Ike: You are the most lost woman I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Ike: That’s right. You’re so lost, you don’t even know how you like your eggs
Ike: With the priest, you wanted scrambled. With the Dead Head, it was fried. With the bug guy, it was poached. Now it’s like. “Oh, egg whites only. Thank you very much.”
Maggie: That’s called changing your mind.
Ike: No, that’s called not having a mind of your own…
The Runaway Bride
So how do we know when we are in a state of compliance versus cooperation? Have you taken the time to breathe and process the decisions you are making or do you become anxious, giving quick responses? Do you worry about rocking the boat or do you think about what is best for you? Do you find it difficult to make decisions on your own without the input of others? Do you feel uneasy whenever you do disagree with someone important to you? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you might be in a state of compliance more often than you think. When you are in this state you tend to put the physical and emotional needs of others before your own. You worry more about how your decision will be perceived by others than if it is in fact the right decision for you. Actually, you yourself are more like an afterthought. You may also find yourself being resentful of your choices and believing that you were forced or blaming others for the decisions your have made and the resulting outcomes. You may begin to dislike the very people you are trying to please as you feel powerless and controlled around them.
Other things to consider in assessing for compliance or cooperation are who stands to benefit from the decision that was made and is the outcome mutually desirable. Additionally, consider what your motivation for agreeing is; is it to keep the peace or is it because you actually believe in that choice? Are you choices aligned with your values or do you feel a knot in your stomach when agreeing to something. When you are making the right choice for you the process is often easy. Imagine you are sitting in someone’s home and you see their small child heading towards the unguarded stairs while they are unaware. Would you run to protect the child? Most of us would, the choice is simple and easy. While every choice is not this clear cut, when you find yourself in turmoil over a decision it is likely that your are being influenced by other forces. In that case you may need to take a step back to evaluate what those forces are and why you are feeling the pressure. In some cases it may be unavoidable, while in others you may find you are putting yourself under pressure to make the most likeable choice.
Learning to be in a state of cooperation requires us to prioritize ourselves. It requires getting in touch with our own values and respecting them. We must learn to trust our inner voice and know that whatever we do or have done is what is meant to be and that no one’s thoughts and opinions are any more valuable than our own. It does not require selfishness; of course you must consider the affects your choices will have on others; however you must also consider the affects that have on you. When we value ourselves as much as we value the others in our lives we can begin to make choices that support our values and create opportunities for us to be authentic with others. We begin to know ourselves and let others get to know the wonderful person we are. We can begin to trust that we have all the knowledge and understanding that is needed to make healthy choices for ourselves. We can begin to challenge our ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) that tell us if we disagree we will be unloved, rejected or abandoned. We can also begin to understand that anyone whose love and support is conditional on our compliance is perhaps manipulating our kindness or keeping us in a power and control cycle. Check in with yourself and take a moment before you make your next decision. Are you feeling anxious, tense or worried? Take some time to breathe and let the answers come to you. Don’t rush in; no one ever said responses have to be instantaneous. When you’re feeling rushed and pressured there is a good chance you are experiencing an external or internal shift in power. Notice it, take a breath and ask yourself what am I feeling right now and why.
- Can you tell when you are changing your mind or when your mind being controlled by fear?
- What changes do you notice in your body when you are cooperating? Complying?
With our clients it can be helpful to gently question their motives when making choices. Explore how they’ve come to the conclusion and who it benefits. Help them to experience the internal dialogue in their heads as well as notice the feelings in their bodies. For clients who may be resistant or unaware of their tendency to comply it may help to point out the pattern for them. Help them notice where they have made choices and then become unhappy or resentful with the choice. Explore remarks that suggest they were feeling forced or pressured and explore whether this is internal or external. Comments like: I have to, I must or I should often indicate a perceived pressure to comply with something or someone. Challenge the client to determine whether these are in fact demands placed on them and if they actually have to comply. In many cases it may be that the demand is in their mind and no one has actually said they must do anything. Explore what’s the worst that could happen should they go with the choice that would put their needs first. Finally, help them to accept the fact that they cannot please all people all the time. Ask them what their life would look like if they made all their choices entirely based on pleasing another person and if they’d be happy. Help them remember whose life it is anyway.
- As a coach how can you help your client be more authentic in their decision making?
- What activity could you use to help your client see the extremes of complying versus cooperating?
- How could you help your client visualize a life of pure compliance?
Jay Early, P. (2009). People Pleasing. Retrieved August 25, 2011, from IFS Growth Programs: http://www.personal-growth-programs.com/people-pleasing