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I got stumped when trying to write the opposite of "putting my foot down".
As an example i'll give some context. I said: "In these instances I always put my foot down, but you make me X", where X should be the opposite, i.e. something like "lift my foot back up" or "act in a way contrary to my usual firm behavior in these situations"...

What should X be? (it does not have to be an idiom, but one would be preferable)

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    @AllInOne ~ 'step on the gas' is used in the context of going faster/hurrying up. It has nothing to do with this question. – user180089 Jul 8 '16 at 16:29
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    @V0ight I think his comment was tongue in cheek - something about speeding ahead combined with the literal action of putting one's foot down on the pedal to accelerate. – Rome_Leader Jul 8 '16 at 16:49
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    The opposite of ‘putting my foot down’? Raising my hand, obviously. ;-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 8 '16 at 17:05
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    @JanusBahsJacquet How 'bout throw up my hands? – StoneyB on hiatus Jul 8 '16 at 18:14
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    It's never a good idea to put your foot down, if you haven't a leg to stand on! That's if you really want to mix your metaphors! – WS2 Jul 8 '16 at 21:21

15 Answers 15

30

Aside from No More Secrets' excellent suggestion, "cut someone some slack," there is "let it slide," which means not to oppose something that may be objectionable but that (apparently) is not intolerable. Christine Ammer, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms (1997) discusses "let slide" in an entry for "let ride":

let ride Also let slide. Allow something to be ignored or to take or continue its natural course. For example, Bill disagreed with Mary's description, but he let it ride, or He had a way of letting things slide. The first term, alluding to things moving along as though they were riding a horse or vehicle, dates from the early 1900s; the variant, using slide in the sense of "pass by," dates from the late 1500s.

I find Ammer's decision to equate "let slide" with "let ride" somewhat unsatisfactory. To me, the essential image of "let slide" is "let go downhill"—that is, allow to happen for the worse—which "let ride" doesn't suggest at all. Usually, when you let something slide, you are allowing something below the normal standard to occur, often because you aren't willing to put your foot down about upholding or enforcing the standard in question.

Other expressions that may work in certain circumstances are "fall asleep at the switch," which applies to cases where a failure to put one's foot down can have calamitous results (the original reference is to a railroad switchman in charge of switching tracks that trains run on), and "let the inmates run the asylum," which refers to ceding authority to individuals who need supervision but are instead left to supervise themselves (the reference is to an insane asylum).

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    Another one, related in meaning to "let it slide", might be "look the other way" – trentcl Jul 9 '16 at 12:35
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    Going downhill gives an idea of a worsening situation, like continual tumbling, which is not what this idiom expresses. Instead I believe it more specifically refers to a lack of resistance and letting something easily evade notice. Compare this with the slip by idiom, also found in the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms and Noah Webster's entry for the word slide in the American Dictionary of the English language, especially the 5th & 6th definitions. – Tonepoet Jul 11 '16 at 7:19
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"Cut someone some slack"

informal Allow someone some leeway in their conduct -- Oxford Dictionaries

"Ease up on someone"

to treat (someone) in a less harsh or demanding way -- Merriam-Webster

18

If you never put your foot down, you could be acting as a doormat (figurative meaning) and letting someone walk all over you.

Probably not what you wanted but I couldn't resist the foot-related opposite :). EDIT: all those comments and no-one thought of it :).

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    Big +1. "but for you, I let you walk all over me" – Otheus Jul 8 '16 at 19:55
  • @Otheus Or even just "but I let you walk all over me." – jpmc26 Jul 8 '16 at 21:30
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    I like this, especially because it keeps the foot metaphor going. – No More Secrets Jul 8 '16 at 22:12
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To put your foot down is to insist on having your way in a situation where you wouldn't otherwise. It illustrates the act of taking a stance to resist some force being exerted on your body by planting your feet firmly.

You could say the opposite action would be relenting and letting whatever may happen, happen.

I wanted to put my foot down, but her argument convinced me to relent.

Similar idioms include:

  • going with the flow, which literally describes the act of allowing the forces of a river or wave you're standing in to move you rather than fighting to remain stationary.

    I normally have to put my foot down when I'm uncomfortable, but today I decided to go with the flow.

  • giving in, which describes collapsing under the force of weight.

    I'd put my foot down, but I had to give in when I saw that look in your eye.

  • caving in or caving, which also describes collapsing under weight.

    I'd have put my foot down, but my hunger made me cave to his will.

7

While the answers are good suggestions, I would like to propose roll over as the ideal idiom to use as it implies that the person is totally complicit in the request as opposed to putting their foot down, or protesting after letting something go and/or not noticing the thing that was happening.

Roll Over

To consent or comply passively or without protest; acquiesce: "You shouldn't just roll over and give in when your kids want something!"

To paraphrase your sample sentence:

" I always put my foot down, but this time you got me to roll over."

