The Social Pressure Of Holding Doors Open For People


Dorsen Joseph, Junior Editor-in-Chief

It is unknown when the human collective decided that holding doors for one another was a kind gesture. It used to be an act of chivalry, men would hold doors open for women, whether it be a building or in some cases a car door. However, as time progressed, it became a practice of common courtesy.

Now, we don’t have this down to an exact science, so it may sometimes come off as an awkward gesture. In fact, there are 3 areas that this practice falls into; a friendly or awkward gesture is how it’s usually seen and then of course there’s the, “why are you doing this?”.

The last one comes into place when there’s a bit of distance between the person holding the door vs. the person about to walk through the door. In fact psychologist, David Rosenbaum, found this to be a curious phenomenon. He deduced that while bizarre, such a practice does yield benefits. The main one, being that it minimizes the collective effort we spend holding the door open. For example, if one person holds the door open for 7 people, now a small percentage of those people may feel like doing the same for others.

While this is a nice practice it is not always appreciated. In some cultures, people do not say thank you, nor do they care that you held the door open. Then, we go back to our, “why are you doing this?”. You see, sometimes people will hold the door open for someone that is 20 ft away, and while it is a decent gesture. It now places pressure on that person walking to decide whether or not they should quicken their pace so they don’t seem to be unappreciative. While a common practice, one that has been accepted as the societal norm. Nobody is obligated to either hold the door open or have the door opened for them. If it is done for you or you do it for another person, excellent, you did your kind service for the day, If not, oh well. I for one had a particularly interesting interaction a couple of weeks ago.

I was leaving Commons, and this girl was waiting by the door for her friend. Seeing this, I simply went out the door normally, letting it close behind me. As I’m about to exit the door towards the stairs, I hear a snarky comment, “well thanks for holding the door open.” As I turn around to apologize, (not that I needed to, cause again nobody’s obligated to hold the door open), I see this young lady side-eyeing me. As if waiting for a response, I simply scoff and go about my day, apologies forgotten. Like please, I am not at your beck and call – thank you very much!