The key word here is “ineffectively.”

I have no problem with someone holding a door open for me. They hold it open, I thank them, life goes on.

But something I have noticed recently is that some people are excessively and ineffectively holding a door open to the point they are actually not helping anyone; they are just getting in the way.

It depends on the situation—and even the physical nature of the door itself—but generally it’s a situation where the other person’s arm or even whole body is in the way of me actually getting through the doorway. Their basic physical presence makes it impossible to pass and they seem to not even move even if I grab the door and hold it open myself.

Typically I say, “It’s okay… Thanks…”—or non-verbally indicate, “Nope! Thanks!”—in hopes of getting the other person out of the way so I can actually pass them. But in some cases, people don’t understand they are being ineffective in their efforts and might even take my dismissal as being “rude.”

For context I am located in a major city in the northeast part of the U.S. Verbal or non-verbal cues are fine.

  • 12
    How often does this really happen? I probably walk through as many doors as the next guy, and ineffective assistance is pretty rare. Do you have a thing about getting too close to strangers?
    – user5547
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 18:33
  • @fredsbend In the middle of major U.S. cities where many believe excessive politeness is the perfect counter-action to perceived excessive brusqueness. Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 18:41

4 Answers 4


If you feel that they are obstructing your path while opening the door, saying "Excuse me" while indicating you are fine holding the door open will trigger them to stop holding the door and actually making you a way. Just be sure to thank them afterward.

I've learned this after someone did this to me. It was purely because my brain stopped processing common sense while trying to be polite ;)

Holding Door Illustration
I was the blue one, holding the door with my right hand, facing her and inviting her to come in.

She started to hold the door with her left hand. After a few seconds of awkwardness, she said "Excuse me", then my brain started working again, and I stopped holding the door and moved away.


In this situation you want something quick, to the point, while telling them you appreciate the act, and most importantly, that their act has succeed in its intention and is no longer required.

A simple

Thanks! I've got it now!

should suffice.


You should politely, but clearly, indicate that you want to open the door yourself.

"Don't worry, I'll get it. Thanks!"

And in terms of body language, you can take a small step back. Or a larger step back if they're on the way out the door and need room to get through.

Once they know what is most convenient for you, most likely they'll courteously defer to your wishes.


I actually was just in this situation as the "offender". Weird.

Let me tell you my side of the story, that might help you to understand why someone might actually act this way.

short description of the area:

  • straight hallway, pretty long but the area of question, from when I could see the person, was about 10 m

  • the door was pretty much in the middle of us, so good timing to hold the door

  • door is pretty much a steel frame with a glass inside

  • pretty heavy door plus the pressure of the strong automatic door closer, so I push as far on the outside as I can to get leverage

After opening the door (standing in the frame, the door is now to the right of me) I keep it open with my right arm. I could now step a bit to the right and keep it open with my body weight but then I notice that the person decided to pass me on my right side. Now I can't step to the right or I will bump into her.

So I keep my extended arm to keep it open. She comes closer and holds the door with a hand. Now I drop my arm and walk on.

Overall the situation went quite well I think, although it could have gone better. But I don't see much of a fault with my behaviour. If she walked on the other side she could have easily passed me.

Now in your case I would try to pay attention if similar things happen to you. Maybe you also signal that you want to pass between the door and the person. Try to make it clear that you intend to pass on the other side if possible.

Also try to find reasons why the person might not be able to keep the door any other way.

If you can't avoid it or if people just persist try to do it like the girl in my story. Hold the door with one hand, say thanks and signal that you wait for them to pass.

Doors are straight from hell, with the nearly endless supply of awkward situations they provide.


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