7

I saw this was already mentioned as a comment, but I believe it is the best answer. As was also mentioned already, to "put your foot down" is to assert your authority on a matter to have your way after another's insistence. The complete opposite is to

"Throw your hands up"

which means to "give up and yield to the insistence of another, allowing them to have their way". It is also the best answer because of the analogical imagery of "foot" "down" vs "hands" "up".

6

To me the obvious opposite is letting up. To let up is to relax or remove a condition or constraint.

"Hey! Let up on the gas a bit, would you please?"

Verb: let up

Become less in amount or intensity

"The rain let up after a few hours";

  • abate, slack off, slack, die away Reduce pressure or intensity "he let up the gas pedal and the car slowed down";
  • ease up, ease off

Derived forms: letups, lets up, letting up, let up

Type of: alter, break, change, decrease, diminish, fall, intermission, interruption, lessen, modify, pause, suspension


Noun: letup 'let,úp

A pause during which things are calm or activities are diminished

"there was never a letup in the noise";

  • lull

-- WordWeb Online

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    Or 'relent', as a single word replacement – Gus Jul 10 '16 at 19:01
  • @Gus: If you say so. But sorry, I don't recognize that use of relent. – Drew Jul 11 '16 at 1:02
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Your sentence makes me think of back down.

withdraw a claim or assertion in the face of opposition — New Oxford American Dictionary

Backing down is very nearly the opposite of putting one's foot down; it means letting the other person win the argument as opposed to insisting on your own way. Even the metaphors are opposite: putting your foot down means taking a firm stand and not moving or backing down. As an alternative, yield describes exactly what you mean.

give way to arguments, demands, or pressure — New Oxford American Dictionary

  • Welcome to ELU Adding definitions of these words and links would improve this answer. – P. O. Jul 10 '16 at 23:58
5

"Turn a blind eye" is a good opposite.

Turning a blind eye is an idiom describing the ignoring of undesirable information. -Wikipedia

If "putting your foot down" is a response to reprehensible behavior of some sort, "turning a blind eye" would be quite the opposite.

"Rather than putting my foot down and demanding change to the company's pollution policy, I turned a blind eye to the toxic waste being dumped into the river."

2

Other suggestions...

...have a 'laissez faire' attitude - ok it's french, but it means let it happen and it is used in english as an idiom.

...being a bit wet about something.

...giving someone enough rope to hang themselves - this is not putting your foot down but letting someone get on with something even when it is clear that they are going to 'mess up'.

these are all opposite of 'putting your foot down', but don't really fit with X in your question. To be honest your sentence doesn't quite sound right... I would like to suggest some alternatives....

  • Normally I always put my foot down, in your case I'll make an exception.

  • In these situations I always put my foot down, but you can have enough rope to hang yourself if you really want...

2

In keeping with the foot theme, an idiom you could use is "bring to heel," meaning to obey or conform to what's being said or told to that person.

If you bring someone to heel, you make them obey you. ('Call someone to heel' is also used.)

From http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/idioms/bring+someone+to+heel.html

To use your example, "In these instances I always put my foot down, but you bring me to heel."

1

"... but you turn me into a pushover."

Says Wiktionary:

  1. Someone who is easily swayed or influenced to change his/her mind or comply.

I'm a pushover when it comes to buying new kitchen gadgets.

  1. Someone who lets himself be picked or bullied on without defending or stand up for him/herself.
1

As 'put my foot down' is basically 'don't allow it', I'd say that you have two options -- either 'turn a blind eye' (as Sliew mentioned), which is 'I'll overlook that you're not following the rules', but for a specific 'allow', I'd go with give my blessing.

From Vocabulary.com:

Outside a religious context, blessings are less formal. "I give you my blessing" simply means "It's OK with me." People give their blessings to ideas and actions when they agree with them. Giving a blessing is often the same as giving permission.

0

Let's be clear; unless one is driving a motor car, putting one's foot down is actually putting one's foot in a very particular place, namely on soneone's neck as a choke hold.

SO if you wish to express the opposite effect, that is simply taking one's foot off their necks.

  • I think putting one's foot down is about taking a stand, perhaps a fighting stance. – Brian McCutchon Jul 10 '16 at 18:02
  • Pieter, do you have evidence for this? The earliest mention that I can find (in the specific sense of saying "no") has nothing to do with choke holds, it's far more literal in the sense of standing your ground. From 1867 in The Sword and the Trowel: "Put your foot down where you mean to stand, and let no man move you from the right. Learn to say, 'No,' ..." – Chappo Says Reinstate Monica Jul 18 '16 at 4:17
0

Being a soft touch.

Definition:

A person who is easily influenced, duped, or imposed upon.

Sample sentence:

A soft touch for anybody with a sob story.

Your sentence becomes:

In these instances I always put my foot down, but you make me a soft touch.

Source: dictionary.com

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