How To Be A Gentleman

Let’s start from the top. The word gentleman is a compound word; two words joined together to become a singular word that defines something very specific. In this case, we are building a new word with a noun – man – being modified by the adjective form – gentle.

Why is this important? It is because we defining our self. That is, we are recognizing each of us, individually, to be male, manly, or physically a man. Then we are furthering that definition with the distinction of being gentle referring to the concepts of being kindly and amiable, mild, and – most importantly – with experience.

This does not mean you will be a wimp or weakling when dealing with the rest of the world. It does not mean you will grovel at a woman’s feet. It does mean each day you will be prepared to face the world with confidence and maturity. 

That does not just happen. There is no SD card that is shoved into a slot in your cranium that suddenly imparts the knowledge needed to be a gentleman. Rather, it is learned over time as you continue to grow, both in age and – that word I used above – experience. That experience is not about you being forced to do something. Rather, it involves you wanting to and actively becoming a gentleman. It means you voluntarily seek out that knowledge and those skills so you become proficient in how to successfully present yourself in everyday life. That presentation is not solely about how you dress. It is everything, every nuance, about you as a person which will distinguish you from the rest of the pack.

For starters…
There are literally hundreds of pages online that claim to provide you all you need to know to be a gentleman. Well if that was the case, then it would be that simple; it is not. Certainly the surface is straight-forward:

  1. Your hygiene,
  2. Being an adult,
  3. Using proper language for each situation you find yourself in,
  4. Knowing how to connect with other people,
  5. Understanding finances and law, and
  6. Simple étiquette in pubic and private.


But there are many more topics, each of which have their own purpose and need in your life. It is up to you to search out the information. You have to be the one to figure out what you need, when you need it, why you need it and how to make certain you implement that information correctly. So where do you begin?

It begins with the Definition of Class. (This was originally written by Ann Landers, an advice columnist for over 50 years.) Indeed, what it means to be a gentleman in today’s society and culture means to appreciate each person you encounter until they prove otherwise.

As overwhelming as it may seem initially, your interactions with others are very manageable when you begin with respect. That respect, though, begins with yourself. It is respect of your mind, your body, your soul, your person. Sadly, many people – both men and women have completely lost comprehension of the idea of respect. So let us recollect ourselves.

Respect begins with you appreciating yourself as a human being. We are not part of a demographic. We are each human beings, made up of cells that come together to form organs, bones, skin, blood. From that point forward, both sexes have a responsibility. That responsibility is to appreciate each other. That appreciation is the value we place upon each other as fellow humans of the opposite sex. And it is sex. “Gender” is from the Middle French of the 1300’s referring to “kind or sort”. We are neither. We are human beings with proscribed genital organs.

It is essential to understand the differences among self-worth, self-esteem, and self-respect. Let’s understand each:

  • Self-esteem – the value and belief in our person,
  • Self-respect – the honor, pride, dignity, character, and satisfaction in who we are,
  • Self-worth – the trust and belief in the value of our skills as they will ensure our success.

Too often, people seek to love themselves to the point of developing a narcissistic lust and desire. This creates an off-putting sense of entitlement and an inability to learn from failures. Let’s be clear that none of the three values noted above have been about our race, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or those other demographics thrown out there as being supposedly important by marketers or the baiters seeking to develop fraudulent cults of personality. In all cases – esteem, respect, and worth – begin and end with us as an individual and how we project our confidence in ourselves and our skills, knowledge, capacity, and successes in the larger world.

As much as certain people would like to have you believe otherwise, what is of most critical importance in our lives is how we care for ourselves. Our job is not important. The type of vehicle we drive is not important. But what is important is how you, as a gentleman, act every second of every day. That begins with your attitude. To every person you meet, every day.

Chivalry is dead; long live chivalry!
There are complaints today that chivalry is dead. In fact, it is so common that it has become a cliché. But I challenge the notion that chivalry is dead. Rather, I will state that it is only dead to those to those who refuse to practice it and to those who refuse to want it to be practiced.

