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The Philosophy of the Gentleman
A gentleman, a gentle man. Being a gentleman isn’t some arbitrary set of rules, never to be heard of again. Much to the contrary, the world needs gentlemen today more than ever. You see, being a gentleman is a mindset, a philosophy. And while many may think of gentlemanly, if they were to understand the philosophy of being a gentleman, they’d understand the merit and necessity of it. His philosophical teachings, called Confucianism, emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice, kindness, and sincerity. Philosophy is not dead. Systems of philosophy did not die with Plato or Kant. While modern philosophy written by Heidegger or Sartre seems terribly arcane, foreign and ghastly in its written form.
The gentleman is one who takes great effort and consideration to put the comfort and feelings of others ahead of his own, bearing great regard towards ladies and young women. Being sensitive to the needs of others, he acts with integrity and honor, in all of his interactions and transactions with others. It’s as simple as that. And with this simple understanding, it becomes easy and even inspiring to take any chance one gets to act as a gentleman.
One of the easiest ways to identify a gentleman is in his speech. A gentleman is an excellent listener, and is deliberate with his words. He wastes little time with idle talk, engages in meaningful conversations, and speaks only good of others. In short, a gentleman is eloquent with his speech.
On conversing with others, it is characteristic of a gentleman to never backbite, insult, or speak ill while conversing with others. A gentleman also protects secrets revealed to him, makes excuses for the shortcomings of others, and keeps conversations to acceptable topics. Generally speaking, unless in the proper context, a gentleman avoids topics including religion, politics, money, sex, and other explicit topics.
On using the phone, here’s one thing that many young men have yet to learn. Most phone calls, while they may be urgent, are not that important. By answering your phone at the table, or while engaging with others, you’re effectively telling everyone you’re with that the call is more important to you than giving them your attention. A rule of thumb, if the call really is important, excuse yourself and take it. But never accept a phone call in front of others. It’s rude and insulting.
On text messaging, the rules for text messaging are the same as for using your phone. Do it privately or put it off till later. A gentleman gives his attention to those he’s with.
On thank you notes, this is a lost art, but appreciation for it will never go out of style. If you take the time to write someone a thank you note, they’ll never forget it, and they’ll think fondly of you. I’ve had people tell me that they appreciated my thank you note so much they felt like they should write me a thank you note for my thank you note. It’s just a little effort and it goes a long way. Find good thank you notes and you’ll be excited to have the chance to use them.
- -Being kinder to women, men, and children as well, for some reason the importance of being softer and kinder. A gentleman is a master of kindness.
- -Opening doors, I’m sure you already knew this one. Always open doors for other people before entering yourself. It’s a common courtesy that should be practiced every day.
- -Getting the car in bad weather, when you’re out and it starts raining or snowing, offer your party the opportunity to stay in shelter while you run out and get the car. By offering to inconvenience yourself for the comfort of others, you’re telling your party just how important they are to you. Also offer to drop them off before parking.
- -Offer your seat, if you have a seat, and a woman (old or young) or older gentleman is standing, offer them your seat. This kindness shows your respect for your elders and never goes out of style.
- -If you make eye contact with anyone, offer them a smile. It is the simplest form of charity, and has the power to completely transform their day. Seeing them return your smile may just change your day too. Always offer a smile.
- -If you get within 10 feet of someone, acknowledge their presence. Obviously the 10 foot thing is just a rule of thumb, but the principal is important. People deserve to be acknowledged. Say hello, ask them how they are doing, tell them to have a wonderful day when leaving. These simple formalities let people know you think they are important enough to acknowledge.
- -Offer assistance, when you see someone struggling with something (lifting a heavy box, opening a door, etc…), offer your assistance. Even if it’s inconvenient, it’s the right thing to do.
- -Smoking, I shouldn’t even have to say this, but I’m surprised over and over when someone lights up a cigarette around others without asking if they mind. But never assume that it’s ok to smoke around other people.
You aren’t perfect. But being a gentleman isn’t something you just become. It’s something you work towards with a lifetime of effort. It’s developing the kind of character that you can be proud of. You won’t get it over night. You’ll slip up over and over. But soon, most of these small acts will become second nature to you. The inconvenience will cease and you’ll just enjoy helping and being courteous to others. So grin and bear it for now, and reap the reward that is being a gentleman later.