Parenting Tips: No More People-Pleasing— Teaching the Art of “No”

By Greg Baer M.D.

December 5, 2023

I know a teenage girl, Alandra, who had been addicted to people-pleasing for many years.

But then her parents really got involved with the Parenting Training.

They learned to love her and teach her, and in the process, she learned to feel loved without constantly earning her worth.

That’s a very big change, but it takes a lot of experience with feeling loved before the effects of past UNloving is erased.

What Causes People-Pleasing

Alandra texted me and said, “Yesterday I went to church. A woman asked me to help her with some workshop she was doing. It was going to take a lot of time. I said I didn’t really want to do it, but then I could see that she was pretty disappointed. More like pretty upset, and then I became a little triggered.”

“No kidding,” I said. “All your life you’ve seen that people don’t like you as much—or downright dislike you—when you don’t do what they want. That conditional approval—and all that disapproval—hurt you a lot. So now when somebody does that, you feel all the disapproval and rejection of the present and the past—in addition to their disapproval in the moment.”

“Yeah, that’s it. It was pretty uncomfortable. This lady wanted me to do something for her—and it was a good thing—but I’ve learned that if I always agree, I feel trapped. So I said no. I just didn’t want to feel stuck.”

“Good for you. And this is a great chance for you to learn something. You can’t really know somebody—or how they really value you—until you tell them ‘no.’ If you’re always saying yes, all you learn is that they like it when you do what they want, which is worthless.”

How to Stop People-Pleasing

“Yeah, that’s a big lesson, and I think I learned it again while I was talking to her. I thought of all the things you taught me, and what my parents taught me. I remembered that other people don’t make us angry, so I figured that included this lady. I didn’t MAKE her angry. That was her choice, so I didn’t feel completely responsible for her irritation. When I saw that she was mad, I said to her that I’d like to think about it some more and get back to her later. She was getting steamy, and I was uncomfortable. What can I do now?

“Your choice,” I said. “Do you really want to do this thing she’s asked you to do?”


“Then the answer to her is No. It will be uncomfortable for you to tell her this in person, because in person you have to endure all those physical proofs of her anger: her words, her tone of voice, her frown, her body posture. That’s a lot. And she throws all that with a lot of force, in part because she’s much older and more experienced than you. It’s unfair of her to lean on you like that. It’s intimidating. In fact, she kind of bullied you with her anger and experience.”

“So, what should I do?”

“Just give her your answer by text.”

“Really? That’s not rude?”

“Not at all. It’s quick, clear, and doesn’t give much room for arguing or her intimidating you with her physical presence.”

“What do I say?”

“Keep it simple. Say, ‘I have decided not to do the workshop, and I don’t want to talk about my reasons.’”

“Really? Not rude?”

“Honey, it’s much more complicated if you talk to her in person, and if you explain yourself—like WHY you don’t want to do the workshop—she’ll just argue with your reasons. AND if you feel obligated to explain yourself, you’ll just feel smaller and less worthwhile. Confident people don’t feel compelled to explain themselves.”

When You Stop People-Pleasing

The next day Alandra texted again: “I did it. I texted her just like you said. I wasn’t intimidated—not much anyway. I didn’t care if she didn’t like it. I wasn’t afraid. I felt free. It was cool. I don't remember having an experience like that, maybe ever, where someone I'm pretty close to gets angry at me, but I don’t fold.”

“Nice work, kid,” I said. “This is how you learn to feel stronger and more confident. I’m happy for you. This is real power. Enjoy that feeling.”

When people compulsively please other people, they feel small. They feel trapped. They are terrified by disapproval, so they’re stuck in the pattern of earning approval, usually for a lifetime.

We give our children a great gift when we love them unconditionally. Once they are sure of that feeling, they don’t NEED to please other people to earn a sense of worth.

Additionally, we can teach them how to say ‘No’ to people. We can teach them how to become free. What a gift.

Want to learn more?

Eliminate confusion and conflict with your children.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

Subscribe to our newsletter now!