So, boys, you have been told how to be men. Now it is time for you to learn how the inclusion of chivalry in your daily lives will gain you the standing of being a gentleman. It is attained over time as you prove yourself to be civilized, educated, attentive, and well-mannered. That takes place with how you treat everyone in everyday life. Reality check: You will be judged. Deal with it as an adult.

How do we define “chivalry”? Simply, chivalry is the amalgam of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms. Basically, a gentleman who practices chivalry is one who seeks to follow the best practices of culture and society advancing both to the benefit and value of yourself and others.

Being recognized as a gentleman takes place over years as you are critiqued in your interactions with other men, but more importantly with the girls, women, and females you respect as ladies.

My mother’s comment comes to mind: “Let them prove you wrong.”

Treat each female human being as a lady. Whether the situation is familial, friendly, professional, or amorous, she is to be respected and appreciated with chivalric accord.

Below are a number of very straight-forward, logical methods that are all-too-often tossed aside under the presumption that they are offensive. No! The lady will gladly appreciate them because of the respect they accord her. It is only the self-serving feminist who finds any of these offensive.

Inevitably, I receive comments from both sexes that I am out-dated or that I’m being sexist or really just trying to control a woman. Seriously, if I was out-dated, why are there so many women who express upset at how few men know how to act properly? And not the way demanded by the feminnazi or the hate-filled NOW Gang?

Why would any of this be sexist when it is providing aid, support, assistance, respect and love of the opposite sex? If my idea is to “control” a member of the opposite sex, why would I have any interest in being polite or gracious? It is far easier to go caveman and bash whichever woman I wanted over the head and force them into submission through physical violence, than to act a certain way that draws their attention to me and ultimately develops a relationship between us.

Notice I have not said anything about equality. That is for the simple reason that none of us are equal in any form, even as human beings. We are each distinctive individuals with our own skills, interests, abilities, wants, strengths and weaknesses. As the joke goes, “We are each unique; just like everybody else.” Yet that is exactly where the idea of equality is destroyed. If there was an equality among the fraudulent demographic groups or “statistical populations” I noted above, then why are each of them being studied? We are not “separate but equal” nor can we claim equality among anyone.

Face facts: there is nothing of equal value between men and women. Rather, the value of each person is developed by each person in our own ways of acting, developing, maturing, and deciding how we seek to present ourselves to the larger world. And what does that lead to? For the rational, intelligent human being…

Being complementary.
Over the course of some 25 years, I have posted commentaries on a variety of sites that men and women are not equal. Yes, it has ticked off the mis-guided individuals of both sexes who hate having reality shown to them. Tough. We are complementary to each other. Note the difference in the spelling of the word “complementary”. It is not “complimentary”. That difference of the “e” and “i” is significant.

Complementary refers to someone “forming a satisfactory or balanced whole.”

Complimentary refers to something “given for free or to praise someone.”

Got it?

A man and a woman who honestly love one another will complement each other, not only in their love, but in all aspects of their lives. The balance is most critical. Where one may be weak, the other is strong and will provide. This goes both ways. There are many things at which men are horrible. The same is true for women. The value of a healthy and strong relationship is that each person provides and supports unconditionally. There is no ridicule or mockery. There is no “but if”. Only the loving support of each other, doing what is necessary to help each other, will ensure the relationship will grow in love.

“Please” and “Thank You.”
You say them to everyone. When you need help, “Please help me” shows you are respectful of the time that person will give to that effort. “Thank you” expresses your appreciation for that effort. When you close the latest multi-million dollar proposal with a client, “thank you” goes a long way in showing respect for them and their decision to “go with you”. When you are at a diner or local fast-food joint, ending your order with “please” shows respect to the staff. Saying “thank you” shows appreciation for their effort. These two simple words are far too often overlooked to the detriment of the relationship.

The modern gentleman is innovative. He will think ahead and take the time to learn and understand the hot topics that affect the business niché he works in. He will know and understand the critical topics in his lady’s employment sector. He will be able to present information and ideas based upon research and not just shallow opinion.

When a lady asks your opinion … have an actual opinion based on research. Which dress? Which pair of jeans? Which pair of shoes looks better? Let her know. It shows your own interest in her and your relationship.

