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Door holding etiquette - advanced level
August 4, 2012 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Advanced door holding etiquette. I found this question and answer but it didn't address a variant that I'm always running into. Details inside.

Ok so let's say I'm walking out of a building. I'm approaching the doors at the same time as someone else who's coming into the building. The doors push open if you are going out (my path) and pull open if you are coming in (their path).

Now I was told as a boy to always hold the door for a lady. But if I'm going to do that in this situation, it would require me to hurry up through the door so I get through it before they do, then hold the door - or else stand off to the side while I hold the door for them in a completely ineffectual way that actually kind of gets in their way. I notice when I do this I get an "excuse me" rather than a "thank you."

So what's traditional etiquette in this situation? What's accepted/polite nowadays? Should I just stand off to the side and let them pass without holding the door?
posted by natteringnabob to Human Relations (30 answers total)
 
I think it really depends, if you got to the door first, then just go out of it and get out of the way for the person going in. No one is going to think you're rude.

If someone is coming out while you're going in and you get to the door first: hold it open for them.
posted by royalsong at 9:44 AM on August 4, 2012


Speaking as a lady, I would prefer that the door is held by someone outside the building. I don't much care whether you scurry to be that person, or allow me to hold the door open for you as you exit.

The traditional advice tended to assume you were escorting the lady. Getting in the way is never polite.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:45 AM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Do what inconveniences people the least - that's what etiquette is for in situations like this. If you get there ahead of them and can hold the door without being in the way, then do so. If not, then just do your best to not bump into them as you leave and they enter.
posted by rtha at 9:46 AM on August 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Now I was told as a boy to always hold the door for a lady.

Things have changed, I find men that insist on making me wait for them to run to the door first or make a big show of holding the door when it was really my turn, to be rude. Just treat people as people, not genders, and do the act/accept the act that makes traffic flow best.
posted by saucysault at 9:56 AM on August 4, 2012 [29 favorites]


It doesn't matter who opens the door for whom, but to me it definitely matters if you set up a situation where I have to brush by you or touch you in any way when I pass. Man, I hate that. I just don't like thinking about the motivation that goes into it, you know?
posted by heyho at 9:58 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


If it were me, I'd step off to the side and let the lady open and enter the building before you exit. In this case, rushing to get there ahead of her so you can hold a door for her seems a) overdoing things and b) kinda wierd and creepy.
posted by LN at 10:00 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, agreeing with everybody else so far: do what lets everyone in the situation get where they're going the most quickly. This might even mean allowing a lady to hold the door for you once in a while. Please don't be one of those men who constantly runs in front of women to grab doors, gets in our way, refuses to go through doors that are being held for them and, moreover, expects to be thanked for their condescending, rude behaviour. There are a lot of those in my work building and they drive me up the wall!

I think whoever gets to the door first and can hold it for the next person, without slowing things down, should do so. It's definitely better for the door-holder in this situation to be outside the building—squeezing past a stranger can be an uncomfortable experience no matter what the genders in question are, and a man making a woman squeeze past him to get to her goal is not acting kindly.

If one person is carrying a lot of things, it's fine to scurry ahead and hold the door for them, of course.

Thanks for putting some thought into this.
posted by daisyk at 10:03 AM on August 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


While I generally appreciate it when people hold the door open for me, there's one way to hold it that I flat-out hate: as a short person (5'1"), please tall people, please don't make me stick my head in your armpit!

Also, it seems to be less a straight men-holding-for-women divide nowadays; sure, that's still polite, but there's also
*empty-handed person holding for full-handed person
*anybody holding for someone in a wheelchair/on crutches/etc.
*younger person holding for older person
(or generally, the more agile/mobile person holds the door open for the less agile/mobile)
posted by easily confused at 10:26 AM on August 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


I like feral goldfish's point. If you're walking with them, then you hold the door (although, as a woman, I'm still a tiny bit weirded out by that in any sort of non-date context). But it's almost always impolite to make a big fuss, make a show out of something, and especially to get in the way.

If it's convenient for you to get the door, do so; the rule is not that you are not permitted to ever allow a woman to open a door in your sight!
posted by Lady Li at 10:27 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a lady in a wheelchair and I do appreciate someone who will kindly hurry to help me with doors.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:30 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


In this situation if I were the lady I would hold the door open for you.
posted by that's how you get ants at 10:34 AM on August 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


In my social world, if you're leaving the building at the same time someone's entering it, and the door opens outwards, it's polite for the other person to hold the door open for you.
posted by oliverburkeman at 10:35 AM on August 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


I generally use the elevator/subway rule in this situation, which is that you let people out before you go in. So in your example, the person on the outside would wait for you to exit, regardless of gender. (And then you'd say thank you, and hold the door for them as they go in.)
posted by obliquicity at 10:37 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


If it were me, I'd step off to the side and let the lady open and enter the building before you exit. In this case, rushing to get there ahead of her so you can hold a door for her seems a) overdoing things and b) kinda wierd and creepy.

