I like to be liked. I’m a born people pleaser, ENFJ, pastors son who cares deeply about what people think of me and works hard to earn the respect of others.

As a Communications Director at a large church, I get requests every day from ministry leaders looking to promote the great things they have going on. My gut instinct is to always say “YES” to each request. Why? Because I want to see their event or ministry be successful and help play a part in that. However, if I’m honest, there’s a little more to it than that.

What I’ve had to learn the hard way is that my tendency to say YES often comes from a fear of being disliked. I fear that people won’t understand that an answer of NO doesn’t mean that I don’t support them or what they do. I fear they will make personal judgements on me instead of understanding the role I play as a communications leader. I fear they will talk behind my back and blame me for their event’s lack of success. I fear.

There’s no overnight cure for being a people pleaser. But here’s the hard truth I’ve come to realize:
As a leader, if you’re not careful, you’ll let your fear of being disliked prevent you from being effective.

If you struggle with this fear of being disliked, you’re not alone. Almost every Pastor, Worship Leader, Communications Director, or person of influence I know deals with it (or it deals with them).

So how can we overcome this fear of being disliked? Here are a few things I do:

Understand that fairness is not a value

Not all events, ministries or programs are created equal. Not every event or ministry should be on the menu of your website. Like my friend Tony Morgan says, “When fairness drives your communications strategy, your least important message has the same weight as your most important message.” If you try to treat every event or program the same and make everything important, nothing is important.

Change your filter

Don’t filter your communication decisions through the lens of being a “staff member”. Filter communication decisions as an advocate for your audience. What does that mean? Keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm your audience with too much information. They want to know what you think is most important and why it matters to them.

Build Communication Standards

Knowing my people-pleasing ways, I realize that I need to build some standards for how I make decisions on what and how things get communicated. The way I’ve handled this is that I filter all communication requests through one central page. Those requests are broken up in two ways.

  • Church-wide – Impacting at least 80% of the church, or a key on-ramp event for a ministry. Church-wide events/ministries get my primary focus because they impact almost everyone. Depending on bandwidth, church-wide events/ministries are communicated through things like stage announcements, postcards, bulletin, social media, front page of website, etc.
  • Ministry events – These are communicated primarily through things like social media, announcement slides and the website. For these types of promotional needs, they are promoted heavily at their own ministry gatherings. For example, a kids movie night may be promoted heavily to the kids and parents during the kids worship experience and in their kids newsletter, but not from the stage during the main worship service.

Here’s my challenge to you, no matter what type of position you are in:
Don’t let a fear of being disliked cripple you from being effective as a leader. Be a good steward of the position you’ve been given, because what you do MATTERS!

  • BillyBoy68

    Phil, your posts are absolutely amazing! Your wisdom and insight are truly inspiring. This one really digs down to the heart of it all for me. Thank you.

    • Man, I really appreciate that. Thanks so much!

  • Jake Press

    HI Phil,

    Great Post!! I have struggled with that too and then I started telling a lot of people NO! . And it actually started to “feel good”. They didn’t like it, but I realized that saying NO to someone, helped me say YES to the “right people” and the “right thing”.

  • Jenn Rizzo Collins

    Love everything about this! Totally struggle with this! Thanks!

  • Great post buddy. Glad to see you spending some time sharing your leadership lessons. Keep on keeping on!

  • Damaris Fike

    This couldn’t be more timely. I had been struggling with this for awhile and specifically today. I was asked to present to all staff about the changes in the communications process today and I am just terrified about the “enemies” I will make or I will be disliked. I opened my email this morning and this was the first thing I saw. Thank you so so much Phil!

    • So glad this post came at a good time for you, Damaris! Praying for you today as you present to your team the new communications process. You’re gonna do great!

    • Meredith Gould

      Damaris: If it’s any consolation, I’ve been doing this work for over a decade and I’m just now in the “oh well, go ahead and hate me” zone. But then, I’m a consultant and am able to make a strong case for focusing on what is best for the church, not individuals with turf issues. Still, making “enemies” is painful. Please know you are not alone among those of us called to the ministry of church communications.

  • jaredbrandon1

    Great to see a proof of concept for the communication request page. I’m new here at my church as the DOC and have been toying around with this idea since I started. Is your request page promoted to, and regularly utilized by, the public or is the focus primarily for internal use?

    • It is not used or promoted to public. The audience here for this page is ministry leaders (typically staff).

  • Meredith Gould

    Holy Spirit! Read this hours after working (as a consultant) with a church staff that has been terrorized (yes, strong language) into inaction around communications for fear of hurting the feelings of a volunteer who is mismanaging their communications.

    Much more complex and, in many ways, woeful situation than I can or will write about here, but I want you to know that reading this point has helped eased the necessary discomfort I’ve been feeling about telling them the sorry truth about choosing being nice over what will serve their congregants.

  • vunitedmediaguy

    Phil, great post! Also, thanks for sharing your website. Earlier this year I implemented request forms that are shared with our staff via dropbox, but I love the idea of having it web-based. I read that you don’t make this available for public use, but how do you handle it on the church’s website without it being public?

    • Great question. The page is public, but we only communicate this address to staff and ministry leaders. It isn’t linked from our website navigation or anything. Occasionally, volunteers will use this to submit communications information on behalf of the ministry, but I always confirm that everything is correct with the ministry leader before processing the request. Here’s some more information about the communications request form if you haven’t already checked this out: http://www.churchmarketingsucks.com/2013/03/how-to-handle-communication-requests-without-chaos/

  • Jon Plotner

    This is so good! As a fellow ENFJ I definitely can relate!

  • Great article, Phil! Looking good and being liked are addictions for sure and thanks for the practical strategies to deal with it. I feel practicality is spirituality.

  • Micah Williams

    Just respect yourself.