Pay attention to the details. The intelligent and thinking gentleman is constantly aware of the world around him. You will take mental notes of all sorts. Where you have parked your car? What entrance you have used to get into a building? The name – and maybe badge number – of the receptionist you speak with. Who is milling around you while you wait for the elevator? Which elevator bank you have used? The cars and license plates of the vehicles zipping around you as you head down the New Jersey Turnpike. Who is seated near you at your favorite restaurant? Where you may have seen them before?

But when it is about the lady you love, your awareness will be heightened. Her likes, dislikes, favorite color, preferences for types of food, favorite designer, perfume, shoe size, hat size, and everything intimate will be essential to know. Of course, you will need to know her ring size for that important question as well. But the gentleman learns about his lady’s passions as well. Remembering her grandmother’s work as a member of the WACS and avid gardener is one thing. Arriving for your one year anniversary with a bundle of Peace roses because the fragrance reminds her of the beautiful Peace rose bush that is still in the garden at her grandmother’s home shows you care.

Keep your word and confidentiality.
We have all heard the phrase “Word is bond.” It is the shortened version of “My word is my bond.” It means you are speaking the truth. Bluntly, it also means that you are willing to go to your grave in order to stand up for what you have said. Likewise, when you agree to take on the responsibility of maintaining confidentiality, it is your responsibility to keep it as if it were your own. Nothing absolves you from either responsibility. You live and die with the words you speak and confidential information entrusted to you.

Never intentionally draw attention to oneself.
“Frequent and loud laughter is the characteristic of folly and ill-manners …” Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman (1746). This was written by Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield. He might write an “LOL” over text in the present, but a gentleman doesn’t have to be loud to command attention. He commands attention through his strong character.

Be a jack of all trades.
Gentlemen know how to do things. You will be the man that is thought of first to help resolve the disaster of a fallen tree just as quickly as the social one of the malformed tweet. He is self-confident, but not arrogant. He is socially competent and calm. The gentleman will know how to diffuse powder kegs with simple statements, allowing him time to fine the answers he needs. He needs to know how to care for his children while cooking a tasty dinner. You will need to understand how to equally take directives for superiors and give them to subordinates. As much as you need to cooperate, you also need to have the confidence of working independently. You will be expected to analyze problems and present solutions, whether or not you have been asked. You will be expected to prepare for war, while fighting with valor and give the ultimate sacrifice gallantly.

Manage events like a pro.
You may be managing the next concert series for The Boss, a week-long international professional conference, a TC among 30-40 clients and vendors, the Sweet 16 party for a favorite niece, the family New Year’s Eve get-together, or a cozy dinner for you and your lady. The gentleman will manage every event with professionalism, down to the most infinite detail. In business, you are showing skills that have matured with experience. With your lady, you are showing initiative and planning. That shows interest in her and concern for her well-being. What is better? Elbowing your way to the bar to sit on uncomfortable barstools with lots of other people who are indirectly interfering with your night out? Or, having a reserved table where you are both able to relax and speak without having to shout like you are both deaf.

A fancy word for being on time and ahead of schedule. But it goes far beyond just having the event in your calendar. This starts with planning. Do you have enough gas in your vehicle? Do you know the route you need to take to get there and to wherever she wishes to be dropped off at the end of the day or evening? Be sure to respect her time for the value that it is. If she keeps you waiting, do not hold it against her. Instead, be cordial and respond to the question “how long have you been waiting” with “I just got here a few minutes ago.”

Your cover (otherwise known as your hat).
Just as with military protocol, your hat is nearly never to be worn inside a building. It is to be placed upon your head as soon as you exit a building. Upon entering a vehicle, it is to be removed. Upon exiting the vehicle, return your cover to your head. When you enter a building, you are to remove your cover immediately. When you place your cover on your head, remove it, or adjust it, show yourself to be intelligent and only use the brim of the hat. When you place your cover somewhere for storage, be smart and set it on its crown or top.

