Avoiding Awkward SituationsThe Art of Door HoldingEliza Hurwitz

I love holding the door for people and getting a nice, sincere “thank you” in return. In order for this gesture to go smoothly and get noticed the way it should, however, timing is everything, and timing is something I struggle with. Sometimes a person is semi-far away and you don’t know whether or not this good deed is wanted or necessary. Other times, there is a line of people at the door and you feel obliged yet dissatisfied in fulfilling such a dutiful and honorable act of kindness. And then there are the instances when your helpfulness goes unnoticed and you aren’t sure how to respond/not cry in disbelief. In order to dispel all the mysteries and questions shrouding door holding, I’ve come up with some surefire ways to help you avoid potential awkward situations.

Far Away, Hold and Pay:

Being indecisive, I often find myself seeing a person a good distance away and questioning myself. “Should I hold it, do they even want it held, will they feel rushed, do they think it’s weird that I’m just standing here waiting for them, and are they signaling for me to go or are they waving? And if they’re waving should I wave back? Do I know them and do I even know myself?” But once you’ve asked yourself these unanswerable, inconclusive questions, it’s already too late; you’ve held the door far too long to not continue holding it. Most times, they at least pretend to be thankful, but other times they’re angry. They’re out of breath, they had to run to the door and they feel as if you have used them in order to increase your karma points for the day.

This is when you have to really get your game face on. You have to be the most charming you that you can be.  If they ran to the door, are red in the face and sweaty, you could say, “Nice run.” Or you can compliment them on their running style with phrases like, “great stride” or “interesting arm swings”. If they are older, maybe say, “You’ve still got it!” You can also go a different route altogether to display your charm by really throwing your good-natured character in their face. Do any other good deed within your reach such as picking up trash, calling a charitable organization to donate money or taking out some food and offering it to the stranger or give it to a nearby animal.

All the Way:

A lot of times, I hold the door for one person, then another person is behind them, then there’s another person and then their whole family and before I know it, there’s a line of people coming out the door and I’m holding it open for all of them. Sometimes I get angry and resentful about my new door-holder position and I scowl at people as they walk through. I’ve realized this expression not only offsets the kind gesture, but also it can be scary and dangerous for those walking through. That’s why in these instances, it’s best to not just come to terms with your door holding occupation, but also to make the most of it. You should smile and say things a door-holder would say such as, “Have a nice day”, “Thanks for stopping in” or “This is a great door and you are all great people.”

You could also make the most of your door-holding time by coming up with a creative and beautiful way to hold the door. Suggestions include a pose I call “the ballerina”, involving a plie and using one arm over your head in a graceful position to hold the door. Another suggestion, which is slightly more difficult but a little more beautiful, is lifting one leg up about halfway; you can then hold the door with that one leg. I call this look “the leaper”. An even more challenging pose, suggested only for those with flexibility and bravery, is “the C”, which calls for you to hold the door with both your legs and arms as you bend your body into the letter C position. To clarify, you are almost upside down and your head is practically parallel to your legs. For this pose, practice is necessary. You don’t want to fall over and ruin your stint as door-holder, not to mention everyone else’s experience.

I also highly recommend coming up with your own creative door holding position and practicing it at home. Door holding is your job, your duty and responsibility – make it your own and make it beautiful. The compliments you will receive on your door-holding creativity will make all the pain and practice worth it.

Not Today:

The worst-case scenario of door holding is when you hold the door and receive no thanks or acknowledgement in return. What you need to do in this situation is be the bigger person, which could mean ignoring the situation entirely, or you can show that you’re the bigger person by following this non-thankful person around, holding every door for them, picking things up for them, bringing them water, fixing their hair, asking them if they need anything else from you.  If they seem creeped out by your sudden interest and concern in all aspects of their life, just tell them that you’re just the type of person that takes pride in holding the door for others and loves to take care of people. Make sure to place a lot of emphasis on door holding.

Perfect Way:

When holding the door goes exactly as you plan, the person is thankful. You feel proud, honored and respected, exactly as you should. Just be prepared to say “you’re welcome” in return. I know for me, it’s hard to hit that tone that conveys sincerity. Many times when people thank me,  my “you’re welcome” sounds sarcastic. This is something I am working on and I suggest you do, too, if you plan to make a habit out of door holding. A “you’re welcome” that is perceived to be sarcastic, even if it is unintentional, negates the door holding entirely. That’s why sometimes it’s better to take a good look around when doors are involved. If there’s no one in sight, scram.

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  1. Or when you hold a door for someone to a place where there will be a line inside (ex: a bank). Do you allow them to get in the line in front of you, or scurry to beat them to it?

  2. Love this! I always hold doors open for people and it makes me so sad when people bust through with their cell phone to their ear and ignore you!! My friends told me to just smile and say your welcome but I think that’s too “smart”. I just try to envision that they’re having tunnel vision because it’s a bad day or something :)

  3. haha LOVE this! and the “double door” is so true ^^

  4. you forgot the double door. it’s when you hold door for someone and then they’re heading in the same direction and you encounter a second door, or worse a third. it’s like how many times do you say thanks? do you wait and just say thanks after the second door? do you say thanks twice? do you only say thanks for the first door. What if they go through and then hold the door for you? it’s a vicious cycle.

    • YES! I was just thinking about this. The building that all my classes are in has double doors, and then to get to the classrooms you have to walk up a long flight of stairs and then there’s another set of doors. If I end up behind a person that is going upstairs, do I say thanks three times?

  5. Hah I do this too and appreciate the tips :-)