Hole in plaster wall.

People-pleasing knocks a hole in my accountability. Act 2.

Last week I shared Act 1 of my people-pleasing story.

As a reminder, my husband and I gave explicit instructions to an electrical contractor about where a new wall-switch should go, but for whatever reason, the assistant knocked the hole in the wrong place.

I didn’t yell or make a scene, and I have no regrets about that. There are times when it’s appropriate, even preferred, to keep a neutral stance. But it was my failure to act even slightly annoyed that bothers me.

My people-pleasing ensures that no one feels bad–No big deal! Don’t worry! I hate when that happens!–except me.

My people-pleasing is an act to hide my anger. And when I do that, when I stuff down my negative feelings, it feels disrespectful to them–to my feelings–and to myself.

My people-pleasing got the better of me the next day, too:

The day after the hole-in-the-wall incident, “Ed,” the contractor showed up, and I pointed out his assistant’s error.

“I can fix it, but what can you do for me?” I asked, hoping to get a few bucks knocked off his bill. (Yay me for asking! Even that is outside my comfort zone.)

“You want me to pay you to fix it,” he said, staring me down with his chest puffed out. It wasn’t a question, it was a statement dripping with arrogance.

But I didn’t back down. (Yay me!)

“We explained why the hole shouldn’t go there,” I said, “but there it is. And I’ll fix it, but I’d like you to take something off your bill for it.” (Yay me!)

“You want me to pay you to fix it,” he repeated, his eyes and body as rigid as a two-by-four.

What I wanted to say, what screamed in my head, but what my people-pleasing kept me from articulating in words and tone and perhaps a gesture was…


I didn’t say that. (Boo me.)

I don’t remember exactly how I replied, but the contractor finally offered not-so-nicely to waive the fee for his visit that day. I thought his offer was monetarily fair, and I wanted to end my discomfort, so I agreed.

So what’s the problem? The incident was resolved, right?

People-pleasing is often the absence of action or expression.

The problem is that I disappointed myself–not in what happened, but in how it happened. I choose my words carefully, but there was an absence of expressed anger.

This situation called for me to be angry–not about the hole in the wall, but about the contractor’s arrogance and condescension. He was a paid worker in my own home, and I allowed him to talk disrespectfully to me.

I allowed him to disrespect me in my own home and I didn’t do a damn thing about it.

It’s my inaction that gives me regrets.

In my memoir, I tell the story of my son’s undiagnosed, and then frighteningly diagnosed illness. I didn’t cause his illness. I couldn’t have stopped it. But our family saga shone a spotlight on the times that I didn’t stand up for myself, and in so doing, didn’t stand up for my son.

Talk about regrets.

I won’t be that woman anymore. I’m not that woman anymore. It’s an arduous process to change my sixty-year pattern of behavior, but I’m doing it.

So the next time someone wrongfully knocks a hole in my literal or figurative wall, they’d better do it right, or they’ll answer to me.

And the only person I’ll aim to please is ME.

You may be interested in this: Ten Signs You Might be a People-Pleaser.


  • An emerging writer in upstate, NY, Karen DeBonis tells her story on her website, in publications like the NY Times, (a Tiny Love Story), in her “Become Emboldened” projects, and elsewhere. "Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived" is Karen’s transformational memoir about the clash between her naive expectations of motherhood and her son's needs, which destroys her confidence and threatened her stability (Available for representation.)

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  1. Sheba Olenik on February 7, 2020 at 4:27 PM

    Such a shame… people feel so entitled. The communication gap was on his side. You should not feel bad at all.
    My husband a recent college professor had same issue with students. They don’t follow instructions, fail and feel entitled tooi a passing grade for just showing up.
    He won’t be getting your business in future for sure.

    • Karen DeBonis on February 7, 2020 at 10:30 PM

      I know – too bad about the electrician because he’s good. But maybe that’s part of the problem – he knows he’s good, so he looks down on people who don’t know as much as him. So sad about the younger generations who feel so entitled. You can see where they get it, with the recent college application scandal coming to light. I always appreciate your comments, Sheba 🙂

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