Give up your seat.
That’s right. Everywhere. Riding a packed #2 to the Upper West Side and you see an elderly lady hobble onto the car? Your first instinct should be to stand and offer your seat. Don’t make a big deal of it. Stand, smile and say, “Ma’am. Please take this seat.” Are you stuck in some packed waiting room with SRO and a pregnant woman enters? Stand and do the same. You are not flirting; you are being a gentleman. It does not hurt nor does it cost you anything. But it goes far in providing you stature in respect and appreciation.

Pedestrian Etiquette.
There are three simple rules:

  1. Keep on her left at all times.
  2. Remain to the right on the sidewalk.
  3. There should be no more than two people abreast each way.

Yes, it is that simple. Remaining on her left side closest to the street allows you the opportunity to shield a lady from traffic, debris, puddles and other urban calamities. Why to the right? For the simple reason it is how Americans drive, thus orienting the people to space and location. Two abreast offers you and your lady the chance to be together. Groups of people should have a clue in their collective heads they are still individuals and need to be respectful of others.

Open doors.
Remember we are all human beings. Thus, the gentleman will open every door for every lady and for gentlemen as well. This is done out of courtesy and deference. You are not being subservient; you are being gracious to other human beings. But opening a door does NOT mean you will allow a lady to precede you. A gentleman will always take the lead when entering an unfamiliar location for the simple reason it is the gentleman’s obligation is to protect his lady companion in all unpleasant situations that may arrive. Today’s gentleman will always aid the lady to enter and leave a car. Simply put, it is done to ensure the view of any ogler is blocked. More importantly, among friends and those who are dating, it is a sign of affection, not weakness.

Never, ever criticize a home-made meal.
No matter who makes a meal, no matter how horrible a meal may be, no gentleman will ever express an out-loud criticism of a meal when he is a guest in anyone’s home. This is true if the meal is made by your lady, a friend, a family member, anyone. If anyone takes the time and effort to make a dinner, they are your host. Honor them and appreciate the effort they have put forth to provide you with food. Smile and eat knowing at any time, no matter how skilled you may be, the same catastrophe may befall you.

Speaking With People.
There is nothing more degrading than for you to be standing at an elevator bank or passing people in a hallway, sitting in a bar or at a restaurant while expressing words and concepts to another person that treats them as if they were inferiors. Worse is the use of words to convey an opinion of a human being that focus on a demographic as the exclusive reason to hate on or hold up for ridicule that person.

That kind of snobbery and egotism has no place anywhere in society. Present your thoughts and ideas based in fact and through research, not just because you think differently. Respect the person with whom you are conveying the idea or knowledge. Respect the person of whom you are speaking.

No matter the person with whom you are speaking, speak with them. Never speak down to someone. Never speak at them. You speak with the person. You treat each person as you would like to be treated. Most importantly, while each person with whom you speak is recognized and respected for his or her position or standing, you are still responsible to express yourself in a mature manner.

Likewise, the gentleman will speak of people who are not present, their actions, their thoughts and opinions, as if they were standing right next to us. That requires the gentleman to comment on all they have said and done with presented fact and research. The gentleman may hold great loathing for that person’s actions and words. But the gentleman will express that loathing through the expression of researched fact and truth. Foul language, loud, obnoxious statements serve only to degrade yourself and your view in the eyes of others.

Listen … and Comprehend.
As much as the gentleman is to be aware of the words he uses, so, too, is the gentleman alert to what is being said around him. Are you aware of the last four words spoken by your presenter? How about the lady you are seated from across the table? No matter the subject matter, it is your responsibility to know what is being said. If all you are doing is nodding your head, but nothing is getting through to your synapses, you have a major problem.

In the matter of professional situations, it is your responsibility to be alert to the words of others. More importantly, gain an understanding of the mannerisms of the people speaking. That which they deem critical will usually be preceded by some physical motion or a change in the inflection of his or her voice. Khrushchev banged his shoe on the desk; you won’t be so fortunate.

