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Who goes first in a revolving door?

Invariably, I get asked about doors. People are particularly interested in revolving and elevator doors. My guess is their questions and lack of confidence stem from the old adage that men hold doors for women, and women should go through the door first. So does the old adage still stand: Should men hold the door for women?

Interestingly, in business when two colleagues arrive at a revolving door, the solution is simple. Whoever arrives first should step forward and get it moving. Communicate. “Please, go ahead.” Or “Let me get that for you.” Who goes first doesn’t matter nearly as much as communicating so there is no confusion.

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The awkward play: Hesitate and then step forward and end up stuffing both of you into the same section of the revolving door. That is a faux pas leading to a pas de deux shuffle, and neither of you can exit fast enough.

If I’m in a social setting, the situation changes slightly. The key again turns on communication. If it’s a revolving door that is already moving, I will step aside and indicate for my female companion to go first. I might even add a “Please, go ahead,” just so there won’t be any confusion. If the door isn’t moving, I will offer to go first. “Here, let me get that for you.” Then, as I exit, I wait to offer my arm as she steps out.

Elevators also seem to cause confusion, especially whether a man should step aside and wait for a woman to exit.

Whether I’m in a business or social situation, regardless of the gender of the person I am with, as the doors open, I glance at the person and gesture for them to go first. I’ll add a verbal cue as well: “Please go ahead.”

It gets a little trickier when you are in an elevator crowded with several people. In this case, it doesn’t make sense for a man to try to step aside so a woman can exit first. The person closest to the door should just step through the door and then hold it so the people exiting don’t have doors shut on them. If I’m following people out an elevator, I’ll smile, nod, and say thank you to the person holding the door. If no one in front of me has made an effort to hold the door, I’ll try to hold it so it doesn’t start closing on anyone behind me.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to
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