Here are 15 guidelines that gentlemen stick to or 15 things to practice to be a gentleman. Practice these things at home by yourself so when you go out into the world, they are natural and seamless. I am Gia, an etiquette consultant based in Los Angeles. Sign up to my newsletter for etiquette techniques straight to your inbox.
Something that really stands out to me is when a man does it naturally versus it feeling and looking really calculated. When you see a guy is thinking and is making deal about, say, opening the door, it feels so contrived. Where when a man is intrinsically a gentleman doing all these things, it stands out even more. You can tell he lives his life this way without external provocation.
1. Put Down Your Phone
When you’re with someone else, devote your time and energy to being present and engaged with them, instead of with your device. Even if you want to show them a photo of something, do not pull your phone out to show them. Send them the photo after embracing their countenance, and really use your expansive vocabulary to paint the picture for them. This is the chance to strengthen your communication skills.
2. Open Doors
Properly and For Everyone. Hold doors open for everyone—women, men, pets—anyone or anything walking through a door. I have been out on dates and with platonic short lasting friendships (I’m married now) who NEVER open the door for me, and I immediately lose a lot of respect for them. If you are on a first date with someone and they do not roll out the red carpet, remember it is only downhill from here. So run.
Simply continue on the date, be polite, but do not go on a second date with them. That is a huge red flag for me. It says a guy is not considerate enough even for strangers. If you are on a first date, you are a stranger. It is treating someone with general kindness. If they are trying to impress you, and they do not do something as simple as opening the door for you, they might as well be dead to you.
Personally, I hold doors open for everyone. Especially if I am already at the door. It does not hurt to open a door. Make everyone’s lives easier!
3. Learn How to Have a Conversation
Three year olds have one word conversations, gentlemen do not. Learn how to be engaged, thoughtful, and captivating in your conversations. Do not shut down questions. Do not shut down opportunities to create a connection. You never know who you are talking to. It only takes one person to change your life.
When someone asks how you are, indulge them. Do not tell them anything negative. Nobody wants to hear your problems. They have their own.
Simply say, “I am well. Thank you for asking.” You have your health. Your health is well, or mostly well. Look for the silver lining always. Have a gratitude mindset. They put time and effort into asking how you are, so do not brush them off and ask them right away what you initially wanted to say. Be in the moment. Address them. Have a proper social interaction, and master small talk. Your connecting skills will thank you for it in the long run. You will be able to talk with anyone.
Avoid cursing. I will have a whole video on cursing and people’s excuses and objections on it. Notice high quality people do not curse. There is no need for it. You also exercise your brain and become more creative with your vocabulary, and get your point across better, stronger, and in a consolidated method.
4. Walk on the Proper Side of Your Date
Back in the days of horses and open sewers, the street side of the sidewalk was smelly, dirty, and dangerous. That was where all the waste went. Men would walk between the street and his lady to protect her from the potential nastiness that splashed beyond the curb. These days, no matter what the motivation, it’s a great touch that makes a woman feel taken care of. I love when a man walks on the street side with me.
It is the smallest thing, but makes all the difference. I will even make it a point by switching sides with him, just because it makes me feel comfortable as a woman, and keeps me in my feminine energy. I do not feel my best when I am in my masculine energy. I want to run away and never see that guy again. If you want me to be giggly, soft, and attracted to you, be the masculine man.
5. Take Off Your Headgear Indoors
Caps, hats, and other forms of headgear were made to protect you from the elements, not to be worn inside a house, restaurant or the cinema. I also agree with this about coats. No matter how bad you think your hair looks, it can’t possibly look worse than being rude. If a man has hat hair, it gives me an excuse to lean in, brush his hair with my hand and touch his face. I want to be closer to you when you are more bare. The more intimate you are with me, the more intimate I am with you. It is so simple.
I heard a funny quote by Vic Fuentes: “There are only two types of people who wear shades indoors – blind people and (bleep)holes.”
Manners and politeness can easily fly right out the window once you’ve had too many drinks. So unless you know how to hold your alcohol, avoid ordering that fourth scotch.
I was on a flight where a man sitting diagonally behind me was a young middle class educated British man. He was probably in his 30s. He had a really nice thought out outfit with layers and a messenger bag.
By the middle of the flight, he ordered so many drinks that he was slowly army crawling on the floor muttering and laughing to himself. The flight attendants had no idea what to do, so they stepped over him. I looked to my left and noticed a body on the floor, and tried not to laugh. Overdoing it never reflects positively on yourself.
7. Avoid Vulgar Humor
Strive to find words that express your ideas eloquently. A gentleman does not require offensive language to speak or make people laugh. He also does not make jokes at someone else’s expense. Humor is simple and clever. It does not have to be poking fun and teasing someone all the time.
