Life After Divorce . . . What Makes A True Gentleman?

By Lindy Earl

Please let me say that gentlemanly behavior, by itself, does not make you a gentleman. That’s like saying standing in a garage will make you a car. There is so much more to it.

I have met so many men in the past few years who claim this attribute, but when I asked why they consider themselves a gentleman, the answers are always (always! I do research) that they hold doors for women.  Really?  So what!  So does a door man.  That’s a task, not who you are.

Now, some of these men probably are gentleman, but one small act of manners is insufficient to claim the title.  Winning one boxing match never made a fighter a champion, right?

So, let’s look at some more characteristics of a gentleman, because I think it’s just a lack of knowledge that is keeping men from truly being the gentleman that they believe they are.

Going with the door holding example, a gentleman is courteous – polite, respectful. They know their manners at the table and other places. They never speak with food in their mouth and do not interrupt. They are considerate in word and deed. There are hundreds of ways of showing courtesy every day. Step one.

Second, a gentleman is honorable. An honorable man would never hurt another person, and certainly not his Significant Other.  Men who are cheaters are, by process of elimination, never gentlemen. (Males who hit women are, by definition, not men.)  An honorable man does not share inappropriate information and would never gossip about his Significant Other, either positively or negatively. Sharing that your SO is a great cook is not gossip, it is praise.  Anything you say about her, you should have already said to her.

A gentleman is realistic.  Why is this important?  In terms of time, a gentleman does not say that he will be somewhere when, realistically, it won’t happen.  If a gent asks out a lady, he has a responsibility to be on time.  Of course, things happen – but not on a regular basis.  If you are forever late, you might want to consider if you can claim being a gentleman. The same is true of other aspects – money, abilities, tolerances. Be realistic about what you have, what you can do, and how much patience you have. If you are intolerant of something, then admit it.  It’s not wrong to not enjoy something, but it is wrong to pretend to like it if you’re going to complain about it after.

This leads to the attributes of truthfulness and honesty.  Gentlemen do not lie. They may hold their tongue, and keep themselves from speaking what they consider the truth, but they do not lie.  There is a nice way to answer the question, “Does this look good on me?”  Ready? Here it is – “It may not be the most flattering thing I’ve seen on you.”  You can take it further by offering a compliment on the end, but you’ve told the truth without screaming and covering your eyes – also truthful, but not courteous (see number one above).

Chivalrous might be defined as being ready and willing to help weaker people.  This is why we attune a gentleman helping a woman out of a car or across the street as chivalrous – the stronger is helping the weaker.  I think chivalry and simple manners are often confused, but it’s better to use the wrong word in a compliment than say nothing at all.  So when a gentleman holds a door, it doesn’t matter if he’s being chivalrous, gallant, or mannerly – give him his due and thank him appropriately. Based on the definition here, chivalry can also be lavished on children and people in trouble.  Stopping to help an accident victim is chivalrous, and the helper comes across as a gentleman.

Another aspect would be control of himself. The question above about how a woman looks – by choosing to not blurt out any rude comments, a man is showing self-control, as a gentleman should.  There are many times when What is said is not the problem, but When it is said may be.  If you have an issue with someone, wait until the proper time, when you are alone with them and stress is off, to have a discussion. It’s amazing, based on my own experience, what a difference this makes in good communication and, subsequently, results.

So we do see that these qualities, when working together, are the behavior of a gentleman.  How do they all show themselves? In practical ways, like walking a lady to her door, opening doors, holding coats, inviting them to order first, asking how they feel and if they are comfortable, walking on the outside of the sidewalk (still noticed by ladies, by the way), and using manners.  Beyond this, genuine interest in a person helps round out the title of gentleman.

Now that you know more attributes, you need to be that person – 24/7, not only when you think someone is looking.  A person can be a perfect date, but that could be an act.  How do you behave when nobody is around?  Are you telling raunchy jokes about your SO? That’s disrespectful and you’re out. In addition, you can’t claim how wonderful you are. You need to show it through your actions and wait for others to give you the accolades.  Then you can claim the title.

One last thought, the same characteristics apply to the women out there who think of ourselves as ladies.

That’s Life After Divorce.

Lindy is a Speaker, Columnist, Author, and Consultant.

* Contact her at to submit a question for her Advice Column or hire her as a Consultant or to speak at your next event.

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