This is pretty much what I do in this situation, for pretty much the same reasons, and I'll normally hold the door open for anyone regardless of gender. Ideally, I'm getting to the door on my way out a bit before someone coming in so that I can keep it open for them without any weirdness, but if it looks like I'm going to get to the door at the same time, I'll hold off so as not to impede their progress coming in, and just leave through the open door that they've already passed through. If there's multiple doors, like in a department store at a mall, I'll just head for another door.

I'm a lady in a wheelchair and I do appreciate someone who will kindly hurry to help me with doors.

That's slightly different. I'll make an extra effort to get to the door ahead of people that are in wheelchairs, have strollers, or delivery guys with dollies full of boxes to get the door for them.
posted by LionIndex at 10:37 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


So in your example, the person on the outside would wait for you to exit, regardless of gender. (And then you'd say thank you, and hold the door for them as they go in.)

If I were on the outside, I'd hold open the door for the person leaving, and then enter once they'd gone through. If they want to hold the door for me that's great, but usually the door is so open at that point I can get through before they even maneuver themselves to do so.
posted by LionIndex at 10:52 AM on August 4, 2012


More to the point, the traditional advice assumes that the lady is escorted. If you're going in the opposite direction from the lady, you leave the door-opening to the gentleman accompanying her. If the lady is unaccompanied, ask yourself if it is appropriate in the current context that she is unaccompanied. The set of situations where it is inappropriate for any woman to not have someone open a door for her is identical to the set of situations where it is inappropriate for any woman to not be accompanied by a man.

Although, again, common sense applies when one person is heavily burdened, in a wheelchair, etc.
posted by baf at 10:55 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are you the guy who rushed to get the door for me yesterday at the credit union? Because it was awkward but completely cute. And made me wonder about this very question.

Having been on both sides of the door (literally), I just try to assume good intentions any way things go down.
posted by cyndigo at 11:04 AM on August 4, 2012


Exiter goes before enterer. It's nice if you, as the exiter, hold the door if you're going off in that direction (the side the door opens to); otherwise, if you're going off in the opposite direction, just do that "extra stay-open pop" you do before you head off so that the other person doesn't have to re-haul the door open.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:13 AM on August 4, 2012


Things have changed, I find men that insist on making me wait for them to run to the door first or make a big show of holding the door when it was really my turn, to be rude. Just treat people as people, not genders, and do the act/accept the act that makes traffic flow best.

This, a thousand times. I hate that little dance that occurs when it is natural for a dude to leave the elevator first/let me hold the door/etc and he balks or makes a big fuss because I am a Lady. I also hate it, emotionally speaking, when I am thinking about web development or spreadsheets or baking or my laundry and just absent-mindedly waiting my turn for whatever it is and the dance occurs and all of the sudden we are not just human beings together, we are a group of people focused on the fact that I am a Lady with breasts and everything. I say this because aside from the logistics of figuring out who holds the door for whom, there's also the psychic comfort of the process.

On another note, since I live in a city with many trans people, socialize with many trans people and work in a medical complex where it is not unlikely that there will be folks in the process of transition, I have found that if you hold doors as it is helpful rather than by gender, you will not accidentally hold the door for someone who does not identify as a woman nor will you neglect to hold the door for someone who does merely because she either by choice or circumstance is not passing that day.

In this instance, I think that if the person approaching from the outside is physically able to hold the door for you, that's what should happen. If that person is in a wheelchair, carrying a package, etc, it is reasonable for you to hurry up and grab the door for them. If that person has an invisible disability or there's some other complex social thing going on, you may need to adjust your plan mid-door, but I think it's okay that there is no universal door-opening solution.
posted by Frowner at 11:43 AM on August 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Please don't be one of those men who constantly runs in front of women to grab doors, gets in our way, refuses to go through doors that are being held for them and, moreover, expects to be thanked for their condescending, rude behaviour.

This is why I don't hold doors for women any more than I would a man. If someone is right behind me, then I will hold it a second until they have it just so it doesn't slam in their face, but that applies to men and women.

Traditional chivalrous etiquette was not applied by all men to all women. It was a bargain where men did a favor to certain women, who in return acted like ladies. You are not the unpaid valet of random strangers.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:32 PM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Guy speaking here. My least favorite variant of this is when we're in an elevator and we get down to the ground floor and some guy near the doors makes a big show of holding the elevator door open and standing in the way of everyone trying to exit. These are modern elevators and it's not like the doors are going to slam shut before everyone gets out.
posted by pravit at 1:02 PM on August 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Good wisdom throughout. I sometimes think those who make an exaggerated move out of holding a door open are more interested in calling attention to themselves than in easing the way of others. See pravit, above.
And I'll repeat something from the thread referenced in the original post: I have to stifle active resentment when somebody's door-holding makes me choose between a) speeding up and b) declining their courtesy. I generally assume good intentions, and sometimes make a joke like "Make an old man run, huh?" Maybe I'd be more welcoming if I were old-old, but today it's annoying.
posted by LonnieK at 1:08 PM on August 4, 2012


If the door you are going through is in your workplace, do not differentiate by gender as to who has door-precedence. At work, the first person to reach a door goes through it and then holds it open for the second person. Rank shouldn't affect door-precedence but you may feel that it's politic, in practice, to hold the door for your boss who is behind you.

