Ibrahim Husain thinks there is something to be said for old-fashioned chivalry and gentlemanliness. What do you think?
gentility: The quality of being well-mannered; refinement.
A gentleman. Broken down, a gentle man. Being a gentleman isn’t some arbitrary set of rules, followed by men of the Victorian era, never to be heard of again. Much to the contrary, the world needs gentlemen today more than ever. You see, being a gentleman is a mindset, a philosophy. And while many may think of gentlemanly acts as patronizing, and even sexist, if they were to understand the philosophy of being a gentleman, they’d understand the merit and necessity of it.
The gentleman is one who takes great effort and consideration to put the comfort and feelings of others ahead of his own, bearing great regard towards ladies and young women. Being sensitive to the needs of others, he acts with integrity and honor, in all of his interactions and transactions with others. It’s as simple as that. And with this simple understanding, it becomes easy and even inspiring to take any chance one gets to act as a gentleman. Ladies, please stick around, as there is a note to you at the end.
Young men, I’m speaking to you now. Each of you has greatness within, and how you treat the young ladies that you are interesting in courting (dating) is one of your greatly missed opportunities to show it. There are many behaviors that are widely considered “acceptable” that you may be practicing. If you aspire to be a gentleman, however, there are a few things that you can do differently to show the young lady that you know how she deserves to be treated. Trust me, if you follow these tips, you’ll be in the minority of men who are thought of by women with great regard and respect.
Offering your arm—When a woman accompanies you on a date, it is a polite gesture to offer your arm as you walk. She may accept or decline, but either way she’ll think of it as very thoughtful.
Walk on the outside—When walking with a lady, you should walk on the side closest to the street. This allows you to be a barrier between her and any passing cars, protecting her from potential splashes or anything else that could potentially harm or make her uncomfortable.
When seating—When seating, a you should pull out a lady’s chair for her, or if a host is seating guests, you should wait for her to be seated before you take your seat. It is also expected that the lady be given the best seat, presumably the one where she has the best view.
When eating—When dining together, it is expected that you do not start your meal until your lady (and any other guests) has received her meal.
When paying for dates—I was raised to always pay on a date. But now things are a bit different. Women are working more, they ask men out, and the lines are a little blurry. In order to always come off gentlemanly, I’d recommend the following: If you’ve asked the lady out on a date, you pay, no exceptions. If she has asked you, you offer to pay. If she would prefer to pay, the gentlemanly thing to do is let her. After you’ve dated your lady for a while, some couples prefer to take turns paying. This is ok, granted that it is mutually agreed upon. Splitting checks on a date is not preferred. It would be better to take turns paying.
When tipping—When you’re out with a lady and it’s time to tip someone for their services, you should tip well. This isn’t only to show appreciation for the services rendered, but also to let the lady know you are having a good time with her.
One of the easiest ways to identify a gentleman is in his speech. A gentleman is an excellent listener, and is deliberate with his words. He wastes little time with idle talk, engages in meaningful conversations, and speaks only good of others. In short, a gentleman is eloquent with his speech.
On conversing with others—it is characteristic of a gentleman to never backbite, insult, or speak ill while conversing with others. A gentleman also protects secrets revealed to him, makes excuses for the shortcomings of others, and keeps conversations to acceptable topics. Generally speaking, unless in the proper context, a gentleman avoids topics including religion, politics, money, sex (and other explicit topics),
On using the phone—Here’s one thing that many young men have yet to learn. Most phone calls, while they may be urgent (as in the phone is ringing right now), are not that important. By answering your phone at the table, or while engaging with others, you’re effectively telling everyone you’re with that the call is more important to you than giving them your attention. A rule of thumb, if the call really is important, excuse yourself and take it. But neveraccept a phone call in front of others. It’s rude and insulting.
On text messaging —The rules for text messaging are the same as for using your phone. Do it privately or put it off till later. A gentleman gives his attention to those he’s with.
On thank you notes—This is a lost art, but appreciation for it will never go out of style. If you take the time to write someone a thank you note, they’ll never forget it, and they’ll think fondly of you. I’ve had people tell me that they appreciated my thank you note so much they felt like they should write me a thank you note for my thank you note. It’s just a little effort and it goes a long way. Find good thank you notes and you’ll be excited to have the chance to use them.
Being kinder to women (and men and children as well)—For some reason, us young fellas feel like being rough and crass with each other and others is the manly thing to do. Only later do we realize (usually after having ruined a relationship or friendship) the importance of being softer and kinder. A gentleman is a master of kindness.
Opening doors—I’m sure you already knew this one. Always open doors for other people before entering yourself. It’s a common courtesy that should be practiced every day.
Getting the car in bad weather – When you’re out and it starts raining or snowing, offer your party the opportunity to stay in shelter while you run out and get the car. By offering to inconvenience yourself for the comfort of others, you’re telling your party just how important they are to you. Also offer to drop them off before parking.
Offer your seat — If you have a seat, and a woman (old or young) or older gentleman is standing, offer them your seat. This kindness shows your respect for your elders and never goes out of style.
If you make eye contact with anyone, offer them a smile. It is the simplest form of charity, and has the power to completely transform their day. Seeing them return your smile may just change your day too. Always offer a smile.
If you get within 10 feet of someone, acknowledge their presence. Obviously the 10 foot thing is just a rule of thumb, but the principal is important. People deserve to be acknowledged. Say hello, ask them how they are doing, tell them to have a wonderful day (when leaving). These simple formalities let people know you think they are important enough to acknowledge.
Offer assistance—When you see someone struggling with something (lifting a heavy box, opening a door, etc), offer your assistance. Even if it’s inconvenient, it’s the right thing to do.
Smoking —I shouldn’t even have to say this, but I’m surprised over and over when someone lights up a cigarette around others without asking if they mind. If you smoke, and you are around others, assume they don’t want to breathe your smoke, or at the very least ask them if they mind. But never assume that it’s ok to smoke around other people.
You aren’t perfect. But being a gentleman isn’t something you just become. It’s something you work towards with a lifetime of effort. It’s developing the kind of character that you can be proud of. You won’t get it over night. You’ll slip up over and over. But soon, most of these small acts (and more) will become second nature to you. The inconvenience will cease and you’ll just enjoy helping and being courteous to others. So grin and bear it for now, and reap the reward that is being a gentleman later.
I’m sure I’ve missed tons of gentlemanly acts, so leave a comment below and add to the list.
A note to Ladies
A man’s efforts to be a gentleman can be difficult. Some of us are having to reprogram ourselves to think of you first. This is difficult, and to make matters worse, we will be extra sensitive to any negative response. If you understand that your gentleman’s efforts come from a place of wanting to make things easy for you, show you that he knows how to properly treat a woman, and be respectful of your needs and wishes, you’ll know that he’s not trying to be sexist or belittling. So help us out by showing your appreciation for our efforts. It is for you that we work so hard on ourselves, and a little appreciation goes a long way. On behalf of the rougher sex, I want to thank you for allowing us to treat you kindly and show you how much we appreciate you. Thank you!
Originally published on ibrahimhusain.com
Photo: lizjones / flickr