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How to Be a Gentleman: A Guide for the Modern Man

Seth is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing about marketing.


Why Do You Need to Be a Gentleman?

Somewhere in the last fifty years or so, the art of being a gentleman became less and less common for men. Today, we often look up to those who do have the admirable traits that the men of old used to possess. When we act as gentlemen, we portray qualities that all people look up to and that women find irresistibly attractive.

Many men often become misled into thinking that being gentleman means being a “nice guy” or a pushover. This is far from the truth. Being a gentleman means much more than saying please and thank you and always giving in to others. That is a shallow and unfortunate misrepresentation of how a man should conduct himself.

Being a gentleman means carrying yourself with confidence and showing respect to all people. Confidence does not mean a muscle t-shirt and a cigarette. It does not mean being a “bad boy.” It means being a respectable man who puts others first while remaining sure of who he is as a person.

Being a gentleman takes learning and practice. It is not something that happens to us overnight. While a descriptive guide for being a gentleman in every possible human situation would encompass a book far too large to read, this short guide will hopefully give you some idea as to the way gentlemen generally act in certain circumstances. If you want to become a more respectable and confident individual, consider the following guide a roadmap for your future behavior.


While Speaking

Although you may be a dashing, handsome, good looking individual, it is a lost cause in acting as a gentleman if we do not speak like one. We must remember the following:

  • Never speak like someone you are not - If you are an educated individual who has ever taken an English class, do not speak with slang or in a voice that sounds as though you want to be cool. You will ultimately fail at portraying any coolness whatsoever. Altering our true voice says to others that we are not confident in ourselves. Stick to your natural voice.
  • Listen to others – All too often, we prefer to hear ourselves speak as opposed to others. In your quest to gentlemanliness, you will do well to remember that listening to others and not interrupting is a show of respect. Listening more than speaking will allow you to develop a response to someone and answer intelligently.
  • Use manners – Do not underestimate the importance of saying please and thank you. Being polite while speaking to others shows that you are a man who is not focused only on himself. Using manners shows that we have a genuine respect for others in society and are willing to acknowledge them. Don’t be the “bad boy” who isn’t polite. He is not as confident in himself as he appears.
  • Be slow to talk about yourself – No one likes the guy who talks about himself constantly. This goes hand in hand with listening to others. When someone asks you how your job is going, do not immediately give an elaborate response about how successful you are. Learn to focus on the other person, not yourself.
  • Do not swear – An occasional slip of the tongue may be alright, but make a point to not cuss repeatedly. Swearing a lot immediately tells all who may hear you that you are a negative person. It makes you look unintelligent and lacking in respectability.

In Public

Public is a broad word. In this case, I simply mean at the store, post office, or any other place that we may find ourselves on a day to day basis. In all of our public affairs, it is important to remember a few rules of thumb if we wish to act as gentlemen.

  • Open the door for all people - Gentlemen hold doors open for people. They do not make a 90 year old woman open the door for herself. This too shows others that you care more about their needs than your own.
  • Be courteous to store employees – Never treat an employee at a store with disrespect. Although employees may not always be the best at what they do, that does not give you the right to treat them with disrespect. Do not be the person who makes a scene or demands to speak to a manager all the time. A gentleman is above this.
  • Don’t dress like a mess – When you are in public, do not dress as if you were at home on the couch. Gentlemen look respectable no matter where they go. This does not mean that you ought to wear dress shirts to the grocery store, but you should at least take the time to comb your hair and look presentable in public.
  • Give others your full attention – If you are ready to pay at a store or public place, give the cashier your full attention. If you are on the phone, hang up. If you feel you have other things that require more attention than what you are currently doing, do those things before you go somewhere else.
  • Do not be loud or disruptive – Gentlemen do not use loud voices in public. No one likes the guy that is talking so loud that everyone in the store can hear him. It makes others uncomfortable and makes you seem like you are trying to draw attention to yourself.

While Driving

Driving is one activity that can lead a man to act in a ridiculous manner. Gentlemanliness does not end when you are in the car. Still, it is not an easy place to portray it. It is in fact the one area that most men will find it very hard to maintain a gentleman’s character. Remembering a few key points will aid you in this endeavor.

