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Aiming to please: how far should you go?

How many time do you try to please someone through your attitudes, opinions, concessions or realisations? Do you do it consciously or unconsciously? The answer can be difficult to discern, especially considering how often we run on autopilot when navigating our daily interactions, meaning it can be difficult to distinguish true from false. This said, if you left your personal sphere of introspection and took a step back to consider those around you, you would be surprised by the acts and gestures they perform to please, constantly and everyday.

Think about it. The intention of pleasing is everywhere and deeply rooted in our personality. This said, it is not an end in itself. Nor can it be reduced to a purely egocentric or narcissistic need (I please, therefore I exist!). It is more an attitude aiming to bolster:

1. Our ‘conformity’ capital, by identifying with and conforming to the image others have of us, or an image they would like to have of us.

2. Our ‘socialisation’ capital, by satisfying our need to remain surrounded by people who consider us to be ‘sociable’

3. Our ‘sympathy’ capital by enabling us to influence other so that they conform to or adopt our suggestions

4. Our ‘respect’ capital in winning admiration of other because of an achievement, which leads, in certain cases to intentions 2 and 3, in a manner of speaking.

The intensity of our inclination towards bolstering our capital (conformity, socialisation, sympathy, and respect) constantly feed our desire to please and our fear of displeasing. It inevitably leads to the false good idea of trying to please everyone. This said, you can’t please everybody, or rather, you’re not supposed to please everybody.

We must accept that we can not agree with everyone, that situations might require arbitration which might drive people away from us. You can also rest certain that specific situations will require you be frank and authentic, and that such decisions might not attract much sympathy. Above all, all the achievements you are proud of may not generate unconditional admiration around you as people might have priorities far removed from yours. These examples illustrated the adverse conditions in which you might find yourself. Acknowledging you can’t please everyone does not mean animosity, antipathy or rebellion. What it does also mean is that, in specific circumstances, you focus on values which are more important to you: freedom, authenticity, frankness and transparency of your long term interests. Knowing you can’t please everyone is to recognise and address the challenge of diversity. The most important thing is being able to accept diversity and difference rather than channelling all our energy in a blind bid to please.

By Farid Yandouz


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