Podcast cover with 'Episode 3 - How to stop people pleasing before it ruins your business)

Are you a people pleaser?

Do you find it hard to say no to people?

Do you find it frustrating when, despite your best efforts, a relationship with a client or team member turns sour?

If you've answered yes to any of these then this episode is for you!

Most of us are trained people pleasers, a habit we carry over from childhood and something we hope will smooth relationships in our business, as well as home lives.

The truth is, people pleasing is ruining your business!

In this episode we look into why we people please, the harm it causes and what we should do instead to have healthy, happy, profitable working relationships.

Are you ready to quit people pleasing and grow your business?

Episode Transcript

Hello and welcome to episode 3 of Your Business, Online, Your Way. The podcast to help you to achieve small business success. If you’re here for the first time, welcome. If you’ve listened to previous episodes welcome back! It’s lovely to have you here.

I’m Holly Christie, your host. I’m a website designer, mentor and business strategist. I have 2 website and mentoring companies; This Demanding Life - to help small businesses get seen online and Simply Sites, for budding businesses wanting a stellar website.

This week we’re talking about people pleasing. Something a lot of us do automatically, without thinking. We’ll be looking at why it’s hindering, rather than helping us in business. Let’s get started.

This episode will air on the third week of January but do you feel you’re only just recovering from last year? That as the year went on you had more and more on your plate and before you knew it, you were 100% thinking about work, whether it was during your working hours or not?

If that’s you, you’re certainly not alone. As entrepreneurs we can often look at how hard and how often we work as a sign of our success and how busy we are. While this can be true, how busy, or let’s tell it like it is, how overwhelmed we are is often due to a lack of boundaries.

I’ll be talking about boundaries in more detail in a future episode, because while people pleasing does involve a lack of boundaries, it’s so much more than that.

Whilst we know people pleasing often comes from childhood, It’s a practice most of use carry into adulthood. It is one of those pesky traits which muddle things up and can make the difference between having good relationships with clients and team members, and having fractious ones.

You may be thinking ‘but if you’re pleasing the people, it won’t lead to fractious relationships, instead it should do the opposite’. I hear you, but the reality is that people pleasing does a lot more harm to relationships than you’d think.

For a start, it’s almost impossible to hold good boundaries when you’re people pleasing. The desire to keep the person happy takes you outside of your ability to enforce boundaries to protect your own time, energy and space. However, all people need boundaries, from both sides of the relationship - you need them so you don’t burn out, and your client needs them as, if you just keep doing more and more and more (in my industry this is known as scope creep) things can feel like a runaway train for both, you and the client. Trust me, runaway trains never make people feel good.

I had been running This Demanding Life for a couple of years before I realised that trying to be all things to all people was not doing me any favours. I was working day and night, despite having a young family who needed my attention and input, plus I was having to repeatedly learn new software and skillsets to match my clients’ expectations. In many cases, the software or skillset was inherited from a website developer who had fired or been fired by the client. Looking back, it’s crazy to think I was knocking myself out to learn and work in outdated systems to please the people who were no longer working on the project.

Before long I realised this wasn’t a good use of my time and it wasn’t fostering good relationships with my clients as they were frustrated I didn’t yet have the skillset or didn’t do it the same way their previous developer had.

Over the years I’ve worked on my processes and I now have something that works brilliantly for both, my team and my clients. I’m very clear what these processes are and still, clients ask if they can drip-feed content (this is a big no for me as it means a project never ends) or use systems I don’t, like Dropbox. I have to be very confident in explaining my systems are designed for us to both have a good experience of working together. Surprisingly, this always gets a good reception because it shows people that I’m thinking of them in the process, as well as me and my team.

Breaking people pleasing habits is hard, but it’s always worthwhile especially as you can do everything in your repertoire to please someone who is determined to be disgruntled. If you’ve been in business a while you’ll have come across many types of clients. Some are fantastic to work with and others, not so much.

There are the clients who are determined to make you their scapegoat. These are the ones who generally come on really strong, they’re delighted by you and everything you do, they are in contact a lot, usually with lots of problems and lots of praise, they view you as their solution and it’s very flattering. This is great but, and it’s a big but here. You’ll often find this sort of client blows hot and cold and you never know which version of them you’re going to get. A lot of their interactions with you aren’t actually about you or a service you’re providing, they’re fulfilling a need of their own. Often they’ll flatter you but flat out refuse to take your advice, they may consider you their lackey and, when they’ve gone against your advice and been proved wrong for doing so, they will 100% blame you for their actions and the relationship will turn sour. Don’t try to please or placate this type of client, offload them as efficiently as possible. I find the easiest way is to not be drawn into conversation of he said/she said, just stick to the facts, raise your final invoice and wish them well.

