Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

People Pleasing Is Bad Manners

We all know that being rude is impolite. But few of us realise that being overly friendly is just as unattractive. 

We’re well aware of just how unnerving excessive cheerfulness is. We only need to think of the office bootlicker, the candy smiled air flight attendant, or the ever-agreeing romantic interest. 

Having someone agree with us seems flattering at first. But when they’re thrilled about all the things we say, their approval starts to feel disingenuous. Especially when the people pleaser praises us about things we don’t care about. 

For example, it’s odd to hear someone compliment our outfit when it’s something we haphazardly threw on as we went out to walk our dog. 

The intent of the overly friendly person might very well be to bond with us. But their excessive cheeriness actually obstructs the building of a genuine connection.

And that’s because we’re deeply aware of our incompetence. Sure, we might sometimes express an insightful view, tell a funny joke, or wear an exquisite pair of shoes, but by and large most of what we do is rather ordinary and accompanied by doubt. 

And any remarkable thing we achieve is eclipsed by our failures. 

So when someone shows they’re particularly impressed by us, they’re actually communicating that they don’t see or understand us at all.

But sycophants are rarely to blame for their sugary attitude. They often come from households where their opinions were not appreciated, or they’ve suffered so much pain that they’re afraid to say anything that could upset someone.

Another part of the problem lies with us. We’re typically too embarrassed to let people in on our missteps, so strangers have nothing to observe besides our successes. It’s no wonder people think highly of us when we don’t give them any reason to think the opposite.

But ultimately, the solution is simple.

If our goal is to make friends, we only need to recognise ourselves in others. 

No matter how different we might seem on the surface, we’re all united by our shared humanity. 

Whether the person in front of us is a truck driver or a director for the opera, they’re still a highly fragile, struggling, and needy creature. 

This doesn’t mean we’re all on the verge of falling apart, but it does suggest that our own emotional experiences are a far better guide at charming someone than sanding off our rough edges. 

Camouflaging our otherness with kindness is far colder than being real with someone. Authenticity at least acknowledges the other person’s strength and ability to stand on their own feet.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach