have to say yes or no, I would ask myself: Why am I saying yes? Is it because I am people-pleasing? Or am I saying yes because I really want to do what they are asking and feel that I can do it?
  4. What are the consequences if I say yes but don’t want to do what the person asks?

He also shares these tips on where to start to drop the people-pleasing:

  1. Tell the person you need some time to think about it. That way, you can ask yourself all of the above questions.
  2. Be honest with youreslf when you ask yourself the above questions.
  3. If you were going to say no, then say no with conviction. (And, don’t be Canadian and apologize for saying no.)

The bottom line is that the source of your motivation matters. People-pleasing based on fear is energy draining. Altruistic activities are energy giving based on love, care, or concern for others.

Read the full article here on how to respond to your own altruistic endeavors instead of people-pleasing.

About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and one of the most senior coaches for lawyers in North America. I have helped countless clients over the past fifteen years, develop thriving legal practices and before that served as director of marketing for award-winning law firms. My specialty is uncovering the thinking traps and gaps holding clients back and helping them acquire the mindsets, skills, and habits for growing successful and rewarding legal careers. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and now coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at or learn more about my coaching practice from the coaching section of the Attorney With A Life Website.

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