I have a friend who is compelled to please. He can't make a decision because no matter what he decides, someone is going to be unhappy with him. He is facing a major crossroad and he is completely paralyzed.
Of course he's paralyzed. He's never developed his decision muscles.
Consider decision-making a physical activity. Ideally, we start making small decisions as children because small decisions have small consequences. I imagine no adult still feels the crushing sting of regret at having chosen to cash in arcade tickets for the Tweety Bird slap bracelet instead of the Lisa Frank unicorn pencil eraser. We all have to move on at some point. We build our tolerance and our endurance.
Now, imagine that instead of building upon those small decisions, your friend allowed other people to make the harder decisions for him. It probably wasn't overt. It could have been as harmless as a parent saying, "Oh, is that what you've decided to do?" Well, not anymore, Ma. Let's play 20 questions so I can guess what you've already decided is best for me. Maybe Ma Kettle didn't mean it that way, or maybe she did, but the satisfaction of figuring out what she (or anybody else) wanted replaced the satisfaction of making a decision.
Over time, your friend got better at decipher other people's social clues than he did at actually making choices. Although this skill will serve him well if he becomes a spy or serial killer, he probably doesn't have much sense of self awareness. He is so invested in what other people want that he can't separate out his own preferences.
Your friend needs to stop trying to please. I'm sure a legitimate advice columnist would wax on about the roots of self-esteem and confidence, but I'm not legitimate and I'm going to assume your friend is under 30. In that case, he's got all the self-esteem and confidence that decades of positive reinforcement and awards ceremonies can provide. Therein lies the problem. He thinks people care what he decides, and, because he wants people to be happy with him and give him gold stars and Lisa Frank unicorn pencil erasers, he cares what people think.
In general, no one cares what your friend does, unless it directly affects them. (For example, it will cause them to do more work or have an unusually expensive and embarrassing cable bill. Everything else will be forgotten the moment someone else does something that they think is foolish.) Assuming your friend is not the six-fingered man that killed their father, most people judge character based on a nebulous amalgamation of past events and successful hairstyles. One decision shouldn't send any rational individual over the edge.
This is not to say that people won't express disappointment, which may be momentarily uncomfortable. However, it isn't affecting the other people nearly as much as it is affecting your friend. He'll never admit it, but your friend is afraid to upset other people because he likes the feeling he gets when he makes people happy. He is pleasing himself. If he figured out what he really wanted and had to tell people things they didn't want to hear, he might lose that warm, gooey brownie feeling. He might be responsible for his own success or failure. That's scary and it's a lot easier to convince flabby decision muscles to wrap themselves in a Snuggie and retreat to the people-pleasing couch.
Your friend needs to lay off the emotional junk food and start making little decisions to build up his muscle tone. Call it the "Couch-2-My Way" program. Try to disappoint at least one person a day. Once he gets the hang of it, I think your friend might find disappointing people quite addictive. He might even make a career out it, which is what professional writing is all about.
Of course, the position of snarky, fake-advice blog writer is taken.
What's with the graphic?
This is my first week linking up with...anyone. I still don't understand what that means, but yeah write has a lot of great bloggers on it and you should read their stuff. Then explain to me what linking up means. Thank you.