It is common for humans to want to be liked. The approval of others feels good. However, constantly seeking the approval of others can become “too much of a good thing.”
Preoccupation with the approval of others can compromise our effectiveness, undermine our self-confidence, and blur our sense of direction. Placing the immediate approval of others as the highest priority for our decisions and actions risks doing what is popular rather than doing what is right. The long-term consequences of approval seeking can undermine the trust and confidence of others. It can also lead to exhaustion and burnout.
Of course, as with most things in life, we need to seek balance. Enjoying the approval of others is not a bad thing, unless it compromises our principles, distracts our attention, and leads to poor decisions.
What are signals that we may be paying too much attention to what others think and working too hard to please them? Here are six signs to monitor:
- Do I pretend to agree with others, even when what is said conflicts with my values? Obviously, we need to be willing to listen and consider what others say and think. We can accept the views of others as their perspectives. However, validating untrue, hurtful, and disrespectful statements just to be liked undermines our self-respect and risks people seeing us as weak and inauthentic.
- Do I find myself apologizing frequently even when I have nothing for which to apologize? Being willing to admit mistakes and apologize for them is an important interpersonal skill and mature response. However, when we constantly accept blame for plans and activities that do not go perfectly, we risk undermining our influence and placing ourselves in an undervalued and disrespected position.
- Do I constantly seek ways to avoid conflict? While engaging in unnecessary conflict can hurt relationships and compromise our reputation, conflict can be important to finding new solutions and relieving built up tensions. Certainly, we need to keep conflict focused on ideas and issues, not people and personalities. Yet, seeking to avoid conflict at all costs risks growing frustration, may leave important matters unresolved, and can place our leadership in question.
- Do I need praise to feel effective? It feels good to be praised, but praise is not the same as accomplishment. Much of the important work we do is not widely known and may not immediately be recognized as praiseworthy. Our focus needs to be on our values and goals, how what we are doing is consistent with what is important, and how we are moving things forward. Our commitment needs to be to practice behaviors that are worthy of our approval, even if others may not immediately notice.
- Do I struggle to say “No?” Being able to say “no” can be as important to our effectiveness as saying “Yes.” An inability to say “No” risks allowing unworthy activities to go forward and us committing to actions in which we do not fully believe. Further, we can waste precious time and energy on other people’s priorities while sacrificing our own.
Of course, none of these elements are absolutes. Their presence, in moderation, is natural and healthy. The key is to seek and maintain balance. Pleasing others is fine if we do not lose our identity and self-respect in the process.