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Chivalry in the business world
isn't dead; it's just changing. Within a generation, the rules of etiquette that once urged men to fuss over women, have been turned upside down. It's now a level playing field, with women rightfully asserting their power and independence alongside men. Now women are extending some of those age-old courtesies to their male counterparts. Yet members of both genders are sometimes offended by such behavior. How do you know which civilities are off the map? And how should you respond to chivalry in any case? Welcome to the "new etiquette."

Chivalry for the 21st Century
Twenty-first-century business etiquette no longer makes a distinction between which gender should do what for whom and in which situations. Instead, the etiquette of chivalry has become gender-free. It's now a simple matter of courtesy. Whether a man helps a woman, or vice versa, depends on the situation and who's in need. For example:

* The person who arrives at the door first holds it for everyone else.
* The host, or whoever asked the others out for the business lunch, pays the tab.
* If someone's struggling with his coat, give him a hand. Otherwise, allow people to put their coats on themselves.
* A person of either gender typically appreciates an offer to help carry a heavy or awkward load.
* It's still considered polite to rise to greet someone, especially in business situations in which you're greeting a client or superior. However, it's not necessary to stand each time a woman returns from making a call or visiting the restroom.
* It's no longer necessary, or even acceptable, to presume that a female business contact needs help with her chair. People of either gender who truly need help will usually ask.

Chivalry you'd best forget

Obviously, things have changed, and for the better. It's much more practical to help someone based on that person's real need, rather than to offer assistance as a form of flattery or superiority. Nevertheless, there are forms of chivalry that should be avoided. For example, some people may skew what they consider to be chivalrous behavior, or they may take it to an extreme. Some types of "chivalry" to avoid include:

* consistently offering basic courtesies to one gender but not the other
* always having to be the one to offer the civility in the first place, which says to others, "Hey, look at how proper and caring I am!"
* forcing your chivalry on people when they don't want it.

How to respond to chivalry

Maybe you don't need or want someone else to be chivalrous. What's the appropriate way to respond to chivalry in this case? It helps to be understanding. Recognize the kindness when you see it, and thank the person for the gesture. Some people are compulsive do-gooders, and you just may have to accept that in some circumstances.

Chivalry is alive
and well in the 21st century—and it's now easier to practice than ever before. Be courteous to others, but don't go overboard. Remember, chivalry is now gender-free. Keep the points listed above in mind when determining whether to act in a chivalrous manner—and accept chivalrous behavior in the manner in which it's intended. And get used to the age of new etiquette, because it has arrived in the workplace.

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