In the social world, first person to reach a doorway holds it open for the second to go through, and then follows, especially if second person outranks first person (female outranks male, older outranks younger, visitor outranks home).

However the most important thing is to keep the traffic flowing without either unnecessary pauses or letting the door slam in anyone's face. If someone holds open a door for you, go through it with a nod of thanks. That might seem too obvious to mention, but In my experience there are two possible responses when I, female, hold open a door for a male: they go through followed by their posse of 17 best friends without notice or consideration of me standing there waiting for an opportunity to pass through the doorway myself; or they stop in their tracks and won't take a step further until the lady goes through because they just, on principle, are offended by the rabid feminist who presumes to hold open a door for them. (This is literally what happens *most of the time,* which is why, in the social world, I just use the business etiquette option of going through first and holding it for whoever is behind me, because I just want to go through a fucking door, today, without having to argue about it.)

However, in both cases, the most important thing is to keep the traffic flowing. Nobody is going to commend you for being
posted by tel3path at 3:04 PM on August 4, 2012


Also, person going in yields to person coming out, always.
posted by tel3path at 3:07 PM on August 4, 2012


There is one and only one rule of thumb: Keep Moving and Get Out of the Way.

If a door situation has any likelihood of you being in someone's way, keep moving.

(And, sidebar: let's talk about elevators. How many times -- dear lord, how many times -- have I been in the back of the elevator, behind a man who stands in such a way that prevents me from getting out, just so he can let the women he can see out first. Don't do this, men. Don't be this guy. Keep Moving and Get Out of the Way.)
posted by gsh at 4:12 PM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the best thing to do in this situation is speed up *just a little bit* so that you are opening the door and exiting before it can smash into the person entering. You aren't running outside and then holding the door open, you are just exiting early so the other person can then grab the door and pass into the building. That, or slow down enough that the other person gets there first and opens their own door.

If one person is carrying a lot of things, it's fine to scurry ahead and hold the door for them, of course.

Not necessarily. I find myself carrying things a lot, and people always get flustered about it. Dear America: I wouldn't be walking toward the door with such confidence if I didn't think I could operate it without your help. I don't think there are many people in the world who would walk to a door without knowing they could operate it. Cutting me off and making me crawl over you is not easier for anyone. If I wanted a hug I'd ask for one.

These are modern elevators and it's not like the doors are going to slam shut before everyone gets out.

Not necessarily. They have been speeding up the door close sensors lately, to the point that someone who is in the back of the elevator may have the doors starting to close on them before they get out. But that's why the last person out blocks the sensor from the inside.
posted by gjc at 6:25 PM on August 4, 2012


I run into this situation at the town post office all the time. As a middle-aged woman, my role in this scenario is fraught with social tension.

The first thing I do is a quick assessment. Does it look like this person would appreciate having the door held open for them? Once you start asking this question, it becomes obvious who's going to get annoyed, and who will at least be neutral on the topic.

If it looks like the person would prefer not to have the door held for them, here is what I do: I stop at the door frame, step to the side, then perform a magnificent, sweeping, "After you" gesture with my arm, indicating that they should enter first.

It's entirely silly, it usually gets a smile, and more to the point it keeps foot traffic moving.
posted by ErikaB at 7:28 PM on August 4, 2012


It is so sweet and gentlemanly of you to hold the door, and I really appreciate it! Just as I appreciate it when fellows are polite enough to let me sit down on a crowded bus. Not everyone gets angry at these gestures! Some of us take it in the spirit that it was meant and appreciate it- just as I hope that the people to whom I defer appreciate it. I assume that you do help anyone who needs it, even if they don't happen to be a girl.


I think in this specific situation, it does make the most sense to just stay out of the way, unless the person that you're helping is clearly struggling ( ie with packages), in which case, I think that saying "here, let me help you", and then doing the door-prop-from-the-wrong-side if they agree that they want your help. But yes, other than that, I think just stansing aside is the most helpful thing that you can do.

If I'd like a person to help me with something like a door, I'll often look to him (or her!) for help, often without saying anything- the look is usually enough. I will also often be visibly struggling. I imagine other gals might be the same. So maybe that will help you determine who would or would not be offended by your involvement.

As for the elevator thing, I have had several elevators try to eat me; I wish that there had been someone there holding the door open!

Thank you for being such a considerate person!
posted by windykites at 8:57 PM on August 4, 2012


Oh, but that reminds me- what do you usually do when you're walking with a gal and there are two sets of doors, one only a few feet after another? Or a door at the top of a staircase? It's the awkardest thing ever...
posted by windykites at 9:17 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry for three posts in a row... but I got curious and started a-Googlin'.

Here is another thread that addresses almost the same problem. And here is a thread on general door-holding etiquette from a woman's perspective, which may be helpful for you as you'll know what the female may be having trouble with and you'll be more equipped to gracefully take charge of the situation. And here is a link to the complete text of Emily Post's Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home. It assumes that you're in a position where you have people waiting on you, like porters, coachmen and chauffeurs, but it still may be of use.
posted by windykites at 10:04 PM on August 4, 2012


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