When it comes to the beauty of the voice and actions of the lady you have an interest with, ask all the questions you want. But when she speaks, listen. It is the opportunity to understand her, to learn about her. Gain insight about this person in your life by being attentive. Comprehend what she is saying and learn her emotional landscape. It is not easy. But if it was, everyone would be doing this.

Look into the eyes of each person.
Whether you are discussing plans for a hostile takeover of a rival company or you are fascinated by the woman across the table from you who has become the only person in a room of 500, look into the person’s eyes. Look into their eyes when they are speaking with you and you with them. Look at the speaker, not like a zombie or some crazed person, but as an interested person who wants to gain knowledge, insight. When you are speaking, it is equally important to hold the attention of those with whom you are speaking. One of the easiest ways people are able to confirm another person is lying is when that person looks away or darts a glance elsewhere when they are saying something specific. Look! Do not aver your eyes.

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But what is proper etiquette with a lady, especially with one whom you love? That is far more detailed and critical, yet easily possible. Why? Because you “want” to learn to become closer to her heart…

No gentleman ever hits a woman. Never.
This returns to the issue of respect. At no time, in any way, is it remotely acceptable for a gentleman to strike a woman. If a situation has deteriorated to this point, either you have ceased being a gentleman, or the woman involved is not a lady. Regardless, you, as a gentleman, need to regain control of your “self”. That is, your emotions, your mind, you… and walk away. That walking may mean separating yourself from the woman, permanently. Why? Because there is no reason, exception, or justification for a gentleman to strike a woman – and definitely not a lady – any time. Ever.

Defend yourself and the ones you love.
The famous Latin adage remains true today, Si vis pacem, para bellum, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Put another way, make certain you can defend yourself. Indeed, the gentleman will never foment or antagonize other people. But when threatened, he will be prepared to defend himself, his family, those he loves, his property and what is rightfully his.

Defend her honor at all costs.
She is not an object. She is not some thing. If you are mature, you have taken the time to learn about her. You have come to know how she acts in different situations. You have become alert to her lifestyle and mannerisms. Most importantly, you will know who she is as a person. All of these are of value to you. They are appreciated and desired in the lady you wish to have in your life.

Thus, you will gladly, ardently defend her for all of the beauty in her life that she brings to your relationship. That defense means you are willing to stand up and verbally defend her at a moment’s notice. It means you are able and you will protect her physically whenever needed. And yes, that means you are willing to dish it out as much as you are willing to take it.

Express care for her.
Every. Single. Day. Every. Possible. Way. It is not difficult. It is not time consuming. But it begins by learning about her. What does she like, appreciate, enjoy? Flowers. Affectionate post-it notes. Spa days. Simple compliments. All of those things add up. So show your affection every day.

Give compliments sincerely and often.
This is not some immature effort on your part to “get something more.” Complimenting her on her appearance recognizes her beauty and the time and effort she has taken to make her appearance beautiful. Compliments need to be “more than skin deep.” Compliment her on her successes, on the efforts she puts forth each day, her character, poise, skills, capacities. When you have won her heart, when you are a couple, and most importantly when you are married, do not ever fall into the trap of taking her granted. Every day needs to be viewed as the first day you are courting her. Why? Because she deserves that respect and appreciation.

Walk with a lady.
The gentleman will walk with a lady, not ahead or behind her. In the simplest of terms, your position is a matter of respect. It is not about being equal or anything else. You respect her and wish to be with her. As the relationship grows, your desire to be with her – not in front, nor behind – will grow as well. Show respect, show love; receive likewise if it is there being offered.

Assist a lady with her coat.
You begin by offering to assist her. That begins by asking, “May I?” Presuming the lady already has her coat on, you position yourself behind her when the offer is accepted, gently grasping the coat near the collar and shoulder, providing the opportunity to slip her arms free. Depending on the situation, you will either hang it up yourself in the closet assigned for ladies or you would drape the coat over your arm. When you are both preparing to leave, remember to help her put the garment back on, hold the coat in the same way and allow her to slip her arms in, then straighten the collar as she adjusts.

