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People Pleasing Vs Genuine Communicators

Updated on February 15, 2013

How Do We Measure Communication Skills?


"The world would be a better place if people could tell the difference between a people pleaser and a genuine communicator." -Donovan D. Westhaver

"I have good communication skills," how many times have we heard someone say that? Far too many times to count. What exactly does this statement mean? And are those who often assert themselves as a person with good communication skills truly a good communicator? What makes a good communicator? Has society lost its scope on whom and what it takes to be a good communicator?

These are all good questions, without easy answers. By merely taking the time to read this hub and ponder these very questions may make you a better communicator than most, because you have a certain level of awareness that a lot of people, who claim to have good communication skills, tend to lack.

It's my belief that some time during the past twenty years, the culture in which I grew up in lost track as to whom or what makes good communication skills. What we perceive as proper communication has become distorted at best, and dishonest at worse. Much of it has to do with the fact that we as humans are too easily swayed toward the path of pleasure. We fool ourselves into thinking that those who bring us the most pleasure happen to be the best communicators. This couldn't be further from the truth. The sad result of giving into such impulses is the art of communication has become lost, and through that much incompetence has thus ensued

People Pleasing Vs Genuine Communicator

Who is a people pleaser?

A people pleaser is a person who wants to be liked. They see their success based upon how those around them behave in their presence. They believe conflict is a sign of failure and that it's admirable to avoid conflict at any costs. They selfly judge their communication ability based upon the happiness demeanor of the person whom they're interacting with.

Who is a genuine communicator?

A genuine communicator is a person who values honesty and wants to be respected. They see their success based upon results rather than opinion. They understand that often conflict can be a part of the communication process. They selfly judge their communication ability based upon whether goals and results were attained from the communication exchange

People Love A People Pleaser

The expression, "you get more out of honey rather than vinegar" comes to mind. This quote is identifying how people can relate to a people pleaser. People pleasers get jobs easily. Employers often like people pleasers because they're never argumentative, they're conformist and work to appease others, and come across as friendly in interviews. People pleasers are without a doubt the most promoted bunch in the 21st century workplace. They attest their success to excellent communication skills. However, based on many of the problems I see today, I believe it is time to seriously question the motives behind such people and whether or not they're indeed as good at communication as we're led to believe.

People pleasers have some very serious flaws that I wouldn't consider admirable communication:

  1. They have a dependant mind. All their decisions are formulated based on just keeping others around them happy. They can't make decisions.
  2. They lack creativity and scope. Their focus is mostly in keeping the people around them happy. They cannot see much beyond that objective.
  3. They're dishonest. They say, act, and behave in whatever conceivable fashion to make others happy.
  4. They cannot solve problems. Problem solving isn't their goal. Instead their goals rest with the approval from others. Problem solving is often "nitty gritty" work that doesn't exactly bring a smile across people's faces, so people pleasers avoid this activity completely.
  5. Their solutions to everything are often "band-aid" in nature. "Just do whatever to keep people happy, and consequences matter not."

The genuine communicator, on the other hand, has an independent mind. This allows them to make decisions. I consider having the ability to make decisions vital to proper communication. Because they're independent, their mind allows them to be creative. Creativity is important because creativity allows you to have several approaches, ideas, solutions, etc. when communicating. Unlike the people pleaser, they're honest, if there is bad news to tell, they'll mention it. They love to solve problems and view communication as a tool that allows them to do so. They want solutions that are tangible, practical and long-term.

The crisis of our time is that people love a people pleaser. They're intoxicating to a great many people. People pleasers often come across as more professional and communicative than others, so they advance quickly in corporate organizations. This can lead to some horrible management decisions across many industries.

Take the "mental health" industry for example. In this industry, leadership seems to view happiness of the client as the ultimate success. The negativity of the client must be eliminated and replaced with more "proper and positive feelings." To do so they make use of "medication" with harmful side effects to a person's cognitive abilities. The person may be dumber, and their problems that made them unhappy remain unsolved, but if the medication puts a smile on the client's face we have a success.

