A gentleman walks into a room.
Perhaps a business or social occasion. People stop what they’re doing and look up. What does he do next? Regardless of the situation a gentleman should greet anyone they meet openly, shake hands, smile, and willingly engage the person in conversation. This doesn’t take a lot of time, but it creates a positive impression, especially when combined with the above mentioned good hygiene and tidy appearance. Make eye contact. Be approachable. It’s one of the best ways to open yourself up to new people, experiences, and professional connections. It only takes a short “Hello” and a few choice sentences to develop some form of positive feeling towards yourself. Remember it’s always useful to have others in your corner.
How you behave is how people will remember you and your methods of communication are integral to this. Generally speaking, it’s important to think about manners. Saying please and thank you goes a long way in any situation. It doesn’t matter too much whether you’re speaking to the CEO of your company (who naturally has much influence over your career) or a cashier in a store (whom you will likely never see again). Politeness isn’t reserved just for those you might like to impress — it should become part of your character and be a natural way of expressing yourself with whoever you meet. The thing about being polite to strangers — is, of course, they may not remember you — but for an instant, you are making their lives a little bit happier. If you’re polite people want to help you and work with you.
Smile. It’s important too. But don’t force it. It’s like everything and should come naturally to you. Although having said that, research does actually show that the process of forming a smile, actually lifts your mood. Just as smiling is the usual outcome of being happy, recreating the outcome (the smile) actually does make you happier. Try it next time you feel a bit down. Put on a smile and see if it doesn’t make you feel better! A gentleman doesn’t require offensive language to speak. Nor does he need to resort to racial or sexual stereotypes – which show a lack of vocabulary and intellect. The history of the development of swearing could probably fill a small ebook in itself. Suffice to say that today acceptance of swearing varies greatly on the country, culture, and social situation. In some places, it’s still frowned upon, while in others it permeates the films, books, art and lifestyle. There are probably two reasons a gentleman shouldn’t need to swear. Firstly, history. Being a gentleman is about taking on a historical ideal. The gentleman sprouted from the trees of the English upper-class, and swearing was (then) viewed as something the working class did. There’s a strong historical precedent that a gentleman keeps a ‘clean’ vocabulary. Secondly: communication. Do you need to swear to express yourself? Or is it just easy? A gentleman communicates, clearly and uses the beauty of his language to do so. Is it necessary to use offensive language to communicate his ideas or thoughts to people, when he has such a wide selection of quite pleasant words at his disposal?
A gentleman gives compliments sincerely and often. There’s nothing worse than appearing to be fake, and so it goes with compliments for the sake of it. But if you find you like or admire something about someone — their new haircut, a new dress, or simply how they did a job well — express it. Make other people feel good about themselves and their achievements. Conversation and the art thereof is probably even more of a challenge in the digital age. It’s true that instant messaging, texting, email, Twitter and other forms of social media open up even greater communication possibilities, but what it’s done to the art of face-to-face communication? Anyone can reply with one or two words. Sure. Yes. No. A gentleman has learned the art of conversation and can talk about a range of topics in an informed, entertaining way, without hogging the limelight.
Conversation is important to everything we do and every aspect of our lives. It is the foundation for building relationships with friends, family, business co-workers and romantic partners. If people find your conversation limited, or boring then that is how they will see you (and describe you to others).
Slow, slow. Quick, quick, slow. Talking’s like dancing. Conversation, especially with new people has a bit of a rhythm that you need to follow to draw others in. You shouldn’t be afraid to make small talk initially — especially with new people. Small talk is a bit contentious as some people seem to revel in it while others are turned off completely, but when first meeting someone you don’t want to be sharing your insights into the collected works of Marcel Proust. You want to be non-threatening and to find common ground with the person — and often this can begin with small things — milk talks about the party/conference/ meeting/social event that brought you both to this place. Ask questions — you want to appear interested in them — and you are if you have begun to engage someone in conversation. Eventually, you’ll want to ramp it up a bit and find out some more interesting things about them and share some of your own insights, but pace yourself — pick the time. The conversation should flow, but also rise and dip. Boring bits? Sure. Expect them. Life is full of “boring bits”. We can’t have exciting things happening 24/7. So go with and enjoy everything boring in conversation which comes your way too.
Avoid talking down to people. If you bring up a topic they’re not interested in or can’t talk about, find something they can. A gentleman also listens to people and doesn’t just wait for a chance to talk. Try to be general and avoid niche topics that only you may know about. Want to find someone to talk to in minute detail about your 18th-century military figurine collection? Join an antique club. Something else to think about is location, location, location! People act differently in different social situations. Want to go to know more about co-workers? Invite them out for an after work drink, or get them to come around for dinner and cook them a meal. You will likely discover different sides, and different levels of conversations to people you may have at first glance dismissed. Mix it up!
Communication is also about more than just what you’re saying. Communication involves everything about how you’re presenting yourself to the other party. One key thing to think about, and look out for is body language. Learn to recognize signs of comfort — which are a good indicator that a conversation is proceeding well: enough to break eye contact to help focus their thinking. Equally, there are signs of discomfort which can be easily recognized. If you spot any of these it can be a clue to find a new topic — and catch yourself if you’re the one doing them.
Ending a conversation (for whatever reason) can also be a bit of an art and here too you want to make a good impression. Often in social situations, there are obvious breaks in conversation to allow you to make a harmonious exit. If you’re in a small group and new people enter the group, this can be a good time to leave, without leaving the person you’re with by themselves. Whatever the situation you should end strongly. Not be hesitant about leaving. Be honest. Shake the person’s hand and thank them for the talk. State why it was good. It will leave a good impression.
Everything you do tells a story of who you are. A gentleman desires to tell a positive and engaging story, a story that will gain the interest of many readers who will want to know more. How you dress introduces you and tells a part of your story before you even open your mouth. Crisp, clean, stylish but not too flashy, clothing that fits makes people want to listen — and more importantly take you seriously.
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