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People Pleasers: Are You Too Agreeable?

By: Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC

Are you attached to being a people pleaser and avoiding conflict to keep the peace and harmony? Sometimes the constant need for harmony can cause more harm than good. Many people believe that “agreeableness is a reliable asset at all times.” Some of this can be due to biology, while other times it is related to personality traits. Culture and upbringing play a role here. People often related disagreeableness to “loneliness and ostracism.” So it seems like it would be easier to just agree all the time, right? Well, not necessarily. Sometimes avoiding conflict is not a good idea and as a result of the avoidance, it can even create more conflict. Here are some strategies to help you to push back as opposed to always resulting in agreeableness, even if it is at a deficit to yourself. 

Distinguish Position From Person 

In disagreeing with others, it can cause people to become defensive. It’s important to make sure it is clear that you are pushing back against someone’s opinion, not the person that holds that opinion. This will help to avoid people from feeling attacked. You can make an effort to see how and why they came to see things the way they do, respect it, and offer an alternative perspective. 

Offer a Solution 

What is your alternative solution or recommendation? According to Forbes, it’s “easy to say that you disagree, but it’s not so easy to develop, present and sell a different solution.” Offering a different alternative gives the other person options on how to move forward instead of just shutting down what they have offered. 

Back-Up Your Position 

Prepare ahead and have good examples that support your case or perspective. Most individuals will lean more towards being “risk-averse” so it can be helpful to demonstrate what other people have done in the past. What’s worked and what hasn’t? 

Listen Actively 

Do not just wait for your turn to talk, actually listen to the person and show respect for their opinion and what they have to say – even if you disagree with it.  If you are simply waiting for your turn to talk, you are not actively listening and you will be too focused on what you are going to say to fully take in what the other person is trying to communicate.  

Inquire Before Advocating 

Instead of just advocating your personal opinion, begin with inquiring. When inquiring, you are “better placed to turn the conversation back to your winning points.” A helpful phrase to utilize would be: 

“I think I understand what you’re trying to say, but help me with this aspect: I’m having trouble seeing how to get from here to there.”

Yes and…

Avoid relying on “yes, but..” and change that to “yes, and…” Unfortunately, the former can be perceived as combative whereas the latter leaves more room for conversation where more ideas can be built. The further conversation will be promoted and perspectives can be expanded. When doing this, it might be helpful to incorporate a phrase such as this: 

“I hear what you are saying and would like to ask if you have considered this…”

Concede Defeat Graciously

We can’t always get our way. Be sensitive to when it’s time to give up the fight and accept defeat without slipping into alienation or damaging your relationships. 

We hope you have found this guide helpful! If you would like to talk to someone, our counselors are here to help. Contact Symmetry Counseling to begin therapy in Chicago today!


Polard, A. (2018). Are you too agreeable? Retrieved from:

Warrell, M. (2013). Are you too agreeable? 7 strategies to push back without coming off pushy. Forbes. Retrieved from:

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