Another good example is in customer service. Customers say they want their issues solved, but from experience I can tell you that most customers could care less if their problems were solved. Most customers want an enjoyable experience, so much so that they value their own pleasure above and beyond the reasons they contacted customer service in the first place. What customers’ want is a people pleaser. An example of such a scenario was when I was younger and worked at a call centre. Often customers called and complained over various problems that I tried relentlessly to solve. Unfortunately, many customers were irate with me, as it turns out sorting through some paper work to have market stock transferred isn't the most enjoyable experience. So often they demanded to be transferred to someone who is more likable. Enter the bubbly young female next to me. She smiles, says nice stuff, and is a real smooth talker, but she doesn't solve any of the customers’ problems. The customers could care less because she makes them happy.

A final example is in charitable work and nonprofit organizations. I believe that charity often fails because people are in it for the wrong reasons. The people in such organizations are often people pleasers. How often have you heard people in such fields claim they joined because "they love people?" My question is, do you actually love the people enough to work long and hard to truly solve their problems? If you're in such organizations to merely mingle with people, smile, and look good on a resume, as I suspect that is the case for many people, then it's little wonder charitable organizations often fail to live up to their mission statements.

Are People Pleasers Uniquely Women?

You may get the impression that the person pleasing epidemic is strictly a feminine issue. I can imagine some guys nodding their heads while reading this hub, thinking of how my examples remind them of many women they know at work. I can even see women identifying some of their female friends demonstrating the same traits. The fact of the matter is men are guilty of people pleasing as well.

The expression, "nice guys finish last," comes to mind. The "nice guys" are guilty of obsessive people pleasing. They put their mate up on a pedestal, think day and night how to please her at the neglect of themselves, and then wonder why she ran off with another guy who "isn't as nice." Ok, maybe sucking serious ass and treating someone like a god to get affection works in the business world, but it doesn't work in the real world. . .

The Results of Rewarding People Pleasing

Unfortunately, society has vastly and unjustly rewarded people pleasers, much to the expense of us all. The people pleasers who lead the mental health industry are doing little to alleviate mental health concerns. Instead they're exasperating the problem.

For all I know, that bubbly girl next to me at the call centre could very well be the CEO of the company by now. No doubt, she received glaring reviews for keeping customers happy and having short call waiting times. Who cares about actually solving their problems? Her glaring reviews would certainly allow her to move up where she'll pass on the same "values" to her underlings.

The charitable and nonprofit organizations will continue to employ people pleasers who care more about public relations than actually helping the poor distressed souls.

The result you can see here is we have one hell of a mess. We have incompetent leadership all around, and a society that believes in using quick fixes to make people happy, rather than genuinely solving problems. The solution out of this mess is to recognize and reward genuine communication.

People Pleasers Are Selfish

Such a statement may come as a surprise to many people. People often identify the people pleaser as a person that is obsessively altruistic. My argument goes back to the people pleasing individuals who join charitable organizations. You must ask yourselves, if such people didn't receive all the recognition involved with being labelled altruistic saint, would they still do it? I think we know the answer to that question, because being truly charitable can be performed a number of ways, most of which hardly involve joining an organization. People pleasers are emotionally selfish. They seek to feed off the constant approval and admiration of others.

However, if you're joining a charitable organization because you truly believe through group cooperation and group efforts that you can solve many problems, all the power to you. For that is what being a genuine communicator is all about.

People tend to underestimate how the emotional selfishness of people pleasers that can inadvertently lead to huge monetary gains, and thus monetary selfishness as well. The leaders in the mental health industries are making several hundred of the thousands a year. Another good example, believe it or not, comes from teachers. I often find teachers guilty of the same sin. Teachers seem to think because they're educating people, they're saints to be worshipped. Never once are the results considered, instead we must admire the altruistic starving teacher who earns on average as much as a chartered accountant when we factor in hours put. Oh and did I mention, our altruistic saint can work her way up to a school administrator earning well over 100K a year while still having the same several months vacation.

Can You Have Your Cake And Eat It Too?

Is it possible to be both a people pleaser and genuine communicator? In some cases, yes, in most cases, no. Usually in trivial communication exchanges (e.g. how are you today?), a little bit of people pleasing can be used to quickly sort through the conversation, followed by genuine communication to get to the bottom of the situation. People pleasers and people who wish to be genuine have opposing values, so it's improbable to carry out both fluently in communication. My hope is that some day people pleasing will finally be recognized as redundant, dishonest, and in the long run a destructive practice. However, as long as we live in a world where people have increasing sensitivities, I’m afraid a little bit of person pleasing will be necessary.

Enter the Genuine Communicator

It's time to start rewarding people for genuine communication that produces tangible results. We as human beings need to understand that person pleasing doesn't solve any problems, it isn't particularly kind, it's selfish, and contrary to popular belief, person pleasing isn't the most confident way to approach life. Just how hollow the confidence level of a people pleaser is can become readily apparent when just a few people refuse to play along in their little game within their presence.

We need to realize that a good communicator is a person that helps bring truth and understanding to a matter. This isn't always pleasant, but given time, can be extremely rewarding.

-Donovan D. Westhaver

Summary Chart

People Pleaser 
Genuine Communicator 
To Be Liked 
To Be Respected 
Solve Problems 
To Be Avoided
Firm & Diplomatic
Emotional Selfishness

If you’re in a difficult situation with a individual or organization, what in your mind takes priority?

See results


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    • profile image


      18 months ago

      Tank you!

      Your text makes me think abort My own behaviour - that's good!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      It looks like not everyone understands the difference between doing nice things for people and people pleasing. I am not American so sorry in advance if I make mistakes. PP are selfish, because being liked, adored is more important than taking responsibility. I have worked with someone who took PP to a whole new level. It was so draining that I decided to leave that place. I was very young, yet skilled at my job. Yes, I had a lot to learn as well, but I was good at what I did. This Team Lead of mine wanted to be needed, but the problem was that I did not need him. PP got him the position , not his skills, and it showed instantly. I could not have a proper in dept conversation with him on any work related subject. I tried for a whole year, I was confused and didn't understand. Not needing him felt to him as if I did not like him. I did, but I am no PP. He also wanted to decide for me( because I was young) what was best for me. He ignored the things I asked and did what he felt that I should need. I had a very busy job, the moment I forgot or didn't have time to thank him for something I didn't need, the claws came out. The claws only came out when the team would not notice. PP are always marketing themselves and being mean in public is a no no. He called me so many things like selfish, pretending to be someone I wasn't, dishonest, too young, withholding information from team members, hiding things, unstable, there are many things wrong with you, he even threatened me. He would twist my words and lie straight to my face, because admitting that he was wrong about something whas admitting to incompetence ( I never felt that way about anybody). I made the mistake of thrusting that my co workers knew this was untrue about me. But by ignoring his ways (he made sure everybody agreed with him) I agreed with him. I worked for an organization where my co workers too were PP, little did I know. He told everybody that he wanted to help me become my true self. By projecting his own negativity on to me and making me weak and in need of HIS help, he was seen a hero and mature. Me not accepting the help from him and even my co workers, I was seen as immature. There were so many things wrong at that place, but he refused to touch any of them, for fear of being disliked by the bigger group. We were heading down and no one saw it or refused to see it. After months of peer pressure, people trying to cure me of myself, I snapped and this gave them validation that they were right, I was in need of help. I felt that I was in a cult. I tried talking to people, one denied, one blamed me and the other kind of admitted. He letterly said : "our TL is good at hearing things especially the things that work for him". I can go on about this, but this sick PP totally broke me. I left, but refused to show how it affected me, I decided to fight. I showed every body what a liar he was and left with my head held high. A year later I realized I needed a psychologist. was confused, how can anybody see me as dishonest, how is it possible that so many people all agreed with something that was obviously not true. Is there something wrong with me? It took me years to recover. The sad part is that these people genuinely believed they were helping me. My psychologist told me the problem was that I was too independent and too different and it scared him. He only knows how to be himself by being how the others are ( a true PP chameleon). And by projecting, he was actually talking about himself and everything he dislikes about him. PP can be dangerous, they will impose their help even if you don't need it and ruin you because you refuse to accept. The constant giving of adoration, validation, praise will suck the life out of you.

