Don't Be a People Pleaser, Do Be a People Person

Pastors (or for that matter, any leader) can make at least two mistakes in their interactions with followers. One is a mistake of commission: people pleasing. The other is a mistake of omission: failing to develop as a people person.

A people pleaser experiences high stress in situations where conflict and potential for others to be displeased occur.  A people pleaser:

  • Strives to please others and avoids conflict at all cost

  • Spends too much time worrying about what others think

  • Becomes overly distressed when others voice opposing views or complaints

  • May abdicate what they view as best just to keep someone happy

A people person, as I define it, is not necessarily a gregarious, out-going extroverted back-slapper. A people person is someone who has mastered interpersonal communication skills and genuinely cares for others.  A people person:

  • Hurts when criticized but maintains an objective view of the criticism

  • Works hard to resolve conflicts in a collaborative fashion but does not simply avoid conflict

  • Practices self-acceptance while also showing others acceptance, love and patience

  • Works collaboratively on a corporate vision while staying true to their personal values and goals  

People person skills and interpersonal savvy can be learned. Just saying, “I’m not a people person” does not absolve us from the necessary work of developing those skills.

As for people pleasing, yes, we put other’s needs above our own as demonstrated in Christ’s servant leadership. Christ, however, fully served, fully loved, and fully gave without ever abdicating his own vision and mission.  

Do you find trouble staying true to yourself while serving others? Are you driven by a need for acceptance and approval? If so, you likely find yourself well down the road toward burnout, frustration, resentment, and depression.

Letting go of the need for approval isn’t easy. It will take concerted effort over time.

Awareness is the first step. So study yourself. Notice times you slip into people pleasing.  Later, journal and describe the situation in writing and record as much of your self-talk and feelings as you can remember.

Great leadership requires both tough skin and genuine love.

Let go of people pleasing! Build your people person skills. You will find yourself more fully present, effectively empowering, and lovingly ministering to others.