Because You Are Polite

by Ginger Philbrick

Over the years, dear Reader, you and I have considered much of the ABCs of manners. In this column, I would like to focus on one of the Ds, doors.

Lately, I have witnessed, and been engaged in, several stand-offs at the doorways of restaurants and shops. Customers coming out of the establishment want to allow incoming customers to enter before they themselves exit. And customers coming in insist they wait for those exiting to leave first.

I am always reminded of the two old comic strip characters, Alphonse and Gaston who, in their excessive politeness, constantly held up progress by insisting the other one go first. “After you, my dear Gaston” followed by, “No, after you,, my dear Alphonse” was their verbal trademark. The resulting stand-off was often comical.

As with much of etiquette, there is a rational solution to this “Who Goes First?” situation. It is that the party who is leaving steps out of the door before those wanting to enter come in. It is not impolite on anyone’s part, it is simply practical to allow the opening up of more space inside the establishment for incoming customers. Courtesy may be shown by those departing by stepping out and then holding the door open for those entering.

There are other door dilemmas, too. It is often difficult for a man to know whether he should offer to open and hold the door for a woman. Emily Post’s Etiquette counsels that “Today, whoever gets there first opens and holds the door for the next person.”

However, if a man wishes to show deference to a woman and isn’t sure whether he will offend her or be appreciated, “he can simply offer her a choice: ‘May I get the door for you?’ She can reply either ‘Thanks!’ or ‘No thanks, I’ve got it.’”

Personally, I am grateful and feel respected by anyone offering to open a door for me and have never fully understood why some consider it an insult.

There are so many doors in our world: elevator, car, revolving, office and the front doors of our homes, to name only a few. In the end, I think, the most important thing to remember is to not insult or do bodily harm to those who are attempting to cross those thresholds with you.

Ginger Philbrick is the owner of Because You Are Polite LLC. You are invited to email your manners questions to her and she will respond as time and space allow. You may contact her at youarepolite1@gmail.com