    • profile image

      Jarlz Tikunz 

      3 years ago

      What a butthurt article. People are not this black and white. What's more, if you don't possess enough sensitivity or compassion to relate to people around you, it doesn't automatically make you more mature, focused and worthy of respect. As a language teacher of people aged 18+ from all over the world and a variety of backgrounds, I'd say that only our youngest, most selfish students say exactly what they think at any given moment. This is because they lack self-awareness and maturity. They often hold back the class because they feel it necessary IN THE MIDDLE OF A CLASS to argue about rules they don't want to follow or consequences of their actions they don't want to take responsibility for... or random off-topic questions that only they care about the answers to. I don't respect them more for this, and neither do their peers who have paid thousands to try and learn an entire language in under a year. I agree (of course, who wouldn't?) that to avoid doing the right or necessary things for fear of making someone angry or making them not like you is bad. However, it's not as bad for everyone around that person as it is for that person him/herself. People-pleasing also leads to people going out of their way to do favors, giving more help and just in general putting their own needs (apart from being liked) last. That is why they get promotions -- not because everyone around them except for you can't see the "truth" of them being people-pleasers.

      As a teacher, I have to play both sides depending on what is needed. Sometimes students need a disciplinarian who denies them what they want because I know they will be better off later. Other times I have to get over the fact that I'm in bad mood. They need me to be compassionate when they actually have extentuating circumstances. And yes, they do need to feel that I like them (even when *gasp* I don't) because that is what will make them feel confident and safe enough to ask for help, which is my job (whether I actually like them or not).

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      So if someone points out the flaws in this article, does that make him/her a genuine communicator, or just an angry people pleaser?

    • marion langley profile image

      marion langley 

      5 years ago from The Study

      Interesting. My husband and I have often discussed how irritating it is to try to get past the shallow layer to a discussion of any depth because of how resistive people can be. We've been described as rude and abrasive. People do get very defensive and their arguments are very emotionally driven.We hope that logic will kick in and they will come around eventually.

