Just Say No - The Disease To Please

Do You Suffer From ‘The Disease To Please’?

By: Dr. Peggy Malone

So what exactly is the ‘Disease to Please’?

Well, it is characterized by:

  • always over-committing.
  • never being able to say ‘NO’.
  • running around like a headless chicken.
  • taking care of everyone else’s needs before your own.
  • not feeling worthy unless doing the work of 3 people working 12-14 hours every day.

People with the disease to please (and let’s be honest… it’s mostly women) are driven, not just to succeed, but to please others and make them happy.

So many of us take care of everyone and everything else before we even consider taking time for ourselves… we consider it a selfish indulgence to do something special for ourselves. Does this sound familiar?  

This 'Disease' is stealing your personal power and your health. If you are constantly in the state of running for everyone else, it means that you are likely always in the ‘fight-or-flight’ stress response.

We have discussed the importance of stress management in previous posts. Stress is involved in every major illness and if we are exposed to it constantly without time for healing and self care… it will eventually kill us.

So, it’s important to recognize that the ‘Disease to Please’ can be fatal.

So what can we do about it?

1) Recognize that you are in control

Becoming assertive is the way to stop the ‘Disease to Please’. It takes courage to say ‘NO’. It takes courage to be honest and set boundaries.

Take control of the situation by deciding what you want to do (not what someone else wants you to do.) 

Once you have set your boundaries, stick to them.  

Decide that you will not let people talk you into something that is outside of those boundaries. You are in control!

2) Practice Saying ‘NO’

This is the single most important thing that you can do to beat the ‘Disease to Please’.

Practice in the mirror. Get used to saying ‘NO’. Get used to hearing yourself say ‘NO’. Imagine scenarios where you previously have said ‘YES’ and then regretted it and go back in time and imagine yourself saying ‘NO’ in the same situation.

This practice sounds a bit silly but it will prepare you to break your habit of overcommitting when you are asked to do something or be somewhere or buy something etc.

3) Buy yourself some time before committing

If you have trouble saying ‘NO’ in the moment when you have been put on the spot, practice saying something like: 

  • ‘Let me check my schedule and I’ll get back to you.’


  • ‘I’ll have to sleep on it. I have a policy of not making decisions right away.’


  • ‘Let me think about it.’

Saying one of these things will give you some time to evaluate the situation and decide if it’s truly something that you want to do instead of being talked into something in the moment.

4) Stop Saying Sorry

Those with the ‘Disease to Please’ have a tendency to constantly apologize. They say ‘Sorry’ over and over again when there is nothing to be sorry for.

When you say sorry when there is nothing to be sorry for, it takes you out of your power and puts you back into a ‘people pleasing’ mode.

5) Stop Explaining, Justifying and Defending

This is one that I see all the time in my practice and with my coaching clients and just in every day life.  

People with the ‘Disease to Please’ (and even most women who I wouldn’t put into that category) want to justify and explain and defend their decisions.  

It’s like we are always wandering around looking for validation for what we have done or what we have decided.

If you have set boundaries and decided what you want and you have decided what you don’t want… there is no need to explain it to anyone.

When you stand strong in your decision and you know that it is right for you, other peoples’ approval is not necessary.

If, instead of just saying ‘NO’, you go on to explain and defend and justify why you can’t, you are giving up your personal power and all of this talking will start to make you and the person you're talking to think that you are doing something wrong.

6) Some simple ways to say ‘NO’

Here’s an example of an over explaining, over justifying response to being asked to commit to something:

‘I’m so sorry I can’t help at that event because my dog has to go the vet and my 3 kids have activities and my mother-in-law needs help cleaning her basement.’

I’m exaggerating a little bit but start listening to people or even to the words coming out of your own mouth when you say no or cancel an appointment.

Instead, keep it simple. Here are some examples that you can practice:

  • ‘I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.’


  • ‘I have another commitment.’

OR (a little gentler way of saying ‘NO’)

  • ‘I’d really love to do this but I have other commitments.’

OR (if someone is trying to sell you something)

  • ‘This doesn’t meet my needs right now, but I’ll keep you in mind.’

OR (to give them another option)

  • ‘I’m not the best person for this project/task/event, why don’t you try ___________(fill in the blank with a name of someone you know who may be interested).’

OR (the simplest way)

  • ‘No, I can’t.’

Now keep in mind, that at first you’ll be tempted to say one of these things and then fill the silence afterward with explaining, justifying and defending as to why you can’t.  

Practice saying one of the above and then practice closing your mouth and not saying anything right afterward. You will sometimes encounter awkward silence in that moment. Stay with it. Don’t be tempted to fill the awkward silence. There is no need to explain!!!!

In fact, if you say one of these things, you will be surprised that the reception isn’t half as bad as you had imagined that it would be. When you stand strong in your power and in your decision, most people sense that and respect it.  

Saying ‘NO’ is an important skill to learn. It is setting a boundary. It shows that you know what you want and you know what is important to you.

When you are evaluating whether to say ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ to something, you should measure the commitment against the goals that you have created for your future.

If the commitment is in alignment with those future goals and you have a place for it in your schedule, then you may want to say ‘YES’.

If it isn’t in alignment with your future vision and you would just be saying ‘YES’ because you want to please someone or you don’t want to disappoint someone, well then, you should say ‘NO’.

In a future post we will talk about the very important thing that you need to do as you are curing yourself of the ‘Disease to Please’ and learning to say ‘NO’ and that is to actually take some time for self care. 

In the meantime, practice saying ‘NO’. It can be a very empowering word!!

Live Well,





Dr. Peggy Malone

Dr. Peggy Malone is a Chiropractor and an Athlete who helps other athletes to overcome injury and get back to their sport. Her weekly Television Series 'Living Well" inspires people from all walks of life to take control of their health to be as happy and as healthy as they can be.

A former varsity Basketball and Rugby player, she has since entered the world of endurance athletics where she has completed 2 Ironman Triathlons, 3 Marathons, several Half Marathons and many other Triathlons, Road Races and Off-Road Adventure races of varying distances.

Her own athletic endeavors and injuries have given her valuable insight into working with athletes in her practice for both the care of injuries as well as for the improvement of athletic performance.