You may also come across a client who has fired their previous provider. They may tell you that the provider hasn’t fulfilled their part of the contract, that they’ve ghosted them or that they’ve outgrown each other. In my years of running a business I can tell you this: in every single case I’ve come across which has presented as this, it has always been an issue with the client, rather than the previous service provider. I tend to head them off at the pass and recommend them to someone else. I’m sure they’ll work well with someone, but it’s not going to be me.

Don’t confuse this for someone who’s had a good experience with their provider but is now looking to move because you’re more experienced or your service is slightly different. I often work with these people as their respect for their previous provider shows they tend to have good business relationships.

In both of the cases where they want to make you their scapegoat or they’ve been fired by their previous provider, there will be a lot of negativity and this negativity leeches into your other experiences. It’s hard to stay focused and balanced when you’ve got someone determined to have a miserable experience and you’re trying to people please your way through it. And trust me, you don’t want to drop the ball on work you’re doing with your good clients, because you’re trying to please someone who’s determined you’re not going to win.

People pleasing in your business, whether it’s with clients, or your team, can lead to you dropping the ball. If your focus and attention is always being pulled towards one thing, it’s leaving the other areas of your business wide open. If you’re a long term people pleaser you can also find it leads to burnout and trust me, burnout is no fun at all.

I personally think there’s a lack of authenticity around people pleasing. You’re never seeing the real person, the one who wants to say ‘no, go away!’ Rather than ‘yes, of course, we’ll get that organised straight away’. Even when the client is in the wrong.

Not that I’d ever advise you to tell someone ‘no, go away’ but not working with someone who isn’t a great fit for you, is a whole different kind of integrity in business.

If you follow Holistic Psychologist, Nicole le Pera, you may have seen her say the following about people pleasing:

“People pleasing is an attempt to control people's perception of us. Once you face that, you can finally start to let it go.”

Ok, I’m guessing that by this point you get it. People pleasing = bad, boundaries and standing up for yourself = good.

So let’s look at the next steps….. what you can do instead of people pleasing…..

  1. Get clarity.

If you feel you’ve spent a lot of time in the last 12 months trying to calm and control and people please your way out of situations with your customers the very first step is to get clarity on what kind of customers you actually want and getting those customers means marketing to them.

All marketing essentially boils down to:

  • Your customer has a pain point.
  • Your product or service has the tools to solve that pain.

It’s really that simple. While your product or service is probably suitable for lots of people we need to look at the people you really want to work with. Take me for example - I have 2 website companies to provide websites to people who are either starting up in business or they’re already established and they’re ready to make that ‘go big or go home’ move. There are hundreds of thousands of people who fit this criteria, trust me. However, I don’t want to appeal to that many people. I need to market to the people who I actually want to work with - the ones who aren’t going to leave me unable to sleep at night and the ones whom I really believe in.

The first thing I look at are my values (you’ll find them on my website but here’s a quick recap):

Community - I’m big on thinking we’re stronger when we’re together and I love having a brilliant community of professionals around me who can all help each other.

Detail - Ok, this is totally an ADHD trait but I do think so much of the work is in the detail. I often say my attention to detail is mine and my team’s superpower. When working with others’ I look to work with people who also value that.

Experience - I think that experience speaks for itself and it’s something we should share with others’. When creating websites or mentoring clients I work with people who value my experience and are looking to use it to be successful in their own business.

Integrity - Not quite sure why this is the last on the list as it’s the one I value the most. I always act with integrity and I expect clients to, also. That way, we always know where we’re at with each other and we’re both working to the same end goal, to make their business more successful.

I want to work with people who value these qualities too.

Next, I look at whether I believe in their business and want to work with them. Will I be happy to promote their website and recommend them at the end of it?

If either of these are ‘no’ then I effectively say ‘thanks but no thanks’.

If it’s a yes, then I know I’ll genuinely look forward to working with them.

So that’s clarity all wrapped up, the next step is:

  1. Confidence….

You know you’re good at what you do. You have the right experience, skillset and training to be doing whatever service or product your small business offers. After all, knowing you’re good at it, is what inspired you to setup on your own in the first place.

The road of Entrepreneurship is a bumpy one. For sure! I think we all set up thinking that everyone’s going to be as excited by our new venture as we are and it’s pretty brutal the day you learn that they are not. There are hundreds and sometimes thousands of people doing what you’re doing and the competition is fierce.

It can be tempting to work with any old client during this time to keep the money coming in. But it’s even more important that you enforce boundaries and only work with those who share your values and value the work you’re bringing to the table. Trust me. Working with any old client leads to a horrendous lack of boundaries and if you have people pleasing tendencies or are worried that not 100% pleasing them is going to damage your reputation, you’re in for a rough ride.

You see, people pleasing does the exact opposite of building confidence, it destroys it. When you’re working with clients you’re the expert, not them. That’s why they’ve come to you. If they’re kind of tricky to begin with and you find yourself in a people pleasing role, this could be around deadlines or the way something’s executed or presented, then it’s going to zap all that lovely confidence you had built up prior to working with them.

