The slippery slope of being too polite

Photo by Tyler Meuter

I was raised to be a very polite child. If a guest needed a glass of water, I would run and go get it. If anyone in my immediate vicinity sneezed, I would bless him or her. That is pretty standard as far as I know though, but I will say that this politeness ingrained in my early childhood definitely led into my turning into a complete pushover in later stages of my life.

I was a pushover for most of my life and was completely unaware of it. Somehow, I had slipped down a slippery slope of politeness, quietness and a worrying habit of micromanaging. If people needed something, they knew that asking me was a surefire way to get it.

If people wanted me to do something with them, they knew that when I said “maybe,” I was really saying “I’m either going to cancel on you or the other plans I made, and you won’t know until I let you know at the last minute.” When I took leadership positions, I never delegated a thing. I told myself it was because I didn’t trust anyone else to do the job. However, that was only partly true; I just didn’t want to inconvenience anyone else. It was starting to have a harmful effect on my day to day life, especially when I started attending college.

I was actively involved in three or four clubs, taking a full course load and cramming in time to meet up with friends, all of which added up to me not getting any work done and performing poorly in school. Freshman-year-me decided that this was because of my involvement in too many extracurriculars, and I wisely made the decision to quit some.

To my chagrin, I was still somehow just as busy, and just as unhappy. At that point I started reflecting on the decisions I was making and if I actually wanted to be involved with all the things that I was. Did I really want to go get fro-yo that day? Or did I just feel guilty because this fro-yo-friend and I had not seen each other in about a week?

At that point, I started saying no to things, slowly, but surely. I wouldn’t outright say no to certain roles, but I would make decisions on what I would and wouldn’t do. For example, if in an organization, a certain activity wasn’t my responsibility and someone else asked me to do it, I would refuse unless it was a matter of extreme urgency. I started avoiding more people I didn’t want to interact with and being with more people whose company I actively enjoyed.

At some point along the way, the idea came to me that maybe I was being a little too harsh and judgmental, but I shut that idea down. I was happier with my decisions, and no one’s feelings were getting hurt. I still do overcommit to plans and responsibilities, but I say no when it’s simply not feasible for me or if it just isn’t something exciting to me.

So try it yourself if you feel like you have been too much of a pushover lately. Go from being the doormat to closing the door in people’s faces. I promise you will love the results.