8. Call Women You Don’t Know “Miss” or “Ma’am” Until They Tell You Otherwise
The time of using a pet name with a woman you don’t know is long over. If she’s old enough to be your mother, or if you know she’s someone’s mother, go with Ma’am. Otherwise, stick with Miss. Or Ms. I personally appreciate when someone calls me Ms. People still call me sweetheart, and I don’t mind. It just tells me they are from another time and place from a galaxy far far away. Sometimes they might be from a different culture. I just smile, and say thank you. I know they are trying to be polite, and see me as a young woman.
In France, if someone is married, you say madame. But if a woman is much older, say ma’am. If a woman is middle aged or younger, say miss. Be gracious about their age. Be generous with using miss. If a woman is or looks over 50, and it is her birthday, still call her miss and say, “You don’t look a day over 29.” Flattery with age will get you everywhere. She will love you forever.
9. Before Driving Away, Wait Until Your Date or Friends are Inside
It takes a mere 20 extra seconds, but is remembered forever. I definitely remember this 5ever. I always make it a point to wave at the door goodbye as an acknowledgement.
10. Offer Your Brolly to Anyone Who Needs It
Holding the umbrella for your date is common sense, but holding it for a complete stranger is the sign of a true gentleman. There is a deep rule for gentleman from Debrett’s that says a gentleman shall never unfurl their umbrella. They use it to hail a cab to go to the gentlemen’s club and wait out the rain.
I personally was on dates with two different guys years ago who did not offer to stand close to me under their umbrella in the pouring rain. I was appalled. I have gentlemen friends who are strictly platonic that still offer me their paraplus, and that is one of the many reasons we are still friends today.
11. Call More, Text Less
Texting can sometimes feel so impersonal. Not only does calling someone convey your sincerity better, it also shows her that you’re willing to take the time to make the call. I like to take it to another level and say write a handwritten note. Send a piece of snail mail. I will create a whole video for snail mail correspondence and writing strategies.
But I always got calls from friends in my day and age. I am 27, so I’m on the cusp of millennial, right on the line to being Gen X. My birth year was the year before it becomes Gen X. My generation didn’t really have cell phones until we were 18. Some of us at 14 if we were lucky, but we had measly plans where we were only allowed to call our parents. And even then, we all called each other using house phone and still today feel comfortable having talks on the phone rather than texting. If a boy liked me, he would call. If a girl wanted to invite me to a party, she would call. If a friend’s parents wanted to say hi, they would call.
To me, texting is a status update for saying, “I’m headed out now. ETA 12:00.” Calling is for chatting or explaining something.
When invited to a party, scan the invitation for a dress code, and then stick to it. It is a terrible display of disrespect to show up to a semi-formal wedding in slacks and a button down. The day is not about you. If you are at the opera wearing business casual you need to leave. Or smart casual. It cheapens the experience for everyone else.
If you don’t own a suit, buy one. All you need is one good one. It does not have to be a $5,000 Armani Prive dinner jacket suit.
Just a simple dark suit that makes you look and feel good within your budget. You never feel comfortable in something you cannot afford. You will never want to dance in it or make memorable stains. You can also google doing a little homework on different suit cuts and fits, what flatters your body shape and height.
Make sure you ask a tailor to make it fit you well, or if the place you’re purchasing it from might have tailoring services with experts to guide you on suit fitting to flatter you. In the USA, Brooks Bros and Nordstrom have free tailoring services on sight. Keep it simple, keep it classic – avoid trends, and you will look spectacular.
13. Keep The Classics
Some say chivalry is dead, common courtesy is definitely not. Some rules to being a gentleman will never change and should always be followed.
Opening/holding the door for other people and giving up your seat when there are no more seats are two examples. Having consideration for others at all times. When you are driving, do not check your phone or gps while you are driving. Pull over to the side of the road. If you are checking your list at the grocery store, pull your cart to the side to make sure you are not blocking people. Do not talk about inappropriate things at the dining table, or anywhere. Have a sense of pride in carrying yourself with high standards. Once you get used to high standards, you will have a completely different lifestyle. I promise you this.
14. Show respect.
Show respect towards everyone. Be compassionate. Understand that people from all walks of life are equal. Don’t take advantage of others. It’s what we do that defines us. The world is a mirror. All you have to do is smile. It is simple, but not easy.
This is what I love about etiquette. It levels the field for anyone from any background, any status, and relieves you of preconceived notions by simply showcasing your character, and lovely personality.
15. Do not be confrontational.
Never put someone on the spot. Be gracious when someone makes a mistake, is rude, or impolite. Keep being kind. And when someone has a different opinion or says an untrue fact you personally know is incorrect.
Not everything has to turn into an argument or standoff. Focus on yourself, prioritize your life, and your time. Making someone uncomfortable, because they do not know they are being abrupt is not worth your energy or time.
I have a whole gentleman series coming out so stick around. You can click here for more gentlemen posts. If you have anything to add, I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below. Sign up to my newsletter for etiquette techniques here, and visit dixonetiquette.com for etiquette classes with me.