In a recent article in the London Times, William Drew asks, "Is the gentleman a dying breed?" In the piece, Drew quotes Yann Debelle de Montby, brand director at Alfred Dunhill, the tony men's outfitter. "Being a true gentleman," he says, "means being gallant and generous. One can be gentle but remain firm, determined and retain a great sense of humour."
But does the gentleman have a place in today's go-go, go get-'em business world? Drew thinks yes. "Old-fashioned good manners — holding open doors, standing up when someone enters the room, asking questions of others rather than talking about yourself, ensuring that you compliment your host generously and so on — are an entry point for respectful behavior," he notes. "But it's more about your overall manner towards others: how one conducts oneself not only socially, but also in business, in relationships and in public."
But being a modern-day gentlemen in business is about more than just being nice for nice's sake, especially when the chips are down. Says luxury goods retailer, Trevor Pickett: "When your back's against the wall in any industry you fall back on the relationships that you have built with people. You can't do that if you've just screwed them on price, for example. That's just not the way we do things."
Drew offers 10 tips for the aspiring modern-day gentlemen (which go equally well for the modern-day gentlewoman).
- Some things don't change: Say please and thank you and ask questions about other people rather than talk about yourself.
- Be punctual. Tardiness does not make you look important, it turns you into an arrogant incompetent who thinks that his time is more important than other people's.
- The modern gentleman cares about the planet. Be environmentally aware (but not obnoxious about it).
- Open doors for people and stand up when they enter a room, but do this for men as well as women. The modern gentleman doesn't treat women like porcelain.
- Be modest. Bragging is distinctly ungentlemanly.
- Be a good father. Nothing is less charming than a man who leaves childcare to women.
- Be honest about wherever you have come from in life. Pretension is spineless.
- Flirt — with everyone. Good flirting is a form of politeness. Pay compliments and put your companion at ease.
- Do not phone/text/check your BlackBerry incessantly.
- Dress tidily. Whatever style you are going for, scruffiness just isn't in.
I, for one, shall be doing my level best to flirt with everyone much more often.
How about you?
Do you think it's important to act like a gentleman or gentlewoman in today's IT environment? Do your bosses, co-workers, and users typically exhibit good manners — or bad? Do you try to behave according to the principles outlined above, or do you think they represent an outmoded concept?