The Crippling Fear of Being Disliked

September 3, 2013

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!