Written by Amanda Averbeck, MS, LMFT Associate on 9/14/2021; Based on the work of Virginia Satir as presented by John Banmen
When you use placating to cope with a stress, you are ignoring your own needs and desires and do everything you can to meet the expectations of another person or situation. Even to your own detriment. Some people like to call this people pleasing.
To feel safe, you automatically value other people’s perspectives above your own. Often you don’t even know what you want, need, feel, or think. You are, however, excellent at picking up cues from others and meeting their needs and wants before you are even asked.
When placating, communication lacks clarity. Instead of directing asking for that you need and want, you beat around the bush. People don’t feel connected to you because you don’t share your thoughts and feelings. As you near burnout you may rely on passive aggressive communication, which continues to sever connection, increase stress, thus perpetuating the cycle of your unhealthy coping.
In a MARRIAGE placating sounds like apologizing for thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants. It looks like giving in when you sense tension because keeping the peace is more important than getting your way. It sets you up for burn out, depression, anxiety, feeling trapped in your relationship, resenting your partner, and divorce.
In PARENTING, placating looks like anticipating your children’s needs before they even speak up and robbing them of the opportunity to learn how to speak up for themselves or learn to wait. It sets you up for enabling your child and delaying their emotional and social development.
At the OFFICE placating looks like busting your butt, working overtime, and doing whatever your boss tells you because you fear you will lose your job if you don’t. It sets you up for burnout, resenting your boss and colleagues, and thinking the only way to find balance is to change jobs. (However, it’s just a matter of time before you set up similar patterns in the new workplace.)
If you use placating to cope with stress, the first step to finding balance is getting in touch with your self compassion. Defense mechanism are in place to protect us even if we don't like how they protect us.
Become aware of when you want to say “no” but say “yes” instead. What feeling(s) prompted you to say “yes”? What thoughts prompted you to say “yes”? Is there any truth to the thoughts or are they based in fear? What are you afraid would happen if you said “no”? Do you feel comfortable sharing that fear with the other person? Give it a try! “I want to say “no”, but I fear you may…”
When and if you say, “No” when you mean “No” pay attention to how it feels. What do you have time for that would not have been able to do if you said “yes”?
When you communicate, know you are important. Your thoughts and feelings matter. You deserve to have your needs met and your wants considered. Start by respecting yourself and others will follow suit. If they don’t, maybe they need to work on unlearning their own coping style. That is not your responsibility.
Want help changing your coping style? I help individuals and couples learn to new coping and communication skills. Make an appointment here.