Being polite without being a pushover

I’m an advocate (obviously) for always being polite, but make no mistake being polite and being a lady does not mean being a pushover.

I think for women especially these concepts are hard to separate. Being “nice” usually takes the forefront and we abandon our wants, needs, and general wellbeing for the ease of being seen as good and non-confrontational.

I believe that you can stand up for yourself and say and do what you want while still being polite.

Here are a few points to help you remain polite while still feeling empowered and loyal to yourself.


Sorry tends to be an automatic response for many of us. I think we subconsciously (or consciously) use it to automatically diffuse any potential confrontation and keep us looking like the good girl. But remember, sorry implies you’re in the wrong.

If you are in the wrong i.e. you stepped on someones toe, you made a genuine mistake, you lost your temper and called someone a beastly animal, then yes a “sorry” is in order.

But I’m guessing, if you’re anything like me, that you also whip out sorry every time you want to scoot past someone it the store, you don’t agree with an opinion, or even if somone bumps into you!

Instead of sorry say excuse me if you’re sooting past someone, and in other cases drop the word all together.

It will be challenging at first and you may feel you’re coming across as rude, but you’re not. Learn to disagree with someone or state your opinion directly without the preamble of a sorry.

Again this will feel strange at first and it will take practice. But once it becomes more familiar you’ll feel more confident and wonder why you were always apologising in the first place.


When you do state an opinion or are speaking up try to say it matter of factly. Meaning don’t try to please others by phrasing it like a question, using an overly sweet tone or adding belittling phrases such as “you know what I mean” or “I just…” We have to get over the idea the simply saying what we mean is rude, it’s not.

I do want to make a note that this doesn’t mean you have to start talking like an emotionless robot. If your personality is sweet and empathetic and speaking so feels authentic for you then go for it. I’m saying be mindful of how you’re speaking and why you’re doing what you’re doing. Is it because it feels genuine or because it’s an ingrained habit that helps you feel protected.

Even if it feels genuine there are still times when you’ll want to make a serious point or stand up for yourself and in these times a highly suggest dropping any softeners when you speak and be direct and honest.

Saying things matter of factly also means keeping calm and collected. You’re tone alone can convey politeness without having to be overly nice.


If we don’t want to be a pushover then we have to know where we stand. Take a few moments and consider what’s most important to you. What are you priorities? Your opinions? What do you want or not want to do?

If you’re clear on your stances then when confronted with an opposing opinion or situation you won’t be cut off guard and end of caving in. You’ll feel ready to speak up and stand up while feeling less defensive.

If you need to disagree with someone check out my previous lesson on How to Disagree With Someone Politely.

Please remember, being polite isn’t about diminishing yourself for the sake of others, it’s about respecting both yourself and others equally. It’s about taking into account all sides of a situation and handling yourself with grace and thoughtfulness. You can be polite and still be true to yourself simply by using respectful words and tones yet at the same time saying and doing exactly what you mean and want without any apologies or excuses.

HOMEWORK: Take a few moments and think about times when you’ve been pushed around. What was it you wanted to do or say instead. Write down a list of all of these instances and what you really wanted to say or do. The next time you’re in a similar situation be ready to stick to your priorities.

And… as a little challenge try out a sorry detox. Try a week (or 3 days if it’s a bad habit) and cut out sorry all together. Either use excuse me or another equivalent as an alternative, or better yet get used to not excusing yourself at all.

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