    • starapostle profile image


      5 years ago

      This was very thorough.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      No no Sarah! Don't get this twisted! I appreciate people who are genuinely kind, but that is not the case with a PP. See, the PPs will not even let you see their personality, will always have the "nice" front on, and will only build shallow relationships with narcissistic people who want to be cuddled, listened to, who want to hide from truth basically. PPs are very fake, at least publicly. For example, when you meet them they will get you to talk about yourself, then analyse you, then decide what will get you to feel good about yourself and like them, then just go on with that attitude, doing or saying what will please you. Would you rather have a friend who tells you the truth and helps you grow, or someone who just encourages you to stay in your patterns, because you feel good in them and are grateful to the PPs for approving of them? Nice people are not necessarily PPs, and vice versa. Also, a PP is not just someone who can't say no and/or is very kind/giving. Rather, they say what you want to hear; it's basically a sweet conning. Nothing to do with regular altruism and niceness. PPs are another breed, and I believe are always aware of what they do and are constantly strategizing and analyzing their environment. And the reason why I think they lack self-esteem is that they take the concept of "wanting to be liked" to a whole other level, are ready to hide themselves, their flaws (basically they're humanity), and are scared of someone disliking them for whatever reason. That, to me, sounds like shaky self-confidence. As for the article, it only underlines the fact that the PP's personality is more like an act, which is why it says that they are "calculating". But it's more subtle than all that anyways, and there are not many hardcore PPs out there. When you meet an aggressive one though, you'll see.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      So let me get this straight, people pleasers are either greedy and selfish or lack self esteem or confidence? So you don't believe people can just be nice and want to look out for each other and try to make each other happy? This seems really cynical.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      (I should mention that my comment is based on observing -and interacting with- two people who are/were in my life (one personally, one professionally). What I find/found the most shocking is seeing so many people fall for people pleasers. Indeed, they managed to fool many smart people, from bosses, to boyfriends, to friends, to colleagues, etc.. Thank God though, there are still some very fine and intelligent people who value real communication/interactions, and I think those people are the ones who really are at the "top" professionally and socially. And so in these two contexts, I think that the higher a people pleaser will go, the harder it will be for him/her to manage this behavior and to please a maybe more analytical/intellectual crowd. I basically see them as being on a motivated journey to self-destruction/denial, and am sure we need not worry about them outdoing the good/honest communicators.)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This article is so on point! Although I have to say that I believe some people pleasers become such, not out of greedy selfishness, but out of simple lack of self-estime/confidence. And so, what is also interesting is, how you mentioned, the way pleasers will react when someone around them is not dupe. When the people pleaser realizes he/she has been "caught", or can't get through to someone - i.e. can't get their approval and love/respect with their "tricks" -, the claws come out and they can become relatively aggressive. The anger that they suppress seems to resurface, yet clashes with their need to be liked, and so the result is a weird mix of behaviors, a very unstable attitude that settles back into "people pleasing" when the "threatening" person has left. Also, trying to confront them is pointless: their anger - and so their honesty - is always harnessed by their fear of not being liked, even by someone they don't even appreciate.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I find this article to be a bit disturbing - while I see your points, do you believe that people pleasers can be genuine in their desire to 'please people'? Is it possible they want to treat others with kindness and respect and try to settle or avoid conflict not because they are selfish and want attention, but rather they want to make the world a more enjoyable place and want to treat others as they want to be treated, with love and kindness? I feel like this article is saying that if you are kind and try to make others happy, deep down you are selfish and bringing down the world, and that can't be right.

    • stuff4you profile image


      7 years ago

      I've noticed big self esteem differences when I did away with a lot of people pleasing.

    • sdy53 profile image


      7 years ago

      Exceptionally insightful,incisive commentary on why overall incompetence will increase if the people pleasers exceed the genuine communicators.

      Do u believe someone with alzheimers would be more likely to be a genuine communicator?

    • DonDWest profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada


      I understand why people do it (communicate to please in the workplace), the problem is it creates incompetence and poor results. Incompetence all around may cause you to lose your job regardless. As someonen who has delt with three companies going bankrupt and losing my job, I know from experience. Maybe letting it go is fine if you work for the government, but in the private sector you're living on borrowed time as the gross organizational incompetence will soon catch up with you. Better to have tried and lost than to have never tried at all. . .

      If everyone valued genuine communication the world would be a better place. The person who is scrutinized and tossed away at work for being a genuine communicator by the army of people pleasers is no different than when Galileo Galilei was tossed in a cell for pointing out the sun is in the centre of the solar system.

      Contrary to popular belief, a lot of people have difficulty leaving their "working personality" at work. I've seen it first hand, and it's a symptom of the service industry. People born into this world are confused as to what is truly genuine human emotion because they've been exposed to so much of the artificial variety. There was a book about this subject, I forget the title of it, I think it was called "The Emotional Labourer", I'll look it up.

    • sdy53 profile image


      7 years ago

      I liked this.

      With respect to the workplace people pleasing may relate to desire to hang on to your job. Let's face it...its not always practical to be a genuine communicator at work unless you want to genuinely communicate your unemployed status in the unemployment line.

      All frivolity aside, we can not all behave like House(genuine communicator par excellence) and expect to keep our jobs.Conflict will occur personally and professionally. The way we choose to disagree takes years to cultivate and refine. A person who is offended that you disagree is an insecure individual.


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