Provide your jacket for comfort.
This is not just because she asks when she is chilly or when it dawns on you she does not have an interest in getting soaked in a sudden rainstorm. This is done in advance because your respect for her has already alerted you to her potential situation in advance. Sure, it shows you are alert to her physical needs. More importantly, it is showing you want to comfort her; care for her. Give her reasons to recognize she is special in your life.

Help her to be seated first.
It is not difficult. You pull the chair out for her. As her knees bend to sit, gently push the chair in with both hands on the backrest until she is seated comfortably. And you have just shown that she is valued in your life.

Face a lady without distraction when seated.
We need to face facts. Even the highest of high-class restaurants have TVs strategically placed. Show your attention is 100% upon her and her alone by taking the seat with your back facing the unneeded boob tube. She is to be your fascination and interest every time you are out as a couple. She is the person who captivates your interest, exclusively.

Rise when she enters and exits the room.
This is another simple gesture of respect to her. You are recognizing her and who she is to you. Likewise, when at any meal and she excuses herself and returns, stand out of respect. Head bobs, hand waves, and smiles just will not do.

Mind your table manners.
These are not challenging to master. Using them on a regular basis – whether eating at a formal dinner or at your nearest Wendy’s – confirms your respect of the others at table and will be appreciated by each person there. Manners are not something that should feel forced or ostentatious. Instead, they should make the people around you feel better about being around you. To get yourself up to speed, spend 20 minutes reading through this blog entry on Ask Andy About Clothes. It is education you need and are never going to attain at any University.

Pay for the meals shared.
You pay for dinner out of respect for her and appreciation she was willing to dine with you. Whether you are partaking at the local sub shop or you decided to go to Steakhouse 85, the bill comes to your side of the table and her eyes never lay eyes upon that piece of paper. Never open the calculator app on your smart phone, even if she offers. A genial smile with a gentle “I insist” is sufficient. Most importantly, you are doing this because it is the gentlemanly thing to do. You are not “looking for anything” or “trying to start something.”

Escort her safely to her door.
You escort her to the safety of her home, her domicile. It is NOT done to try to get an in. Those immature thoughts should be banished from your mind by now. Your purpose is exclusively because you wish to keep her safe, with comfort, and provide for her well-being. Those are the reasons; nothing more. Whether this is your first date, the one you ask for her hand in marriage, or the one celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary, it is to ensure she arrives home safely, with thanks and appreciation for the pleasure of her company during the evening.

Carry her bags.
Full stop here. There is a distinct line of involvement here. This line, however, does NOT mean you ignore others. When we are discussing peer female professionals on a business trip, you make the offer to carry her bags. This is nothing more than being mature, professional, and respectful of other human beings. If she declines the offer, stop asking. But always be alert to any difficulty and offer your services when needed.

When we are discussing your lady, parameters change. Now it is expected you will carry her bags. Why? Because she should not be encumbered. BUT, you should not be encumbered to the point of being unable to defend her either. It is all about being reasonable.

If/when you find yourself flying by yourself, help others in need. Do not ignore them; offer to help. Whether it is putting their luggage in the overhead compartments or dragging it out, help. But remember, it is not to gain attention or “be seen.” It is to help out when you are able.

A gentleman will always ask for her father’s and family’s blessing before proposing.
Easily the second most important action you will ever take in your life is going to be the proposition of marriage to your love. But the paramount action you will take is asking for her father’s and family’s blessing.

In times gone by the gentleman requested permission of her father and did so with respect, not fear. Today, regrettably, we are living in widely divergent times. As much as we want to follow tradition, there is a reality that her father may be deceased, not present, or there may be some other forced separation. Thus, regardless if her father is available or not, a gentleman must be willing to step forward and acknowledge the importance of her whole family: dad, mom, brothers, sisters, grandparents. When you think about this request, it is not simply requesting her hand in marriage. It is also requesting to become part of her family.

* * *

Always, there are many rules of etiquette. While they might not be deal-breakers anymore, she will still be impressed with your knowledge and charm. To learn more, may I recommend as another site from which you can glean volumes of valuable information that will aid you in your quest to be a chivalrous gentleman.

Please share this with your friends. Let us return chivalry to the world.