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Giving Up Over-Responsibility for the Feelings of Others

If you’re in the grip of the over-pleaser pattern, over-responsibility comes with the territory. I’m talking about a very specific type of over-responsibility—hyper sensitivity to others’ feelings and active (frantic) efforts on your part to “manage” those feelings. How do you know if you fall into this futile, not to mention exhausting, trap? If you can answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions:

  • Are you actively uncomfortable if someone is angry, emotionally hurt, sad or disappointed?
  • Are you excruciatingly uncomfortable if the feelings above are directed at you?
  • Do you feel the need to “fix it” for them?
  • Do you give in or keep quiet in an effort to avoid doing or saying things you think will cause others to feel those things?
  • Do you feel responsible for the feelings of others (you “made” them feel that way)?
  • Do you feel you have the power to make someone else happy?

Affirmative answers to any of these questions are clues that you are trying to control something that you have no power, or right, to control. Believe it or not, others’ feelings are their own business and responsibility, not yours.

It’s Time to Let Go

Ironically, the people whose feelings you’re working so hard to “manage” end up resenting you anyway. Whether you’re constantly giving in to the preferences of others or holding back what you need/want to say in order to keep the peace, you are attempting a manipulation and no one likes to be manipulated—regardless of if you feel your motives are in the right place. If you allow someone else’s potential disappointment, anger or hurt feelings to drive your behavior or decision making, you amass a reserve of resentment that doesn’t serve anyone.

Even if what you have to say is not welcomed, approaching your relationships with honesty builds trust. Think about it, when you know that someone is being honest, even if you don’t like what they’re expressing, it’s a relief to know where you really stand.

It’s time to let go. Not only of the limiting belief that we are responsible for how other people feel, think or react, but also that we can, or should, spare other people from anger, disappointment or sorrow at all costs.

The truth is we can’t, we don’t and we never will have any control over how someone else chooses to react to our decisions.

And, we can make ourselves nuts trying to manage it. All we ever have control over is how we respond to what comes up in our own lives. What this means to those recovering from an over-pleasing pattern is that you can say “No” when you want to and “Yes” when you want to, based on a compass calibrated to your own inner code, independent of trying to manage or control how someone else is going to react.

Bottom line: you are NOT REPONSIBLE for how someone else feels about anything and, on top of that, you can’t control it. While this may seem scary to a pleaser who is working hard to manage everyone else’s feelings, it’s also a huge relief.

Check the blog next week, or subscribe if you haven’t already, to see Part 4 o f 4 of Ending the Tyranny of People Pleasing: Learning to Say “No” with Confidence and Peace

In case you missed it, below are links to Parts 1 and 2 of the

Part 1: The Practice of Being True to Yourself and People Pleaser Pop Quiz

Part 2: Get Back in Touch with What YOU Want

Deb Purdy, is a transformation coach, speaker, workshop leader and author of
Something Gained: 7 Shifts to Be Stronger, Smarter and Happier After Divorce.

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