Stop trying to please everyone-you can't
Recently I heard a podcast with Christine Laperriere, the author of Too Busy to Be Happy: Using Emotional Real Estate to Grow Your Work-Life Wisdom, and with her comments she threw a lifeline to perfectionists and people pleasers everywhere. In between her bits of wisdom on getting things done, and she gets it done with two preschoolers, she mentioned the “approval bell curve.” It felt so good I went back and listened to that part a second time the next day.
A bell curve represents the way we expect most big data sets to shake out. A few extremes on the ends and a big blob in the middle. For example, before grade inflation (and that’s a topic for perhaps another day) this meant a few students failed, a few students got ‘A’s and most ended up with a B or C – average or just above average grades. Laperriere explained that we can expect a similar distribution in the work world. About 20% of folks will love what we do and become our “tribe,” about 60% will think we’re okay, and a last 20% are never going to like what we’re doing. No matter how we twist or torture ourselves, we will not please these people. And this is good to know.
Understanding that there’s a hardwired percentage of people who are just not going to like your work, connect with your message, or want to associate with you, is tremendously freeing. It means that perfectionists/people pleasers (and I remain in recovery myself) can stop stressing over not hitting 100% approval. It means that we can accept that grumbler in the back of the room or that online troll as a normal part of life, and not a signal that we’re failing in our career. So, press on and do your best, but realize that everyone, even (insert your favorite guru or expert here) has haters.