Once, I was asked about when it’s okay not to give up your seat in the subway. Manners dictate that the other person goes first; that you give up your seat. But sometimes you’re really tired and you’ve had a hard day and you’re carrying something heavy and you really want to sit and you think the seat would serve you better than the other person. Can you slip ahead and take that seat? they asked.
The answer I gave, which I was really happy with, was: Ask them for it. Say to them, I’ve had a really long day and I’m exhausted and would it be okay if I sat down? Because, first of all, you’re using direct communication. Also, you’re letting them give it to you. You’re being polite, which in terms of etiquette means a bunch of things. First, to let someone give something to you, you have to let them own it first. And you’re letting it be their choice. In the first instance, where you push ahead and take their seat, they’ll feel like, Oh, some asshole stole a seat from me. But in asking for the seat, if you do it right, they’ll feel like a good person because they did a favor for a nice stranger.