  • Allow pedestrians to cross – It does not matter if a person walks at an incredibly slow pace when allowed to cross a road, a gentleman always insist a person walk across before driving along.
  • Never drive right behind someone – Driving close to the back bumper of another car shows that you are an impatient, impolite individual whose sole concern is for no one other than himself. Yes, many people drive incredibly too slow. Still, a gentleman does not allow his frustration to get the best of him.
  • Do not play loud music – No one is impressed when someone blares his music so loud that everyone around can hear it. This only shows that he cannot live without getting added attention, even when parked at a red light. Gentlemen do not require this extra attention, nor do they want it.
  • Do not honk unless in danger – Unless another vehicle is about to collide into yours, there is really no reason to honk your horn. We have all seen the group of guys in a car that honk at the pretty girl walking down the street. Honking your horn will not win you a date. Be respectful and have the courage to actually speak to women.
  • Never rev up your engine – Like honking, revving up a car’s engine proves nothing other than the fact that you know how to press a pedal down and waste money on useless things. Unless you are competing in some sort of racing event, revving an engine and peeling out makes you look foolish and immature.

If You Are a Guest

Whether you are invited to a dinner event or staying with a family member, being a guest in someone’s home is one activity that a gentlemen does not show appreciation for. When you find yourself in a situation wherein you are a guest, remember the following:

  • Always call ahead – Calling your host before you arrive is a polite gesture. It allows the person to make sure everything is in order and as they would like it to be. Try not to just show up unannounced. Make a quick call and let them know you are going to make it on time.
  • Bring Something – Do not expect your host to have everything he or she could possibly need for your stay or visit. This will obviously vary depending on the situation, but always bring what you think your host may not have or could use. For an overnight stay this is really important. If you aren’t sure, ask your host what you can bring when you call ahead.
  • Do not appear bored – If you find your event to be rather dull, never allow yourself to let your guest see that you are bored. It will undoubtedly make your host feel uncomfortable. A good remedy for this is to have a backup plan of possible activities in case the visit proves awkward or dull.
  • Send a thank you – A day or two after your visit, show your appreciation by sending a thank you to your host. This can be in the form of a simple card or letter. If you suspect your host spent some money on the event, it is a good idea to send a small thank you gift as well. Your host will feel he or she did well and very appreciated.

In a Relationship

This is one topic that requires a gentleman to be the ultimate gentleman. Treating a significant other with little respect proves that you are a selfish man that finds confidence in feeling more powerful than a woman. A woman should be treated respectfully and with care. A gentleman will do this by adhering to the following:

  • Remember the little things – A gentleman makes it a point to remember little things about his significant other. If she loves a certain candy, he picks it up for her at the store. If she likes her socks put in the drawer a certain way, he does it her way. Doing little things like this may sometimes go unnoticed, but it is when she notices you do them that you see how much they really mean.
  • Open car doors for her – Many men feel embarrassed or are shy about chivalric acts like opening doors for a woman. That is unfortunate. If you asked 20 women if they’d prefer a guy who did or didn’t open the door for her, I would bet not one would say one who didn’t.
  • Don’t expect things to be done – Never expect a woman to make you dinner. Never expect a woman to wash your clothes. It is when a man begins to expect things like these to be done that a woman starts to feel unappreciated. Be a gentleman and take it upon yourself to do things like this, at least every now and then.
  • Let go of pride – Pride has no place in a relationship. If you are having an argument over something, do not be unwilling to listen to her side of the story and admit if your own misunderstandings or wrongdoings. Never have too much pride to admit your own failures. A gentleman understands the pride should be reserved for other things.
  • Do unexpected things – This is the key to woman’s heart. If she is getting home late from work, make a romantic dinner for her. Buy her flowers or candy for no reason. These are the things that can continuously rekindle the flame in a relationship.

On a Date

In the old days, when a man was to take woman on a date, he practiced his chivalry and made a point to act in a manner that was worthy of a girls attention. This is the way of the gentleman. If a man can show his gentlemanly side on a date, he can secure another one in the future.

