Do you smile wistfully at the perfect-sounding male profiles in a dating site? Glowing profiles apparently abound, yet women complain about how gentlemen are a vanishing breed. Perhaps it has to do with not knowing how a gentleman looks and behaves and forgetting that gentlemanly behavior thrives with the complementary participation of ladies. For every, longed-for gentlemanly gesture, women need to ask themselves if they are ready to appreciate and match such courteous behavior.
I asked women friends of varying ages, “What does a gentleman look like?” Their replies centered on gentlemanly behavior rather than looks. I prodded some more. “Which man at a restaurant, bar, or hotel lobby would look like a gentleman?” The quick reply: “That’s the difficulty. In a plush place like a hotel, the well-dressed guy in the suit is normally considered a ‘gentleman’. Hopefully, that’s really the case. A gentleman to me can be long-haired, with a full beard, or wearing board shorts.”
It’s not the clothes then that make a gentleman. The common expectation is: “A gentleman looks neat, is well-groomed, and is properly dressed for every occasion.” Gentlemen value themselves and match their appearance to project who they are. They make an effort to appear neat, smell nice, and wear clean, ironed clothes that fit reasonably well. The part about being properly dressed for all occasions requires a bit more work. Men (and women) who learn about the nuances of dressing appropriately for the occasion demonstrate their appreciation for meaningful social interactions by finding out about event dress codes, especially if they’re part of the program. They make it a fun experience by wearing the “right costume” for “the role.”
The women listed fairly simple gentlemanly behavior but stressed the gestures should be “done effortlessly because it’s second nature.” If the gestures come with much fuss and flourish, they are nothing more than attention-seeking performances. The gestures should apply in all encounters, with all genders, and have no agenda other than to be helpful, so being a ladies’ man is not necessarily gentlemanly.
A gentleman’s behavior comes from:
1. Awareness: He knows what’s happening around him.
2. Being other-centered: He focuses on the other person. It’s not about him.
3. Consistent practice: He does it all the time, naturally. It’s not contrived.
It’s Monday morning and Peggy feels more harassed than usual as she rushes to work. She detours to a nearby Starbucks to escape the sudden downpour. Late and wet, she mutters a cuss word as the man behind her beats her to the door, but she stops at mid-curse realizing that he actually wants to open the door for her. He smiles and tips his wet head slightly as a signal for her to go through. She beams her thanks smiling all the while, as the morning’s harassed feeling dissipates.
Why do many forget this simple, mood-lifting gesture? Because of a lack of awareness and being other-centred. If you’re busy texting, you’re unaware that the door could slam on the person behind you. Or you think it’s justified to hurry ahead because whatever it is you’re late for is more important than whatever the other person needs to do.
Lauren was not a typical woman because she did not like shopping. Her boyfriend was not typical because he enjoyed looking into shops. Fortunately, they both liked the same things. Laurel began to enjoy shopping but relished more how he made no fuss about carrying all the shopping bags. He was assured about his manliness and was comfortable carrying even the frilly girl stuff and later setting up the dining table with the delicate tea set. She expressed her appreciation repeatedly which motivated him more. Lauren eventually married the man.
While attending university, I had taken the bus regularly. During the peak-commute time of day, the buses were full with several passengers standing. Fairly often, a university student would offer his seat to me. I would accept gratefully, smile, say thank you, and offer to hold his books for him. At other times, I would be seated and an older woman would come aboard and be standing. I would wait a few minutes for any of the men to offer their seats. If no one did, I would offer my seat to her. I asked some male friends why they hesitate. The common response was: “It’s very disappointing when women don’t even bother with a thank you.”
In cool places where coats, jackets, and parkas are daily wear this gesture is very helpful. It is especially called for when attending an event that requires guests to leave and pick up their coats in a coat-minding section. There is something elegant and caring in the way a gentleman holds the coat up for his female companion to get into. The ‘thank you’ should come as graciously as the gesture. If a woman reacts with something like “I am perfectly capable of putting on my own coat
Cuss words may be acceptable among his friends but a gentleman avoids it anywhere else. The same is true with attempts at humor at the expense of another person’s race, religion, gender, beliefs, or even sports team. The more public the place, the more careful he is. He sticks to neutral topics and does not speak louder than necessary because he knows how to avoid potential disagreements that could escalate. This applies to women too. I’ve seen men cringe at women’s casual colorful utterances or get into trouble because of their female companions’ verbal carelessness.
John Gray has enlightened us that women are from Venus and need listening to. A gentleman pays attention, particularly if he is with a woman. He’s engaged in the conversation and makes eye contact. Yes, eye contact, not staring beneath her neckline, not eyeing the girl at the next table; not checking the football game score on the overhead TV; and not continuously fiddling with his phone. This is admittedly difficult amid so much continuous distractions but it is the major reason women feel unacknowledged. Choose a relatively quiet, non-crowded place for face-to-face interaction to help you focus on the conversation. The same quality of attention is required from women. No phone catch-up with the gals and no remote supervision of work or household.
Observe how a man relates to his mother. Is he demanding, overbearing, or dismissive? It could indicate he has an inferior view of women. A gentleman recognizes a woman’s contributions from her experience, knowledge, abilities, will power, and feminine wisdom. He listens to her point of view and respectfully states his rebuttals. He is not condescending and does not make sexual jokes or remarks – a form of intimidation and discrimination. When receiving an award, a gentlemen acknowledges his spouse, significant other, mother, and/or daughters.
When dining out, he is as comfortable allowing women to pay their share, as he is paying for the entire dinner on certain occasions. If a man wishes to pay for a meal on a date, the woman has the option to accept with thanks and then offer to pay for dessert and coffee. There is no need for a woman to make a fuss and take undue offense by perceiving it as an insult to her financial capability.
In business or social settings, there’s the man who monopolizes the product brainstorming session, spiritual study group, PTA meeting, or cocktail conversation. He interrupts you at mid-sentence, gives unsolicited advice, contradicts everyone’s opinion, and wants to have the final word. He’s far from gentlemanly because everything is always about him. This 8th gentlemanly behavior requires stepping back and allowing a colleague, friend, or spouse to take center stage. It sometimes involves giving up something to support another – a good description of househusbands and single fathers. Some women mistake a soft-spoken, generous man for a pushover. They then take that as a signal to be domineering and controlling.
This brings me back to the essential point. We usually have no problem coming up with our list of expectations about other people. Following Arielle Ford’s gentle challenge in The Soulmate Secret, look at your list and then ask “Do I, myself, meet those expectations?” So, are you looking for a gallant gentleman? Start by being a lovely lady. And that works the other way too.
Featured photo credit: wallpaperank.com via wallpaperank.com
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