The Pleasure of The Open Door
The Pleasure of The Open Doorby Michael Nunes Is there anything more frustrating than opening a door for someone and have that person sail past you without so much as a nod? I know that it makes me feel frustrated and ignored, as though I were only the doorman, and not worthy of recognition. I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, during the long decades of apartheid. There was much wrong with the governing regime, which oppressed a great many people. Yet, within the crushing cruelty and injustice of those years, there were some small glimmers of decency. The last vestiges of colonial gentility persevered in society, mostly within the European community, which retained an inherently false belief in its own superiority. The pomposity of an earlier time eventually moderated and filtered through to ordinary people. Among the white community, people were generally civil to one another. People opened doors for others, with the response a polite "Thank you", and an equally polite, "It's my pleasure". While shopping in a supermarket, when approaching someone stopped in an aisle, invariably people would move aside, with both parties responding to one another in a similar fashion. The African community, while much vilified by whites, was also extremely polite. In dealing with Europeans, Africans were often ingratiating or deferential, since their very well-being was dependent upon behaving in this manner. Amongst themselves, they were ordinarily polite, as a direct consequence of their cultural norms.
While I was growing up, good manners were deemed important in dealing with others. I learned to open doors for someone if I was the first to reach the door, regardless of who the person happened to be. Whether they were young or old, wealthy or otherwise, male or female, we were taught that it was the polite thing to do. When someone opened the door for us, we responded with a polite "Thank you"; when we opened the door for others, we responded to their thanks with "it's my pleasure". This carried through to other behaviors. South Africans were, for the most part, a quiet and softly spoken people, treating any commercial or social interaction with a cautious respect. After arriving in America, it took me many years to learn to raise my voice in order to be heard; the brash extroversion in America took some getting used to.
"I learned to open doors for someone if I was the first to reach the door, regardless of who the person happened to be. Whether they were young or old, wealthy or otherwise, male or female, we were taught that it was the polite thing to do."
Some people think that a man opening a door for a woman demeans the woman, but for me, opening a door for anyone, regardless of who they are, demonstrates that we respect and acknowledge them, a way to show that we are all human and deserving of respect. We show our acceptance of others in the myriad small deeds that we perform for them, without any expectation other than a reciprocal acceptance. When we acknowledge others, it makes us feel good about ourselves; equally, it should make the object of our respect feel accepted and important. Politeness costs us nothing and makes for a more tranquil, accepting society. Perhaps we should all practice being respectful towards others in our society, regardless of who they are.
"We show our acceptance of others in the myriad small deeds that we perform for them..."
What kind of gestures or words do you prefer when someone does something nice for you like opening a door?-Please share your answer in the comments section below-
Michael Nunes is an author and award-winning public speaker. His inspiring messages draw from his life experiences in South Africa, where he served in the military and from his life experiences in the United States where he lives with his Wife. Michael Nunes will be a regular contributor to The Gentlemen's Brotherhood.
This article was originally published on The Gentlemen's Brotherhood (Aug. 2015).