Did you know that research has found people are more concerned with being polite than protecting their life? That’s why so many individuals walk into dangerous scenarios that, to an outsider, screamed of trouble. But when someone offers to help you, invites you in for tea, or tries to socially interact with you, the urge to conform to societal expectations (say yes, be polite, be gracious) might just be stronger than the urge to guard yourself. And I think that is especially true amongst women, who have been told for centuries to always be agreeable, pleasant, and pleasing. But enough is enough. If I feel my safety is at risk, I’m going to do what I have to do to protect myself, even if it comes off as rude. If the person didn’t intend to harm me, then hopefully, they’ll understand. If they did intend to harm me then thank goodness I followed my intuition. Here are times women feel obligated to be nice, but shouldn’t be.
Accepting a walk to our car
Unless you know the person offering to walk you very well, you don’t have to accept this offer. It could just mean you’re walking through a dark and empty parking lot with your eventual attacker.
Accepting help with groceries
If someone sees you unloading your car and offers to help you up to your apartment, you do not have to say yes. Remember that if this person helps you, he’ll walk right up to your front door, know where you live, and even stand there as you open the door.
Accepting unsolicited advice or mentoring
Sometimes, you just know someone who says they have your best interest at heart really doesn’t. So when somebody, who you know doesn’t want you to succeed, offers you advice or mentoring, you can politely decline.
Walking alone at night
I used to stay on the same side of the street as a man I didn’t know, just to avoid insulting him by crossing the street. But you know what? Screw that. I’m crossing the street if I feel unsafe. The worst that can happen is that man is insulted for a few minutes—he’ll get over it. But staying on the same side of the street as a man I don’t know could have much worse consequences.
Indulging conversation with a stranger
It feels so odd to shut someone down who starts speaking to us, but you aren’t obligated to speak to strangers. If someone tries to stop you to ask how you are, what the time is, or anything at all, if you don’t feel safe, you don’t have to stop and acknowledge this person. They can get the time or directions from somebody else.
Answering personal questions
You don’t need to tell anyone your name, what you do for a living, what part of town you live in, whether or not you’re single, or anything you don’t want to if you don’t know that person. Don’t just instantly answer a question that comes your way from a stranger, even if he seems friendly.
Sexist jokes, but not aimed at us
I’ve been present for some pretty sexist and misogynistic talk. It wasn’t about me or aimed at me, so I stayed quiet—I stayed out of it. But I actually think men take power from saying these types of things in front of a woman, and seeing that she remains quiet. So I’m raising hell now when I hear these comments, whether or not they’re directed towards me.
When a colleague wants nurture
Women are nurturers, and men often look to women for nurture. But it’s not your job to talk to your boss about his breakup or to provide a shoulder for your male colleague to cry on. He has personal friends and family for that. You don’t have to feel guilty for saying, “This isn’t professional.”
When asked to be a bridesmaid
We know it’s a big deal to be asked, but sometimes, someone asks us who we know we just don’t feel close to. The truth is you disrespect that person more by accepting that cherished role in their wedding, when you don’t actually want it, than by turning it down.
When asked to do something outside of the job description
Like set up the birthday party in the break room for the boss or clean up the mess the boss’ kids left on the floor. There are custodians and office assistants for these things. If these domestic tasks aren’t in your job description, you have the right to say as much.
When purchased a drink
If a man buys you a drink and you don’t want to talk to him, you don’t have to. In fact, if he feels entitled to a conversation with you for spending money on you when you didn’t ask him to, he’s a moron.
When receiving an inappropriate compliment
Just because something is said with the intention of a compliment, doesn’t mean you have to take it that way. If a colleague tells you that you have a nice body or are “pretty smart for a woman” you do not have to say thank you. In fact, you can tell him that he shouldn’t say things like that.
When a man is late or has to reschedule
Being agreeable and understanding is so ingrained in us, that we often tolerate men who have to cancel and reschedule first dates several times. But you know what? If a man can’t stick to the plan for one date—over and over again—he won’t make a good partner. And you don’t have to say, “Aw, it’s okay” every time he cancels. You can just say he doesn’t get another chance.
When men ask to sit with you
You actually don’t need to let a man sit at your table, sit next to you at the bar, sit next to you on the subway, or sit on the couch with you at a coffee shop. Just say you’re waiting for someone and the seat is taken. Or, just say, “No” if you legitimately have claim over the area.
When we’re complimented for not “being sensitive”
Men often compliment me for “not being too sensitive” and what they’re really saying is “Most women are too sensitive” and “Sensitivity is a bad thing.” Neither of those things is true. And I’m tired of pretending I don’t know what they’re really saying.