Have the confidence to market to the people you really want to work with and only work with them. It can be frightening to turn down work but I promise, it clears the way for the clients who are a great fit for you.

Last but not least…

  1. Create Opportunities

You’ll be surprised where opportunities in business come from. Networking events, a comment on a LinkedIn post, a stellar, search engine optimised website (ok, I had to put that in, I am in the business of websites after all!) But seriously, there are opportunities all around you, it’s just knowing how to plug into and leverage them. The main way you’re going to get business, certainly in the early days is to spend a lot of time showing up online, this can be through LinkedIn or Facebook, Instagram, creating blog posts on your website or you may even launch a podcast. People need to see you, as business is built on a ‘know, like and trust’ basis.

If you’re busy people pleasing, and if you’re this way inclined it may not just be with one client, it could be with clients, your team members, service providers or family and friends, it’s taking away precious time and energy from showing up in the places where you need to be your best, shiniest, on-form, promoting your business, self.

I’m always conscious that I don’t let clients dictate deadlines to me. I have a very clear process of how long a website build will take and I always deliver inside a deadline. My process has been built using years of experience and I know if a client wants to shave off a week or two, it’s going to disrupt the process, meaning things are rushed and in the worst case, not properly checked before we send their website live. I know it can be frightening to push back when someone’s trying to hurry you along but if they start putting the pressure on once they’ve signed up, it’s time to put the boundaries in place, remind them of your Ts & Cs and stick to that. Trying to please them by doing it faster doesn’t just mean dropped balls on your part, it can also mean you sacrifice your opportunities to be online, doing your marketing well and lining up the next clients for when you’ve finished with these ones.

To recap, people pleasing has no place in business. You don’t have to be mean about it, but you do have to have excellent boundaries which will create good opportunities for a brilliant working relationship between you and your clients. Next time you’re tempted to people please do this instead:

Get Clarity, Get Confident and Create Opportunities.

I’m going to end this episode with this brilliant quote from Annie Lamont:

‘No is a complete sentence’.

That’s all from me today. Thank you so much for listening and I wish you an amazing week ahead with renewed boundaries and less people pleasing. If in doubt, ‘no is a complete sentence’ but you might want to put it a little more softly for your clients!

If you’d like to discuss how I can help you manage your boundaries, client relationships or who and how to market to, you can find me at: thisdemandinglife.com. You can email me: holly@thisdemandinglife.com and you can connect with me on LinkedIn: hollycchristie. I’m also on Facebook and Instagram: This Demanding Life, if that’s where you’re hanging out.

If you’ve enjoyed today’s show please can you leave a rating and review wherever you get your podcasts. It helps the podcast platforms like Apple and Spotify to suggest this podcast to new listeners and I’d love to share this free resource as widely as possible.

Thank you for listening and see you next week!

Really Refreshing

Looking forward to the next episode, I’m hooked already. Really easy to listen to and definitely strikes a chord with me. 


Feeling inspired

Would definitely recommend this podcast. Aimed at those small business owners, but for someone who has recently started a new role in my company, this definitely motivated me on this cold wet Monday morning to not be afraid of being vulnerable in the workplace and putting myself out there!

Can’t wait for the next episode


It’s a great podcast Holly, you’ve covered some really useful topics and had fantastic guests. It’s like your topics were written with me in mind…

Natalie Trembecki

Brilliant first episode!!

The first episode of “Your Business, Your Way” is a refreshing take on the entrepreneurial journey I needed to hear this morning . I felt reassured hearing Holly emphasise a crucial point: you don’t need to know everything to get started. This approach is a game-changer, especially for those new to the business world, breaking down the barriers of perfection and complete readiness that often hold us back.

What I loved about this first episode of the podcast is its blend of practical advice with an undercurrent of motivation. It reassured me that starting with what I know and learning as I go is not just okay, but a smart way to grow. The podcast feels like a supportive friend, nudging you to take those first steps while keeping the mood light and approachable.

For anyone at the crossroads of starting or scaling a business, this podcast could be the push you need. It’s a promising mix of insights, stories, and encouragement. I’m eager for the next episodes and recommend it to anyone looking to embark on a business venture in a way that’s true to them. It’s an exciting start, and I’m genuinely looking forward to where this podcast will take its listeners next.


Small Business Growth

I’m so excited to have your podcast alongside me as I grow my business. Looking forward to taking action on your steps and learn from someone who knows what they are talking about. Thanks Holly – you’re a star!


Small Business Growth

I love listening to each new episode of Holly’s podcast. It feels like she has read my mind and understands the challenges I find myself up against when running my business. Her advice and insights are fantastic and I’m looking forward to hearing her future episodes. This is a great resource for any small business owner trying to establish a successful business in the online (and/or offline) world.

Fay Wallis

Just listened to your first podcast episode and it’s absolutely brilliant! Good work Holly!

Mike Cottam