Q: Why do men no longer stand up when a woman approaches or leaves a table, enters a room, etc.? This sign of respect has petered out of our culture today and I want to know why it hasn’t made a comeback.
A: It’s not necessarily that it has petered out; the rules have progressed with time. Gentlemen, please note that this is not a get out of standing free card, standing for a woman in social situations is and will always be the gentlemanly thing to do. However, in general, the call to stand when approached by someone has progressed — just like the handshake — as it is now a gesture of respect to be used by both men and women.
We addressed this very issue in June 2008’s issue of Manner of the Month when we focused on the art of self introductions.
Here’s a snipit of what we had to say:
Stand: Yes, you! Everyone should stand for introductions, greeting, and goodbyes. “But it feels so formal,” people tell me. When does showing respect for others become too formal? Shouldn’t we go out of our way to show respect? Standing for an introduction is not about formality. It is about eye contact, a good handshake, and body language that demonstrates equality. When we sit, we nonverbally communicate complacency, whether we intend to or not.
“Oh, please sit.” Even if you feel uneasy when someone shows you respect, it is not your place to ask them to behave otherwise. Telling another person that you are more casual or don’t need to be respected is actually rude and will leave them standing there very uncomfortable. We should celebrate those who know what to do and have the confidence to do it—despite the fact that they are borderline countercultural. We should want people to honor us, not because we are full of ourselves but because this is one of the simple gestures on which civility is built. When we erode the foundation, the structure will fall.
Historically, women were taught to remain seated during introductions. Thank goodness this is no longer the case, especially in the business world. My favorite thing about etiquette, contrary to popular misperception, is that it’s progressive. When being introduced or introducing yourself, stand no matter your age or gender. Never fear, no one is going to take your chair.