  • Always pay for everything – Some think that in the modern world we live in that it is fine for a woman to pay for things on dates. I do not think this way. Women want to feel appreciated and important. Do not allow them to pay. It suggest to them that they are not even worthy of a dinner bill.
  • Always drive – Girls don’t like driving their dates around. They want to be “taken out”. They do not want to take you out. Be the gentleman and pick up your date. It doesn’t matter what you drive. In today’s world, a beat up 85’ Pontiac might even be considered cute to the girl.
  • Dress appropriately – Please guys, do not wear gym shorts and a tank top on a date. This does not mean you need to go find a suit and tie, but at least wear a polo and some nice pants. It is perfectly acceptable to ask the date what she will be wearing so that she will not be worried and feel uncomfortable if the two of you are dressed entirely different.
  • Use good manners – Although you may prefer to eat your spaghetti by slurping the noodles and licking extra sauce off of your fingers at home, your date might not find it very appealing. Practice good table manners. Chew with your mouth closed and keep your elbows off the table. Google “table manners” if this is foreign language to you.
  • Have plans for the night – Nothing Is worse than driving around with a girl and not having the slightest idea as to where you are going to go or what you are going to do. It is the fast track to a dull and awkward night. If you don’t have definitive plans, have at least an idea of what the two of you can do that night. This will portray confidence and self-assurance.

In an Argument With Someone

If you ever find yourself in an argument or disagreement with someone, you will want to maintain your gentlemanly character. This is where many modern men fail miserably. Whether it is an argument with a drunken guy at a bar, or a disagreement over politics at work, you will want to remember a few things.

  • Avoid physical fighting if possible – Eventually, you will be in a situation wherein a drunken person pushes you because he is drunk and would like a nice fight. Do not be the person to throw the first punch. If you can avoid fighting, you have proven you do not wish to sink to a reckless and immature person’s level. Thus, you show you are a gentleman.
  • Do not raise your voice – If you are having an argument with someone, do your best to not get overexcited and raise your voice. If you do, you are showing that you have a very short temper and are not able to carry a tough conversation without losing it. Gentlemen know how to control their emotions and temper.
  • Take disagreements outside – If you find yourself in a situation where you feel you must address some sort of problem that has arisen, do not do it in public or around a large group of people. Do not draw attention to yourself or ruin everyone else’s time with your public quarreling.
  • Be slow to anger – Rather than immediately getting defensive and angry, try analyzing the situation and seeing it for what it really is. If a store clerk has accidentally given you too little change, do not lash out in anger at the manager. Ask him quietly if he could look into the situation. A gentleman is calm, relaxed, and slow to anger.

At Work

Everyone who has ever had a job knows that it can be stressful. Even so, if you wish to become a genuinely confident, respectable gentleman, you will need to become one at your place of employment as well. Work is where we spend much of our lives. If we are not gentleman there, then we are not gentleman.

  • Do your work – No matter how mundane or difficult your work may be, always make sure you complete it before going home. You may hate your job, but it is nevertheless the thing you get up and do every day. Take pride in the fact that you are employed. Gentlemen have work ethics.
  • Do not complain about others – You may be the only person at your job that truly works and gets things done. Having said that, do not go complaining to your boss about the lackluster performance of your coworkers. It does not matter how they perform. They are not gentleman. You are. Their performance will catch up to them in one way or another.
  • Do what you are told – Your boss may randomly ask you to clean the toilets if the janitor happens to be sick one day. Do not think that you are above anything. A gentleman knows that we are all equal in society and does not hold his self-worth any higher than the next man. Respect those above you and take the high road. Do what is asked of you.
  • Challenge unethical practices – If you for any reason feel that something your employer is doing is unethical or hurtful to others, be the man who steps up and says something. It does not matter if you get penalized. A gentleman does what he knows to be the right thing. How much disaster could have been avoided in the financial crises if we’d had more gentlemen?
  • Offer to help coworkers – If someone asked you to do something for them at work, just do it. Work is not meant to be easy. Even if we feel heavily burdened by our own personal duties, do not hesitate to help others complete their own tasks. A gentleman knows how hard work can be and thus offers his assistance to those who need it.

The fact of the matter is the world has lost the art of being a gentleman. Somewhere along the way, chivalry and good manners were replaced with an unfortunate desire to seek our own interest first. Being a gentleman is something that every man can learn to be. There are those who will tell you that being a gentleman means being a sissy or pushover. Those who say this are the ones lacking in self-confidence and self-assurance. We must not be afraid to be gentlemen. Gentlemen are what the world wants and needs.

While this is just a guide to particular situations, the main point should be clear. Being a gentleman means having confidence, being sure of ourselves, never failing to be polite, and always seeking to put others first. Take it upon yourself to be a better man. You will be the one other men aspire to be like, whether they admit it or not. You will be what every woman has longed for for many years now.

Be a man. Be a gentleman.

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