Overcoming The Need To Please

Highly sensitive people have many ways of handling their nature and the overwhelm that they experience. Being different means that relationships are often difficult for us. We often feel at a disadvantage in relationships feeling one down because we feel disrespected.

There are many reasons for this. Our compassionate non-competitive natures seek mutuality in a one-upsmanship world which does not respect our kindness. So we often want the respect we deserve but cannot claim. So we seek ways to achieve social acceptance. Pleasing is one of those ways.

Do You Feel The Need To Please?

The need to please comes from our need to establish and maintain the interpersonal bridge with others. there are many ways that the interpersonal bridge is created and sustained. Most of the time there is some kind of shared experience or another kind of bond created through:

  • blood relationships
  • being neighbors
  • school and school activities
  • shared interests
  • work
  • community activities
  • shared values
  • shared life experiences

Highly sensitive people have trouble with the interpersonal bridge because often their values are different from those around them and also because they are different and experience most things differently it is hard for them to bond over shared experiences. Many times HSPs are loners but not by choice.

The weakness of the interpersonal bridge is something that we live with each day and it is often a source of feelings of vulnerability. We do not fit in and know it. We suspect therefore that we are unwelcome.

Coming To Terms With The Challenges Of Being Different

Being different does not necessarily mean that we are unwelcome. Humans are notorious for comparing themselves to each other so we may remind others of undeveloped aspects of themselves and in that way create feelings of discomfort. That is not our fault but something to be aware of.

However, if we expect to be close with people whose values are radically different then we are probably inviting some hurt into our lives. There are many people who do not and will not “get” HSPs and that is something that we have to accept.

We can improve our social life if we reserve our serious social investments to those where our values are compatible.

When Do We Start To Please?

The need to please will surface when we are trying to fit in with a group that is different from us where we would like to have some social standing. It could be a work environment or family group. Whatever the situation, pleasing comes from thinking that the burden of the interpersonal bridge is primarily ours and that unless we make a special effort there may not be a relationship and we may be harmed in some way.

In these situations being ourselves is something we think will harm us or cause us to be rejected. We have to be someone else in order to survive socially.

Overcoming The Need To Please

The need to please is above and beyond doing one’s part in a relationship. The need to please is a function of being made inferior in some way. It is an outcome of trying to survive in a social structure where you are disfavored. It is a way of trying to cover up your differentness so that you can acquire needed resources. Pleasing is a social strategy of minorities and social outsiders throughout history.

So what can you do?

Here are some questions to ask about how you are living to see if you can make some changes that will provide you with more social safety:

  • what relationships do I have where I feel a need to please?
  • in what way am I dependent on others for supplies (of any kind) that cause me to be in relationships where I need to please?
  • what changes can I make to reduce my needs so that I have fewer relationships that require unnatural pleasing?
  • if I cannot reduce my needs can I find alternatives that are more supportive of my self-respect?
  • can I create what I need?
  • can you ask for more of what you need from relationships that are one-sided to make them feel more mutual?

Sometimes a little strategy can make all the difference in helping us rebalance our relationships and make them more mutual.

About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World. In addition, she has created the immersive Emerging Sensitive Program using cultural and personal development frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. She also offers The Magic Of Joy program for quantum healing and the Emerging Sensitive Community focused on living in the world as a sensitive person and navigating the challenging cultural shifts of our times. She is a longtime meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is a Certified Theta Healer and certified in Spiral Dynamics. She is an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.


  1. Nancy on May 14, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Wonderful points about being true to one’s own spirit. I have learned that when healthy boundaries and safe zones are in place, communication and sharing become free flowing and neither party needs to ingratiate or bow falsely to another. In safe zones of communication, differences of opinion and agreement facilitate a joyful experience for both parties.

    • Maria Hill on May 14, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      Thanks, Nancy. It sounds like you have developed some great social strategies.

      All the best,

  2. Jo on May 15, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    Great article, I’d like to add that upbringing has influence in a way as well. When I was a child I was very shy, when growing up and becoming a teenager and in adolescence I still was. It wasn’t until my first child was born that the feeling of ‘have-to-please’ and of course other life experiences turned for the best. The only ones I wanted to please was my own family, up to a healthy level though.
    We have to stand up for our own values and stick to our guns. It is a false kind of safe feeling that when you please others they will like you … well don’t think so!
    Healthy boundaries, stand up for yourself, think for yourself, and take care of you (and family).
    I rather turn pleasing into caring, however be smart about this one as well.
    Again thanks for sharing your article ..

    • Maria Hill on May 15, 2015 at 7:12 pm

      Hi Jo,

      I can see that you have really grappled with this and successfully so. Good for you!


  3. JC on February 1, 2018 at 10:12 am

    For HSP’s brought up in abusive situations or overly bullied (or both), this becomes a matter of survival and is a very difficult ‘habit’ to break. You are taught by life that you will never fit in or truly be safe, so hiding your real self becomes ingrained. It would take a lot of earned trust to build a relationship bridge not based on need.

    • Maria Hill on February 1, 2018 at 10:23 am

      Thanks for your thoughts, Jennifer. It is a challenge to navigate the world and although it will never be a perfectly nurturing one for sensitive people, hopefully, we can find ways to make it more hospitable by cultivating relationships with more like-minded people.