Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

3 Easy Steps to Curb the Disease to Please

I could never be a medical transcriptionist. It’s not the typing or the doctors’ handwriting that would deter me. My problem would be reading the symptoms and medical conditions. I’d have all of them. To say that I am easily influenced is like saying the Titanic sprung a leak.

Knowing this about myself, I wasn’t all that surprised to end up with yet another condition after watching an episode of “Oprah” devoted to the disease to please.

I passed Oprah’s “Do You Have the Disease to Please?” self-diagnosis quiz with flying colors.

Do you ever say yes when what you really want to say is no?

Of course, I do. Doesn’t everyone?

Are you fearful of disappointing others?

You bet. It’s not cheap to make sure no one is ever disappointed.

Or how about this one:

Is it important to you to be liked by nearly everyone in your life?

I whipped through that quiz in about 10 seconds flat, answering every question yes, yes, yes, yes and … yes! And that’s when I had to admit that this is not something imagined. I test positive for the disease to please.

This malady is insidious as it wends its way through mind and body. It is crafty, cunning, sneaky and sly. It starts with wanting to be a good person. You want to be liked. You want to be chosen first, never last. You respond to everyone’s requests and just keep doing more and more with promptness and perfection.

In a way, this might seem like more of a conflict than a revelation. After all, aren’t we called to act with generosity, out of hearts of gratitude and service? Isn’t it selfish always to say no?

There is a huge difference between authentic service and using it as an opportunity to manipulate. Some doctors say the disease to please can actually kill us. The emotional buildup of not being able to say no increases our stress hormones, such as adrenaline. That makes our hearts beat faster than normal, our blood pressure rise and blood vessels narrow. That can lead to a heart attack, stroke or even cancer.

So, what’s the treatment?


Before you say yes to anything, do a quick self-analysis. Why am I doing this? Why am I buying this? What am I expecting in return? If you can answer “nothing,” then your motivation is pure. If there’s another answer, it’s probably some form of manipulation.


Becoming assertive is the way to arrest this disease. It takes courage to say no, to be honest and to set limits. Decide how much you will spend or how much time you can devote to the event or project. Then stick to it.


Experts say that time is the best antidote for the disease to please, whether that’s five minutes or five months. Never answer on the spot. Nothing is so urgent you cannot take time to think about it.

Acting to please can be noble and gratifying as long as the decision to do so is for the joy it brings, not to relieve guilt or for what you expect to get in return.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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