Where are the Gentlemen?
Are you like me, in that you lament the lack of good old fashioned manners now-a-days?
Gone is the reliance on Gentlemanly conduct in society and in business. It is now a pleasant
surprise seeing a young man offer his seat to someone who probably needs it more, whereas it
used to be a basic social expectation.
Now, I don’t want to sound like a stereo-typical retiree starting off the conversation with, “It was
different when I was young….”, but it was! Just for the record, I am 42.
The benchmark for conduct seems to be being set lower and lower each generation and I wonder
if this is due to schools, parents and other institutions holding much less sway over the youth
of today than they did 20, 40, 60 years ago. Bad manners, which used to be stigmatized and
strongly dealt with, now are often ignored, and as a result, tacitly accepted. What messages are
we sending to those who are demonstrating those bad behaviors – particularly when there are no
real repercussions and they get their own way….
For quite some time I have observed, with dismay, the eroding of upright behavior, or what I
think of as Gentlemanly conduct. I constantly see people pushing past each other to get through
the door first, ignoring those in need, and generally going about their day to day existences with
The final straw for me was listening to my wife, who stands up all day in her retail job, tell me
how able-bodied men on the afternoon train hustle for position so they can get a seat. They will
then typically open their broadsheet newspaper and promptly ignore everyone else, even the
elderly and also pregnant women. This caused me reflect on whether it was worth trying to do a
little something about it.
In October 2010 I created the Today’s Gentleman group. When I created this initially on
Linkedin I was quite amazed at the interest this niche group received, gaining 100 members
(from 10 countries) in the first two weeks, and hitting 250 members within two months. I knew
I must have hit a nerve of some sort to gain such strong interest in a group which seemed a little
whimsy when I first created it. As I write this article the group has over 550 members in over 30
countries and has a presence on Linkedin, Facebook, and in its own right on the web – Today’s
I chose the name Today’s Gentleman as most are familiar with the concept of a “Gentleman”
and we have certain expectations about their behavior. I also feel that it is important for men to
redefine themselves in modern society as there are not the predefined molds there used to be in
the age of the Gentleman of old. It is an attempt to redefine the Gentleman for contemporary
society, Today’s Gentleman.
My concern also extends to the lack of quality Gentlemanly exemplars we currently see
in society now. It is unfortunately the exception rather than the rule now-a-days to find a
Gentleman in the crowds of high profile figures in society which include Sporting stars, Political
figures, Showbiz / Media personalities, and Reality TV stars. We don’t seem to charge our public
figures with “Gentlemanly” conduct as much as we used to. It seems enough now for them to
simply stay out of jail and rehab for us to accept them as a positive role-model… I think we can
expect so much more!
I believe that the more Gentlemanly conduct we see in society the better that community
functions and the more engaged the individuals within that community feel. It is amazing the
difference it makes to someone when you practice random acts of kindness: helping someone
who has a flat tire; letting someone go ahead of you in the register line when they have only a
few grocery items; helping someone to the car with their purchases. These acts repeated and
reciprocated can change people’s day, they can change a community.
In an attempt to gain more public awareness for these issues and encourage these behaviors
Today’s Gentleman has declared the 22nd of February as International Be a Gentleman Day. The
third of these will occur in 2013 and hopefully build in popularity in following years. You can
register your support for the day through the event on Facebook.