I once read that in Canada, it is considered polite for men to rise when a woman leaves a room and men normally offer their hands to women.
My question is, what is the origin of this tradition?
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It's not just a Canadian thing, this sign of courtesy exists in many countries.
Why does it matter? What does it show?
Standing up sends a signal from across the room that you’re willing and eager to greet and welcome the other person into your here-and-now. It speaks well of you even before you’ve had an opportunity to say your first word because it shows by your action that you’re a welcoming person.
Whether it’s a social conversation, a business meeting, or a meal, it sends the message that you’ve noticed the person(s) and they’re worth your effort to rise from your comfortable sitting position to meet and welcome them. When you stand, you literally rise to the occasion of showing respect to them. Here are additional skills for gracious greetings that will set you apart. And here’s what to do when you’re getting ready to introduce or greet someone and you realize you’ve forgotten the person’s name!
What Are the Current Best Practices for When a Man Should Stand?
1.) The first time a man or woman joins your group at a business event. This could be at a dining table, at a boardroom table, near you at a reception or party, or even when someone joins your conversation in a public area like the lobby of a hotel or convention hall.
2.) In a social setting, each time a woman joins or leaves your group. Yes, this does mean that if she goes to the bathroom four times, you have to stand eight times! This applies to more than dining tables; it also applies to when a lady is in your small group. An example would include six or eight people talking together in the living room of someone’s home.
Grace Note: This doesn’t apply in workplace situations where you would stand just twice: first to initially greet her, and once when she departs at the end of the meeting, meal, etc. In business settings you rise just twice; you rise the first time to greet the person, male or female, and the second time to say goodbye.
3.) Socially and professionally, each time someone enters your office, or you’re introducing yourself or being introduced, or someone approaches you to talk. You certainly don’t need to stand each time an associate enters your office, although you can if you want. In some formal corporate cultures (these are rare in the US these days), associates will stand when a supervisor enters or leaves. Normally, that’s even reserved for high-ranking members of the corporation: CEO, CFO, board members, etc. In these instances, know your corporate culture and follow it. And when in doubt, err on the side of being polite to everyone, since none will mind that you were kind enough to rise to greet them!
4.) Every time you shake hands. You never want to shake hands while sitting. Because shaking hands is the only acceptable form of touch between people who aren’t intimate, you want to be at your best when shaking hands, and part of that includes standing.
5.) Anytime you’re saying hello or goodbye. Since we want to shake hands when we say hello and goodbye, we’ll want to be standing. (See number four above.)
From the Wikipedia article on Chivalry:
In the later Middle Ages, wealthy merchants strove to adopt chivalric attitudes - the sons of the bourgeoisie were educated at aristocratic courts where they were trained in the manners of the knightly class. This was a democratisation of chivalry, leading to a new genre called the courtesy book, which were guides to the behaviour of "gentlemen". Thus, the post-medieval gentlemanly code of the value of a man's honour, respect for women, and a concern for those less fortunate, is directly derived from earlier ideals of chivalry and historical forces which created it.
So, the origins of this and other etiquette-related mannerisms go back to the chivalric times of the Middle Ages.
Imagine coming into a room where someone younger than you and more junior is lounging comfortably on a couch. They don't get up, don't change their position at all. Would you feel that was respectful? If you would feel a little insulted, then you understand the logic behind this very old rule.
The rule has two parts. First, whenever someone "above" you comes into a room, stand up and greet them. When such a person leaves the room, stand up to say goodbye. Second, all women are "above" all men for the purpose of this rule, plus follow the hierarchy of your company (so eg your boss is above you, along with all your boss' bosses,) and as well people in various jobs (eg a judge, an elected member of parliament, a title-holder such as a Duke) are also above you. It's not that sitting is rude; imagine a king sitting on a throne while others respectfully approach. Sitting while another walks in is sort of asserting yourself to be above that person.
That said, I live in Canada, I am a woman, and I don't believe anybody ever stood up when I left, unless it was to get up out of their chair and give me a hug and say goodbye. I cannot remember how long ago people stopped standing when I came in, it did used to happen but does not any more. We're a pretty egalitarian society for the most part, so noticing and demonstrating who is above who doesn't happen too often. It is true, though, that if people are going to be introduced and shake hands, they stand up for that. Typically they "cover it" by moving closer so of course they had to stand up in order to walk. Just standing in place, or momentarily lifting out of the seat and down again, is something you see only in movies set in the 50s and 60s.